After leaving the railway museum I caught the Shinkansen north to Sendai. The journey was uneventful and I made my way to my Japanese style accommodation. There I had a relaxing evening aside from heading out to Mosburger for a small Japanese burger that was too small so I had a second supper afterwards -these small meals do mean the Japanese don’t have obese people; aside from the sumo wreslers of course! The Japanese style accommodation was good but not a new experience as actually I’ve been in Japanese style accommodation all week in Tokyo.
After that the next day I caught the train down to Nikko (I was planning to go north of Sendai which is why I stopped there in the end it didn’t really make sense.) and had a look around the temples in the complex before it got dark – unfortunately I didn’t have time to see quite all of them – that had to keep until the next day. The temples were very ornate and made of painted red wood with oriental style finishing on the outside and beauitful interiors as well which sadly you were unable to photograph.
In the morning I got up, packed and had breakfast in time for the 8.30am bus from the railway station up the valley. Once nearly at the lake I got off the bus with an American couple staying at my hostel and we went to a beautiful viewpoint over the valley below. There was supposed to be a walk down over to the lake but it was shut in Winter – I guess the ground gets icy though it could be Japanese paranoia on safety. When waiting for the train if you stand over the yellow line they honk – even if the train is stopping to let you on.
So then we had to go back down and back on the bus to the lake where we got a view of the lakeside (which was mostly a bit ugly and overdeveloped) as well as a nearby waterfall.
After that I headed back to Nikko and ate in a delicious restaurant which served Japanese vegetable “chow mein”. After lunch I headed up to see the parts of the complex I had missed including a couple of interesting museums which contained artifacts from the complex and about it’s history – it was built for the first Shogun who after his death became a god to watch over Japan. It also had a great Japanese Garden. After this I headed to the far side of the complex to the building I didn’t have time to explore the day before and like the others it was big, red and in a typical oriental style. Even though it was arguably garish it did also fit in with it’s surroundings very well; something that can’t really be said of modern Japanese architecture (though in fairness the centre of Tokyo looks great in my view, it’s the country towns which don’t. In England Nikko would have to have stone (or fake stone) houses and thatched cottages – here that wouldn’t be suitable but they could have been in traditional Japanese style – Hoi An in Vietnam which is a similar style place (though not in the mountains) had prettier modern buildings so the Japanese should be able to manage it. Maybe the Vietnamese should send the Hoi An planning people to Nikko in exchange for the “Shinkansen” the Japanese are helping with between Ha Noi and Sai Gon :p.
After that I went quickly back to my hostel to pick up my bags and I had to run with my big backpack to get the train I wanted to catch at 3:20pm so I could get the Shinkansen to Kyoto. All in all the journey took 5 hours which is incredibly quick.
I should also mention how (aside from pushing to get on commuter trains) the Japanese are incredibly considerate on public transport. Every carriage is quiet and people go out of the carriage when they want to make a telephone call or have a crying baby which is great for the rest of us and makes travelling much less of a chore.