On Friday we went on an ITT trip to Nikko to see the Toshogu Shrine, Samurai Parade Autumn Festival and take a boat (ahem, canoe) ride on the Kinugawa River. This day trip was fascinating and worth the almost five hour drive each way. It was a great way to yet again dive right into the Japanese culture. I had a blast and so did the girls. I don't think they found it as interesting as the trip when we made the paper lamp shade and had parrots eating off of us...that was more hands on and creative, but they certainly liked riding in the canoe and seeing all the people in costumes.
Click here to see the pictures from our trip. I took almost 500 pictures and narrowed it down to 315 and from there posted about 200 in my Shutterfly album. Julie came on the trip as well and she and I swapped pictures. You'll see some of hers at the beginning of the album.
We got picked up at 4:30 am and didn't return home until almost 11 pm. On the way up to Nikko we stopped at a rest area to eat breakfast. There were a few vendors getting ready to open, and I'm so glad I stopped at one on the way back to the bus because I got this awesome potato thing to eat. The girls liked it too and ended up having one each. It tasted a little like chicken soup with gravy and was about the size of a hashbrown at McDonalds. I have no idea what it's called or exactly what was in it, but it was very good and if I ever see something that looks like it again I'll be buying it! Julie spotted these brown eggs, but it was the packaging that got our attention. Do you think what I do? Is that egg holding a beer? While at the rest stop I went to the refrigerated area in search of my new favorite drink, Muscat Tea. Anyway, just to the right of the iced tea was a Kit Kat display. I didn't give it a second look since they were white, but upon closer inspection I saw Soy Sauce Kit Kats - Tokyo Limited Edition. I waved Julie over and I think we actually "hi-fived" each other. They have 10 mini packages inside each box and the cashier gave me special bags for each package I bought.
Once we arrived in Nikko we headed to Toshogu Shrine. People were all over in costume and getting ready for the parade. We walked around for about an hour, and after we came out of one area we were able to take pictures with them. It was the neatest thing, and Keanna gave one of the guys a look like, "Why are you wearing that and why is it very orange?" We were even able to see a group of men come out and pray, and we were feet away from them. To see this and pretty much be a part of it was incredible. I snapped a picture of the kids standing to the side of them, and I hoped they appreciated it. After we got home I tried explaining it, but they were more interested in their shoes and different color "dresses" as they referred to them.
There were tour groups like ours, people there on their own and school field trips as well. The school children wore yellow caps and they were fascinated with Keanna and Sydney. Many of them asked to have their picture taken with the kids, and asked us to take pictures of them with their cameras...other people even walked by and took pictures of them too. When we first arrived here in the spring I thought it was weird, but now that we've been here a little while we've gotten used to it. They'll take pictures of us or will ask to take pictures with us! Anyway, one group of kids even asked me to get in a picture with them!
At the larger shrines throughout Japan a nokyocho is available for purchase. It's a book that you can get stamped with a marking from the particular shrine you visit. The book was ¥1800 (about $18 USD) and each stamp is ¥300 (about $3 USD). First a stamp is put on, then a nokyo writes in it with black ink and add the temple or shrine's name, his own name, and the date that the page was marked. I took this picture of my second stamp that day, and love the nokyo's hands.
From there we headed down to the parade route and reserved a spot. Just as we settled in a group of men came up the hill dragging a big tree and handing branches to everyone on either side of them. We each got a branch and our guide told us to hang on to them and when we got home to put it in front of our house; the branches will protect us. Not sure what they'll protect us from, but I wish I asked for specifics.
The parade started and the girls recognized some of the costumes we had seen earlier. The parade is essentially a reenactment of the 1617 procession bringing the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu to Nikko. About 800 people walked by us, children and adults, and their costumes were beautiful with so much detail. Towards the end of the procession men came through carrying a portable shrine. We knew to throw money at it, as much or little as we wanted, and the kids really loved doing that. I gave the girls a couple of coins each and they thought it was the neatest thing ever. As they were walking towards us I saw little white things being thrown in the air and at the mikoshi (portable shrine); the coins are wrapped in tissues! Afterward a group of men in suits came by to pick up the money on the ground and we followed the crowd down the hill to get some lunch.
After lunch we went for a walk further into town and saw the Shinkyo Bridge. We saw some men in costume there and asked for our picture to be taken with them. They were very sweet, spoke no English, and ask they were walking away the man on the left gave me his fan. After that we stopped in a couple of gift shops, saw a train car phone booth and beautiful lanterns in each stall of a bathroom....and of course the toilets, they were the kind that are in the ground that women have to squat over, not western style toilets. My favorite part of that was the sign inside the bathroom that read, "Please use the restroom cleanly." I snapped a picture of it but made sure to turn the flash off on the camera...didn't want to attract any more attention to myself!
After getting on the bus we headed to the Kinugawa River for our boat ride. I was expeciting a boat...nothing too large, but something larger than a canoe...not exactly what we did on Lake Ashi back in July. We were all getting tired at that point, and the girls were really showing it. I spotted a vending machine that sold beer and immediately pulled yen out to buy a can since they were driving me up a wall. It wouldn't take my ¥500 coin, so a woman sitting near us offered her help. It wouldn't take hers either, but I eventually got it working with ¥100 coins. But it's just another example of the Japanese people being so kind...they're especially willing to help a stressed mother in need!!! I drank as much as I could before descending down the 100 stairs to the boat...err, canoe. It was peaceful and quiet and nice though, and reminded me of tubing down the Farmington River in Connecticut in the summer time.
We had a great time on our trip up to Nikko, took lots of pictures and even the bus ride home was fun. At the rest stop I ran in quickly to look for more Kit Kats (no luck), but I did see a vending machine with a video screen, and in it the character spoke and then bowed! And the funniest part of it.... these feminine products!
2 months ago