Nikko, Japan

Thursday, October 3, 1929

Spent the morning at the temples. They are exquisite—without doubt the finest temples I have seen in Japan. They stand in a grove of ancient Cryptomerias, and to the magnificence of the temples is added a beautiful setting.

They were built by Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu who founded the Tokugawa Dynasty 300 years ago. He intended them to create and perpetuate a sense of popular adoration for the work and person of the founder of the Shugunate, therefore spared no expense. The most skilled artisans from all Japan were brought to Nikko to build and decorate the edifices. They were completed in twelve years at a cost of $10,000,000 U.S., and an average of 6,642 men were daily employed on the work.

The road leading to the temples is near the Sacred Bridge. On reaching the top of the rise the first thing seen is a souvenir shop—then the ticket stand—then the temple.

The Rinnoji Temple dates from 1648 and is the largest temple in the Nikko Mountains. Entering, after leaving my shoes at the door, a young man informed me he would guide me through. The main attraction is a room in which are three large gilt Amidas. Amida is the God of mercy, the Buddha of measureless light and life. Buddha and Amida are synonomous. Each of these Amidas has a certain name, the one on the left being the House Buddha. In the next room I made a generous donation to the temple and received some prayers in exchange. A flat stick about 10″ x 3″ is wrapped in a white paper on which are the names of the three Buddhas and Nikko written in Japanese characters. A gold paper band is wrapped about it. Then there are two little cakes of something or other, one pink, one white, the temple seal as I understand it. Don’t know whether to eat it or not.

A broad road nearby leads to the Mausoleum of Ieyasu. Just before entering this road you see a tall cylindrical copper column 44 ft. high. On the top are a series of seven cups in the shape of the sacred lotus flower from the petals of which depend 24 small bells and fringes. It was erected in 1643 to keep evil spirits away, so it is said. Name? Sorinto.

Passing under a tall granite torii, 1618, you see a pretty five-storied pagoda on the left, richly colored.

Farther on is the Niomon or Gate of Two Kings, so-called from these two fierce-looking individuals that guard its entrance.

The courtyard in which you find yourself is much higher than the long avenue of Cryptomerias up which you have come. The several buildings here are painted or lacquered red, ornamented with brass (?), and well-carved and decorated. Three forming the corner at the right are used as storehouses in which are kept the perephrenalia (??) used in connection with temple ceremonies. On the left is a stable, unpainted, and below the roof is a carved frieze of monkey business, one panel of which is the famous illustration of the maxim, See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.

There are several other things of interest here too—the Rinzo or Library of the Sacred Books, the Omidzu-ya or a holy water cistern, stone lanterns, etc.

A short flight of steps leads to another courtyard where there are numerous other things to be seen, drum and bell towers, etc. At the left of this court is the Yakushi-do Temple. The main attraction here is a dragon covering the whole ceiling. It is called the “Crying Dragon” because if you stand under the head and clap your hands, an echo will be heard. Looked like a lot of whooey for a while till the thing finally began to echo from clapping. I still believe it will echo as well if you clap under its tail.

From this court you again mount a few steps and pass under the Yomei-mon or “Day Spending Gate,” into another courtyard. The gate name implies that one is liable to spend a day in admiration of its beauties. The thing is OK.  It is richly colored and elaborately carved. There are animals, flowers, and on the second storey entwined dragons in gold and white. The gate has IT in the temple line.

In the third court is the Mikoshi-do in which are the palanquins borne in procession on June 2 and October 17, when the deified spirits of Ieyasu, Hideyoshi, and Yoritomo are supposed to occupy them.

Leading to the Haiden or Oratory shrine is another gate, Kara-mon or Chinese Gate, splendidly carved and adorned. This gate is only open to the public twice a month and to enter one must go by a side route. The interior of the Haiden is rather lavishly done. I dropped in on a prayer meeting when the room was full of kneeling visitors listening to a young priest orate.

One leaves this third courtyard by the Cat Gate. The why of the name is discovered above the door—a chiseled white and black kitty—done by a famous sculptor and ragged to death all over Nikko by the souvenir shops. All you see are cats—cat trays, cat pictures, wooden cats, plaster cats, stone cats, meow-meow-meow!

