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Niseko to Nikko Japan


Friday, February 15, 2008

Lawrie had lots of fun but left in a bad way with his swollen knee.

What a day it has been today. Lawrie, left us at 5:30am this morning to return to Australia; with his swollen knee. He sent us email along the way to let us know he made it safely to Tokyo. Julia, Andy, and I ate breakfast, packed our gear, and left on the bus for Sapporo at about 9:00am. It was an amazing trip through a heavy snow storm which made the countryside even more beautiful than the trip out.

We arrived in Sapporo at the Monterey Hotel at about 2:00pm. Sapporo was buried in snow.

We had to convert our Japan Rail vouchers to JR passes. This was not too difficult to do as the Japan Rail assistant could speak a few words of English and all of the forms had English on them. Once we had our passes we proceeded to book our train tickets to Nikko which is our next destination. This all went well and we were so happy about our success we immediately went out and had a wonderful sashimi lunch. Once back at our hotel Julia and I had to work through the long but ultimately successful process of sending one bag to our hotel in Tokyo and returning one bag full of ski gear to the USA. The hotel could assist us with the Tokyo bag but not with the USA bag, but they advised us to use the Japan postal service to send the bag back to the USA. We were a bit skeptical about using the postal service to do this, given our experience with the US postal service, but lo and behold the Japan postal service could help and indeed did at a very reasonable price too. Now, we may never see either bag again but it was a very painless and inexpensive experience sending them both.

Sake in a box. This sake is for you Lawrence we all hope your knee gets better soon.

From Julia: we are completely in love with Japan. We feel as though we are in a dream all the time as everything seems so easy, people are so nice, and the food is so delicious. We"d move here but we read that now there's a language requirement for foreigners wanting long-term visas so maybe not. We can only count to 3, nod and smile, and say thank you and we doubt That's enough to qualify. Tomorrow we have a 10 hour journey to Nikko and we stocked up on essentials including chocolate, fruit and water. We will be on the train and I am sure that there will be lots of delicious food available as this place is so civilized.

We went out to a restaurant in Sapporo that Lawrie had found on our first night here just to have sake for Lawrie; and a bit of dinner. They have a strange ritual in Japan when serving sake, they put a shot glass in a box and fill both the glass and the box with sake; that way you get extra sake.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Julia and me on the train looking happy because we are on a train trip in Japan and not in Egypt.

We arose at 5:30am this morning to catch the train to Nikko. I must admit I was feeling a bit seedy from too much sake intake at last night's dinner. Alas it is not a single train from Sapporo to Nikko we will in fact change trains 5 times on our journey today.

Because we got up so early we could not eat breakfast at the hotel instead we had to scavenge for breakfast at the train station. This is when we discovered that in Japan you can buy just about anything from a vending machine. We were at the station so early no coffee shops were open particularly the Starbucks to Andy's dismay. However, we did find a vending machine that sold us "hot" cans of coffee with cream or without or with sugar or without; amazing!

We found our platform, train, carriage, and then seats without much fuss. Then we were greeted by a smiling woman dressed like a flight attendant. The train was very clean; our seats were like seats in a business class section of an airplane with all kinds of electric adjustment buttons. Then right on schedule the train left the station; just as Andy said, "looks like we will not leave on time". This train was not one of the Shinkansen or Bullet trains but it certainly was fast; we were hitting 130 kilometers per hour or 80 miles per hour at times. The view was wonderful as everything was covered with snow including the beaches which we passed on our way to Hakodate.

From the Buddha:

To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in battle.

It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him into evil ways.

There is a Buddhist Bible in all hotels in Japan. It's good stuff.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

One of the temples we visited today.

We made it to Nikko last night after a very long day of traveling on 5 different trains. The hotel Kanaya reminded Julia and I of the hotel we stayed in Knighton when we walked in Wales.

Both hotels were built around the same time and both have a very 1930s look and feel about them. They are the type of hotels that you can see were once grand but, have now become a bit rough around the edges. Still the hotel Kanaya is a nice place to stay when in Nikko Japan.

A row of Bodhisattva of children; notice the cute one in the front. We found out much later on our trip that these sites are memorials for dead children. If we had know that at the time we would have been more respectful.

Nikko is a small city at the entrance to Nikko National Park. It is most famous for the Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine complex and mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Nikko has been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries, and the Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys, and hiking trails.

After visiting several temples we found an interesting hike which took us through a small village, over several bridges, and to a place sacred to Buddhists call Ganman-Ga-Fuchi pools.

From Julia: We saw about 10 big raptors flying above the river looking for fish and David got some great shots. here's one for you to see. We asked what they were and think they are called "Noddis" or something like that in Japan.

We are off to Tokyo tomorrow and will have more updates soon.

Nikko Video


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