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  • Nigel W. Ruddock

Plastic swans, Imperial taste, and an Anglican oddity........

Notes from the Archipelago - a Japanese Autumn 秋 2019


Friday 15th November 11月15日金曜日


High up above the town of Nikko, at well over 1200 metres, is Lake Chūzenji (中禅寺湖 Chūzenji-ko). It was formed "only" 20.000 years ago when the local volcano Mt. Nantai erupted, blocking the river with a lava flow. The only exit now for the waters of the lake is over the Kegon waterfall (see on). After simply torturous bus ride from the town..........

I found myself in a chill wind on the shores of this dramatic lake.

The summer season was over, so the swans had nothing to do except grin at me.......

Too late mate....you should have come earlier.....However, the sun did come out, so I ventured along the trail at the water's edge........

It was actually a designated Nature Trail........

....and led you over some beautifully built bridges........

How I love the quality of the woodwork in this country! some further impressions (before I turned around in search of a coffee.......)


In the days before air conditioning, many foreign embassies built their summer residences along the shores of this lake. This, along with the fact that so many government officials would also come here, led to the saying that at times the country seemed to run from the shores of Lake Chuzenji..

One of the mega attractions of this area are the waterfalls. At this one, the Kegon Falls, you can take a very smart lift to the bottom of the 300ft. drop to get a good view. It's worth it.

In these areas of Japan, altitude means everything. I left the lake area in a similar crazy bus to the one which had brought me up here in the first place. And within the hour I was alighting in the significantly milder outskirts of the town. At the lake Autumn colours were over - down in the town, well.....

My late afternoon point of call was the former summer residence of the Imperial Family - the "Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park" i.e house and gardens combined. Why they don`t still use it is a mystery to me, but there are many unanswered questions in Japan. The huge complex, all built of wood, seems to have hundreds of rooms.......all the epitome of refined, restrained taste.


.some rooms are tastefully decorated with silk screens.

...and everywhere the imperial symbol is to be seen - the Chrysanthemum...

in gold of course.....

but you can also buy the real thing....I was tempted, but imagine arriving at check-in with one of these things.........I suppose you could try " His Excellency the Emperor has given me permission............."


but back to the gold version. They have a longer life. I'm surprised IKEA hasn't come up with an "Imperial" storage unit yet.........maybe the gold fittings are the problem.....

...a sliding door.....

and of course there is a lovely garden outside.....






It's almost too much beauty in one place. You could spend hours just sitting there......Except that I get hungry......so after stamping my visitor's "souvenir"..

I headed for a much needed Yakisoba café - stir fried noodles - mmmm - delicious. As in any Japanese eating place, you are politely welcomed, led to a table, get served a glass of cold water and given a moist tissue or hot towel to clean your hands before eating. Service - It is all so damn civilized! - except try deciphering the waiter's chit.....

Before I end this episode of my blog I have to mention a curious little outpost of Christianity on the main road outside Nikko. Just for the record, about 1% of the population claim some sort of Christian belief..... I had to have a look.....

Being such a rural area I wondered who on earth visited it. The interior was pristine Victorian...

right down to the harmonium.....

There was however a modern electric successor tucked away opposite. The kneelers in the pews were Tatami mats - nice!

The interior......

The walls (no granite or sandstone available here) had a distinctly volcanic feel.....

Offerings here please.....(see that Kanji Character in the middle? - that the one for gold)

One odd detail was a holy water stoop beside the entrance door. But I suppose if you are so far away from Christianity anyway, who is going to bother about the little details that so ridiculously divide the denominations in "Christian" countries...........

The one big give away was the shelves of slippers in the entrance....Now who would change their shoes before entering St. Oswald's Church in Durham, or Holy Trinity Church in Cuckfield, Sussex............or Christ the King Frankfurt for that matter.......?

Hymn books.........the same ones as used in Rikkyo University Chapel I noticed.......

I think the last laugh is on this guy...he's down the road at the next temple......

End of Episode 5.


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