Sunday, May 18, 2008

Well with this post, I'll have updated my blog more in a week than I have in the previous 6 months! Amazing what a trip to Japan will do to one's blogging laziness!

On Saturday, we hopped into the Takeshi Takahashi taxi once again and headed on up to Nasu. Our first stop was an Italian restaurant where the Imperial family had once dined, forever cementing their reputation as a reputable restaurant. Unfortunately, things have gone downhill a bit since then, and while the food was good, the service wasn't up to par... even when taking into account Japan's ridiculously high standards. Anywho, after filling up our bellies, we took to the winding mountain roads and eventually wound up here, at a Ryokan called Ebisuya nestled along a riverbank and surround by greenery.... aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.

This was my first stay at an authentic Ryokan, where one doth live on the floor and eat fancy Japanese meals.

Speaking of the meals, they are quite elaborate! Here is our Saturday night dinner, served on no less than 17 dishes! While I'm sure the food was quite good, I unfortunately left a good third of it there, due to being both full and less adventurous in my gastronomic adventures then I was when I first moved here.

The main activity out here is the taking of baths in the Ryokan's onsen. Unfortunately, I really need to be in the mood to bathe with countless naked old men, and the mood was not with me this weekend. I instead opted to relax and delve into a book that's remained unopened since we left Canada. Everyone else in our party indulged and were certainly refreshed... except for Keita of course... Speaking of the little guy, during dinner he decided to try out his ninja moves on grandma complete with screams and face\hair pulling, much to the amusement of everyone in the room.

Breakfast was more of the same as far as elaborateness goes... this time complete with Natto, the culinary bane of all foreign visitors to Japan.

A group of gentlemen from Tokyo were staying with us for the weekend, and I was somewhat surprised when they ordered beer to go with breakfast...

After breakfast, we posed for this shot in front of the Ryokan before hitting the road again. As we drove our way out of the mountains, we were surprised to see a real-life Inoshishi (wild boar) trounce across the road in front of us and run off into the forest. I'd heard of wild boar being out here, but none of us had ever seen one, and coincidentally, Inoshishi was one of the dishes served on Saturday night!

Our destination on this fine Sunday afternoon was Nikko and the ongoing Yabusame festival. Today was the day of the two parades, from the Toshogu in the morning and back in the afternoon. We planted ourselves in the staging area to see the parade as the groups formed and headed down the road to Toshogu. The parade included a number of folks on horses, which were lined up all over the place.

The planning, I'm sure, is quite intricate, with literally hundreds of participants, dozens of horses and a number of mikoshi (portable shrines) and props having to make the trip. I guess after having done this every year for a couple of hundred years, you get it down pat.

Here you can see a Mikoshi being man-handled out of it's temporary storage building for it's trip back home to the Toshogu.

These three Mikoshi are usually housed in a storehouse on the grounds of Toshogu and are only taken out twice a year. They are the shrines of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his successors (I believe).

Little Keita enjoyed the view, while having to be constantly moved around to avoid any poopy disasters or god forbid, a kick, from the various horses.

Once the "Procession of a Thousand Warriors" as it's called, had made its way out of the staging area, we took a shortcut and intercepted the last bunch of them as they approached the massive gate leading to the Toshogu. The origin of this procession dates back to when Toshogu's grave was moved from Shizuoka prefecture to Nikko in accordance to his wishes. He wanted to protects Edo (now Tokyo) from the evil spirits believed to comes from the North. Every year thereafter, Japanese lords from all over the country would make their way to Nikko and perform this ceremony, bringing offerings to Ieyasu's shrine.

As you can see, quite a few people turned out for the event, but it wasn't as crowded as I expected it.

This gentleman bringing up the rear of the procession is the head priest of the Toshogu.

And that was that! A great big Otsukaresamadeshita to the guys who had to cart the mikoshi, each weighing over a ton, down the mountain and back up!

Tomorrow morning, I'm up bright and early for a 3 train trip down to Himeji. I'll be checking out the massive fortification again, reliving the highlight of our trip West last year with my family. After Himeji, I'll be off to Kyoto and Nara for a couple of days each before returning Saturday.


Blogger tornadoes28 said...

Good that you were able to see the 1000 Samurai festival in Nikko.

I also attended that several years ago and I loved it.

Great pictures.

4:12 PM  

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