207 steps lead to the tomb of Ieyasn. I meant to check up on the guidebook but lost count when a mob of a couple hundred visitors came by. It is really a beautiful spot back in here—upon the hillside in a forest of 300-year-old Cryptomerias towering far above you, and the huge trunks often green with moss.

Returning to the entrance of the Ieyasu group and going down a beautiful avenue of these trees, you come to the Temple of Futaara, Shinto, established more than a thousand years ago. Then there is the Mausoleum of Iemitsu, and up more steps the Yasha-mon and Karamon a nice gate having statues of the Gods of Wind and Thunder on each side of the entrance. Within, the Oratory is interesting. 62 more steps lead to the remains of the third Shogun Iemitsu, grandson of Ieysu.

The last place to visit is the museum where are interesting objects gathered from the Nikko Temples.

The temples were crowded today—not with worshippers, but sightseers. Guide were taking parties through. The usual process in a temple was remove the shoes and enter, follow guide in group, bow before large images of Amida or Buddha, drop a copper or two on the floor and pass out, perhaps buying a prayer. Every temple has places to drop money, and in all the people throw their donations on the floor so you are continually walking on money. There were several groups of school children of various ages. These it happened followed the same itinerary as I throughout and were consumed with curiosity—I suppose at my color, shorts, and socks. I have noticed these groups everywhere, on trains, going to hotels, on the street, visiting shrines and temples. I think it is a pretty smart idea to take school classes traveling about to visit places of interest and have it all explained to them by their guides and leaders.

Had some fine cloud effects today. Twice the clouds finally dropped down into the valleys, exposing to view first the summits of the mountains, then the entire range. They loomed up unexpectedly high, a magnificent sight. Mt. Nantai on the shore of Lake Chuzenji is 8,190 ft. high, and Mt. Nyoko to its right is 7,860.

The sun has tried hard to come out today and actually succeeded for a while.

This afternoon I took a walk out of the city toward Utsunomiya on the Avenue of Cryptomerias. It’s a wonder some of these people don’t kick the bucket sooner—for example, one woman washing her vegetables in a swift-flowing stream by the roadside. It happens that this same stream also flows down Main Street and is no more than a respectable gutter. Then the kids—most are cute enough, dirty enough too, but nine out of every ten will have a nose running all over his face. Kids here don’t blow their noses any more than they do in India—or any place else in the East—which is to say not at all. Girls and boys not older than seven or eight very often carry the baby around strapped on their back. Neither they nor the baby seem to give a darn. They run, play, ride bikes, make mud pies, etc. just as if baby didn’t exist. The surprising part is that the baby often sleeps through all of this.

Finally came back to town and crossed the river, then followed a path up into the hills. You certainly see some pretty spots in these hills—rocky streams, woods, rustic bridges, falls, shrines, ancient stone images half hidden in the foliage along the wayside—and ever the mountains on all sides, growing darker and darker as night began to fall. You also see interesting types in the hills that you seldom find on city streets—bearded men, strange clothes, etc.

America can take lessons on how to operate trains on schedule from Japan, Siam, India, Egypt, or places in Europe. You can count on leaving and arriving when you are supposed to. Trains in Japan are usually long, 9 to 13 cars the size of ours. You see very few first-class coaches—most all second and third. Thus when I saw a double-header pull into town with four first-class coaches tonight, I smelled American tourists—about a hundred of them. They were hustled into taxis and whirled away to the Kakaya Hotel where they ask the outrageous price of 23 yen per night. Felt rather sorry for the whole bunch of them. They don’t know what they’re missing. Gosh, it’s painful to realize I’ll have to tumble into some respectable clothes in a couple of months. I feel better now, clothes dirty and worn out, shirt so rotten it is falling into shreds, not entirely rotten dirty.

I claim to be able to eat what they set before me here—all but fish eyes and a certain kind of hot relish—but I don’t exactly crave some dishes such as raw fish, steak, dried and pressed fish skin, and the raw eggs they give you to eat between breakfast and lunch.

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