日光. This was our other getaway destination, and I decided we should make a day-trip of it. Headed out early, and took to the 特急 from Asakusa. Had a little time before boarding, so we stopped in a nearby coffee shop, where the waitress was visibly shocked that I could speak and read Japanese–that was kind of fun. The area gets so many tourists that the ratio of Japanese-speaking white people to all white people must be much lower than in other parts of town. Anyhow, the trip out was uneventful, and once there, we walked up the main drag to the shrine area. Nikko’s three shrines and temples are probably what the town is best known for (along with its national park, and its monkeys), and that’s what we were there for. It’s hard to do justice, in words or pictures, to these places. Unlike most of Japan’s religious buildings, these are covered in ornament. As a f’rinstance: part of 東照宮 is surrounded by a wall in 87 sections. Each section contains three panels. Each panel contains an elaborately carved and colorfully painted scene showing birds: the top, birds in the air, the middle, birds on the ground, and the bottom, bids in the water. Each panel different. It’s like that everywhere you look: no opportunity to decorate, illustrate, illuminate, exalt, inspire, or awe is overlooked. As one of our guidebooks put it, Nikko is “17th-century Disneyland.”

After about 5 hours of this, my eyeballs hurt. We started heading back, stopping for a bite on the way down to the station.