Sunday, 10 August 2008


Distance traveled: 19.038 km

When I walked through the tickets gates of the station in Nikko, I was infuriated - not that there was any thing in particular at the station to justify this infuriated state that I was in. But the train ride had been a source of great frustration - not that there was anything wrong with the train ride, as always, Japan Railways was running like clockwork. No. Rather the source of my frustration was a book. A book called Dogs and Daemons, written by an American, grown up in Japan, known by the name; Alex Kerr, a man that is somewhat of an institution on Japanese affairs.

I had ridden through the scared Japanese landscape, of countless ugly cities, dammed rivers, and ravaged mountain sides - as so often before - but this time I was treated to an insightful explanation of how it came to be like this. And this, my dear readers, was why I was walking through the ticket gate with a thick black thunder cloud hanging above my head.

A walk through the central area of the small town, had lightened the cloud, but it still had a black tint when i entered the Youth Hostel. It stayed outside, cause I was welcomed by one of those kind grand mother types, or Obasan in Japanese, that you can help but to love, even though the hostel itself looked somewhat like it predated her. Its people like her that makes this country worth loving.

Nikko is famous for its temple area, which is a world heritage site, and as i walked around - I was enchanted by the surroundings. The area was set in an ancient forest of tall cedar trees, with the canopy towering far above my head, the light filtered through the leafs, leaving an amazing light for us puny humans at their roots. As I walked deeper into the forest, a Tori, or gate for the unenlightened, proclaimed my arrival to the realm of the divine. An ancient warlord inhabits the mountain, guarding his clan, in return for being buried like a god. I clapped my hands 3 times and gave a light bow for good measure, and entered the temple grounds unscarred.

The temples were indeed fit for a god, everywhere i looked there were elaborate wood carvings, painted in bright colors, creating an amazing contrast to the forest towering above and around. Even the swarm of tourists couldn't quite destroy the atmosphere of the place. And as i entered the final temple, the gate to the shogun's mountain tomb, the crowds had thinned out, so that i could truly breath in the atmosphere of the place.
Next morning i got up early, and boarded a bus away from the crowds, and hiked through a pretty forest along a river, unscarred by concrete. The peace did not last long, as soon a legion of Japanese school children descended on the place, I can not even give an estimate as to how many times i returned their inquisitive hello's, but it had it's charm. And by the end my patience was rewarded with an amazing waterfall, with a 50 meter drop and a thunderous roar. According to local beliefs i am now a fertile man apparently.

Next morning my time of leisure was running out, and i had to replace the magic of the cedar forest with the madness of Tokyo's urban jungle. So i graped my machete along with my best khaki outfit, and boarded a train bound for Azakusa with a discrete Tarzan call.

- Stefan

No comments: