Tuesday, October 27, 2015

creepy disappearing ghost statues!!

This may have been my very favorite place in Nikko.  The kanmangafuchi abyss trail.  It runs along a river and is full of these awesome statues.  They are said to be 'ghost statues'.  You are supposed to count them as you hike up the abyss- and then again as you hike back. The number will not be the same because the ghost statues move and disappear!  

We hiked early in the morning and had the trail to ourselves with the exception of one local photographer.  She was so kind to us and chatted to us in her best English about the area!  I was so excited to take pictures here. It's a spot I've been dying to see.
some of the statues are just piles of rocks and rubble!  but the people here still adorn them with aprons and hats.
 the place is so calm and eerie and peaceful.  I loved it.

 Ike and Zeb both counted the statues and got a different count on the return trip.  Pretty spooky, huh? :)
Ike is certain this statue had it's head when we walked past it on the way up- but not on the way down!! he is such a funny kid. He was SO excited to count all of these statues.  He's all about numbers, math, and money.

Metta and I got way too distracted to bother with counting things!!

 After the abyss we took a ride up a cable car to monkey mountain.  Thankfully mack LOVED the monkeys.  I was very disappointed.  there are so many wild monkeys around and after seeing the snow monkeys in Nagano- these caged monkeys were a let down.  But mack's giggles and sheer excitement made up for the lameness!!

we took a pretty boring hike up the mountain,too.  It was a bit long- and halfway through- an English speaking father and son passed us on their way back and told us the end was boring. No good views or anything exciting!  we turned around promptly and went back to the cable car!! at least we got some exercise!
 luckily- we always love a good cable car ride in Japan.  They have them everywhere!! I guess it's the best way to get up their steep mountains!!
 mack was such a little godzilla on the hike.  Have I mentioned this phase of child is rough?!
 After our trek to see the monkeys- we ventured off to the kinugawa foot onsen overlooking the gorgeous kinugawa river.
I think metta was stressing these ladies out a bit!  luckily they still loved her.
 Mack wanted so desperately to get in and swim.  ugh.  he was so difficult.

 we let him splash around in the hand wash- but he quickly got maniacal and started splashing all of the Japanese people and had to be removed!!!
 the color of the water all over the Tochigi region is pretty cool.  Greens and blues and white rapids.
I somehow got a smudge on my lens at the footbath and now it is pestering me in every picture the rest of this day!!! so annoying.
After our relaxing foot bath- we drove to Tobu World Square.  We'd heard lots of great reviews from friends and it sounded pretty fun to us.  All of the world's most famous landmarks/building shrunken down to 1/25th the size!!  AND I found a great coupon online :)
On the drive to nikko- I realized I had forgotten to print the coupon out and was pretty ticked.  It was going to save us 20 bucks. and if the website says 'print out'- the japanese will not accept just a picture of the coupon from our phones.  I figured there HAD to be some way to get a copy of one and through a google search found out I could create an account with the japanese 7-11, upload the pic to my account online- and then go to any 7-11 and print it out.  It worked.  I figured it ALL out in Japanese.  even setting up account.  I am sharing this story because I am very proud of myself :)

Tobu world square was so cool.  especially all of the Japanese landmarks that we've seen in real life!  I  should have gotten more pictures of those- but the real spots were better anyway :)

 New York city with the twin towers.
 A japanese bay- and the gates letting ships into the American part of the park.
 The white house even had the Obamas!!  I had to zoom in on these little characters.  Tobu has over 100.000 small figurines and they all have facial expressions!  plus- no two characters in the entire prk are the same!!
 the section on egypt. if you look closely- you can see men on camels along the upper ridge!
 Europe was pretty impressive.  and definitely made us want to see all of these places in real life!!
 Red Square!!!  the details on these buildings are CRAZY.
 just check out the Vatican!!!  it was so cool.
 Princess Kate and Prince William even!!!
 the forbidden city and the great wall.
 and-of course- they had a fabulous kid playroom.
 the little Tobu mascots were super, too.  just look at those happy faces!!
 Mack was enamoured.  and they loved him, too.  I bet he played with them for ten minutes!!  the poor japanese kids who wanted a turn!!
After Tobu- we wandered Nikko for a but again- and then ate at the only restaurant open past five! cafe gusto.  Luckily- the place had PIZZA!  and our kids will ALWAYS eat pizza.   We also spent a great night at our cabin!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nikko and the very peculiar fertility shrine :)

Nikko has been at the top of our bucket list for awhile now!  It's an incredibly beautiful high altitude region of Japan.  I miss the Utah and Ohio autumns a lot this time of year- so we figured it would be the perfect time to make our trek up into the Japanese mountains!!  Autumn here is beautiful in it's own right- but is different.  Because Japan is semi tropical, humid, and covers such a variety of altitudes- autumn doesn't happen all at once like I'm used to.  Different trees and different areas peak at different times.  

I know it appears that we are always on vacation here in Japan!  and it feels a lot like it to us, too.  But we have been incredibly lucky to live in an area that is so densely packed with amazing things to do that aren't all that far away. Plus- working on an Air Force base definitely comes with the perks of lots of random days off.  Every holiday, base down day, family day, reconstitution day, etc. gives us the opportunity to go adventuring without even taking 'leave' (military term for vacation).  Plus- as much as I complain about Kent being on call 24/7 every otherish week- it forces me to plan the weekends and days we do have off and not waste them!!!

So- back to our Nikko 3 day weekend.

The drive was about 3 hrs- and was stunning.  Nikko has a giant national park and is full of shrines, onsens, and fabulous geology.

First stop- the shrine complex in Nikko.
Toshugu, Rinoji, and Futarasan.

The city of Nikko is at middle elevation and was just starting to really show it's fall colors!  the backdrop of different colored leaves and the shrines, along with the tall pine and cedar trees was pretty awesome.

 The Toshogu shrine is famous for the 3 monkeys.  They are the the original 'see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil' images.  When we finally saw the engraven monkeys- I was a little underwhelmed with their size!
 Our 3 monkeys did a pretty great impersonation!!
 this time of year- along with cherry blossom season- is one of the very busiest to visit shrines!!  I'm finally getting used to the insane crowds of Japan.  we usually lose at least 1 kid every place we go! luckily- they are pretty easy to find.
 Inside one of the buildings was the crying dragon.  It's an incredibly large ceiling painting of a giant dragon.  The acoustics of the room are so that if you stand directly beneath the dragon's face and clank giant blocks together- you can hear him crying.  It's a crazy echoing that sounds very eerie! and is VERY loud :)  Pictures were not permitted- I found this one online.

 Nikko is also famous for this sleeping cat engraving.  I'm not sure why.  Kent said something about it being the only sleeping cat carving the artist ever created.  so the Japanese flock to it. and It brings good health and good fortune!! like everything else in Japan :)
the tall cedar tress smelled delightful.

Can you spot all 5 members of my family in this pic??

the weather was just about the best Autumn weather we could have hoped for.  I love the fall crisp air.

The Rinnoji temple is under major renovations and they've built a ginormous building all the way around it to work on it for several years!! the front is painted to show what the actual temple will look like in a couple of years when completed :)

After checking out all of the shrines- we wandered the main street in downtown Nikko.  We did a little shopping and saw our fair share of strange and great things.

first off- the wild monkeys crossing the power lines. I LOVE wild monkeys.  It may be my MOST favorite thing about japan.

There were monkeys all over the region.  To stop the whining and boredom complaints- I offered 10$ to the first kid who saw a wild monkey while we were driving.  Of course, Ike won.

At the top of Nikko's main street is this beautiful bridge!

 I love small Japanese town main streets.  My only complaint is how early they shut down. 5PM and everything is closed for the night.  It's nuts.
we found this fun little shinkansen on the road and let mack pose for pictures.  He takes after his oldest brother and LOVES trains.  Or anything with wheels.  He has a toy school bus that he cries for regularly.
and- yes- I realize he is sockless and shoeless. I've never been good at the shoe thing for my kids.  Do you all remember when the lady at Target stopped me and asked if I needed money to buy shoes for Metta?!  I intended to get shoes for his birthday.  but it didn't happen!  he's been taking steps, though- so I'm going to get him some- tomorrow :) Kids don't really need shoes until they walk anyway!!!
He's adorable and a menace.  I think he even looks like Dennis the Menace!  you know that age where they whine to be picked up and then immediately whine to get down?! they can't sit still and screech loudly at restaurants/all public places when you try to contain them?! and have very strong opinions but no way to rationally communicate them?!  yeah- we're there. it's exhausting :)

2nd fun mainstreet find:
Kokeshi.  I love them.  I've loved them since we moved here.  It's the first Japanese souvenir I bought in japan. and I can't stop.
New, old, small, large. I love them all.   They are unique, and adorable, and beautiful, too.

I could buy them all.  Kent keeps me in check.  I love finding bargains and unique ones!!

our 3rd find. the strange one :)
this shrine to penises?!?  we've seen them a few different spots in japan.  I had to take a picture :)  Their purpose is to promote good fertility and abundant harvest. Fitting for a bunch of penises, I suppose.

After our day of adventures- we made the drive up the winding mountainside roads to "woodsman Village'.  We rented a little cabin and LOVED it. It was beautiful and perfect.
we even bought Pokemon Uno at 'cafe gusto'- our dinner spot- and stayed up past 8 playing :)    

More Nikko adventures to follow.