Skyscrapers beyond the dreams of Richard Rogers or Terry Farrell.
Swarms of people in white shirts, dark suits carrying impossibly slim briefcases.
Commuters moving down the streets with the precision of a Red Square Parade
Rain polishing the whole place ready for a remake of Blade Runner.
Smile, you are back. Back and you still don’t understand.
Back, this time with a dose of food poisoning, it’s not the food, just exhaustion from the previous two weeks.
Too many mails, too much Outlook.
But today after three days of work, one of which was devoted to the toilet in the hotel bedroom, you have the day off.
LIKE SHINTO OFF A SHOVEL
Nikko is two hours from Tokyo, with several changes of train and when the tickets were purchased the night before I realised the enormity of the journey in terms of probability for error. It was too late and I was without the linguistic capability to negotiate a refund.
Nikko has been a centre of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for centuries, and Nikko National Park is mountains landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, and wild monkeys. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html
Raining hard as I walked to the station in Tokyo, my black umbrella going with and against the flow of a hundred others. Blind panic as I entered the near caverns of Shinjuku station. I was the only one not knowing where I was going. Cold sweat. Sign of the cross. Talking to yourself and focussing on the signs for your track number gets you through, and miraculously on to the right train.
Only 28 minutes on the bullet train. Alighted at Utsonomiya and onto another branch line direct to Nikko. Entering the carriage there was a curiously pungent smell of moth balls. The train was full of people, quite a lot older than I, which might explain the aroma.
A BRIDGE TOO DEAR
Forty minutes on the branch line to Nikko and then we were there. Alighting from the station – architecturally more Bavarian than Japanese! I expected to see lots of temples and shrines. No. And the next bus up to Shrineland was 30 minutes. Took a cab to the Shinkyo Bridge, crossing the River Daiya at the foot of the National Park.
Paid £2.44 to cross the bridge. Originally only the Shogun and the Emperor or members of his retinue were allowed to cross the bridge – at £2.44 a throw they were probably the only ones who could afford it!
Shinkyo Bridge is at the foot of the sacred area containing more temples and shrines than you can shake a Samurai sword at
A stunningly beautiful place set on a steep wooded hillside and in places very peaceful. It does get busy – more coaches than a Chelsea away game. But, in spite of the hoards of people, shorter than me, it was well worth the three hour journey.
Autumn was just colouring the trees that nestle up against the shrines and temples. Inside these magnificent temples you had a real sense of religious awe inspired by golden deities that were meters high.
The air was so fresh and pure you could almost slice off a piece and take it home. Just the best antidote to recent days of air conditioning that one instinctively felt was not good! Invigorating and rejuvenating.
Souvenir stands themselves designed as shrines were neatly tucked in to every available space. Selling charms for every eventuality – I bought three for “protection” mainly because the design appealed the most.
After three or so hours I was shrined out and began the walk down hill back to the train station.
A great jaunt.
Red Shinto’s in the sunset
The train journey back from Shrineland (Nikko) was easy. I breezed through Tokyo Station concourse and ditto Shinjuku concourse – a bit too confidently in actual fact – the difference between the West Exit (desired) and the West Central Exit (actually achieved) was quite a bit f shoe leather.
A restful evening – conference call with team (productive) and email (less so) and a hamburger in the coffee shop.
Gaijin, gaijin, gone,
Friday morning dawned bright and clear across the skyline of Tokyo; sixteen floors below me the old folk were going through their daily exercise routine in Shinjuku Park. Seeing them made me wonder whether I really had shed a pound or two after my tummy trouble earlier in the week.
Enjoyed breakfast, it’s always good to stoke up in the sitting position versus eating on a 12 hour flight in a semi-horizontal one. I caught the Airport Coach called the Friendly Airport Limousine Service. http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/e/ it was. And as quick as the Narita Express Train and its door to door.
So, business achieved plus some exciting cultural experiences at Nikko, a new found confidence in the Japanese rail network; however I still fail to fathom Japan.