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  • Nigel W. Ruddock

The Japanese have a word for it.....Notes from the Archipelago - a Japanese Autumn 秋 2019

Tuesday 12th November 11月12 火曜日 / Thursday 14th November 11月14日木曜日


In British India, the colonial rulers developed areas in the Himalayas called hill resorts to escape the summer heat of the plains. In a similar way, The Japanese feudal lords and Imperial family escaped from the summer heat of Edo (Tokyo) and headed for places like Nikko in Toshigi Prefecture. Today it's only about 120 minutes or less (depending on what sort of train you take) from Tokyo Tobu Sky tree station.............so off I head to the mountains............in the sleek Tobu REVATY train......

But I wasn't escaping the heat. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of 紅葉 こうよう "Kouyou". That is the special word for "leaves changing colour". It didn't take me long to realise that my timing was extremely lucky......I will simple put up some pictures here.......

The yellow of the ginko, the red of the maple....

The mountains around Nikko

こうよう

こうよう

I just drank in this natural beauty. It was a compensation, for this trip had not all gone exactly to plan. I had been very disappointed with my lodgings - it was bending over backwards to cater for the non-Japanese speaking tourist and English was the main language. My mistake. Next time I will be more careful in booking online. However I only had to sleep there, and each day the blue skies and sunshine lured me out quickly.

One advantage of my "Mountain Lodge" was that it was perched on the hillside above the town. I therefore headed out via the back roads to reach the shrine complex which makes this town so famous. On the way I was distracted by this entrance way -

it led to the rather mysterious secluded Ritsuin Temple.........

A rather strict training place it seems, for the old Kanji on the portal translated as "Entertainment forbidden"......

You could just about make out this sacred deer on a lantern.................there to guide the spirits.....

But I soon encountered daily life around the corner. But what were these funny poles on the side of the road?.......a sort of stick game put out for the gods??.........

Not so mysterious.....On another day I discovered similar ones in use......

Aha! I thought.

The iron girder ridge crossing one of the rivers was being used as an access to a river construction site. The lorries, as always, scrupulously clean and shiny......


But at last I reached my goal, the Tosho-go shrine. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the eponymous shogunate, is buried here. He was the Samurai leader who unified Japan in the 1600`s, effectively ushering in the Edo period of Japanese history, which lasted until the 19thc. The shrine "houses the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu". The whole complex is set in a woodland of Japanese redwood cedars, which lend an auspicious atmosphere to the place....

on entering the gate, you will see carved cloisters on either side.......


...and a fearsome guardian under the lintels......

This is the second gate you reach - the Toshogu Yomeimon. The sumptuous intricate carvings are lusciously covered in gold. It is an extraordinary site.......

as are the other buildings in the complex......



Curiously enough, there is a carving of the three monkeys over a stable door- see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, which predates anything in India.

They were carved by Hidari Jingoro in the 17thc., and believed to have incorporated Confucius’s Code of Conduct, using the monkey as a way to depict man’s life cycle. .

It's a steep climb up the hundreds of steps that lead up to Tokugawa Ieyasu's last resting place. The setting is spartan and simple, in contrast to the luxury below. The bronze urn containing his remains has remained undisturbed over the centuries. It is a quiet place. The wind sighs in the trees......

The surrounding stone walls......

lanterns to guide the spirits of the dead.....

End of Episode 4


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