Itinerary (day 4 in Japan)
Train from Tokyo to Nikko
At Nikko, saw the following:
- Togushu Shrine (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3801.html)
- Final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years from 1603 CE to 1868 CE. “Shogun” is translated literally as “military commander”, who operated as the de facto ruler of Japan although these were nominally appointed by the emperor. The Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Edo period as the Tokugawas ruled from Edo castle, was a period of sustained economic growth and stability in contrast to the proceeding “Sengoku” or “warring states” period – (1467 CE – 1603 CE).
- Taiyuinbo (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3802.html)
- Final resting place of grandson of Ieysuu.
- Walked by Rinnoji Temple, but didn’t go in due to ongoing reconstruction.
- While this is the most important Buddhist temple in Nikko, I knew I would be seeing many more in my stay
Bus to Okunikko
- Kegon Waterfall
- Lake Chuznenji
Bus back to Nikko, then the train to Tokyo
Had amazing dinner in Asakusa
While the monuments we went and saw were certainly impressive, the biggest highlight of this day were the friendly Japanese men we met on the train to Nikko. One of the group of about six or so struck up a conversation with us, and we did our best in extremely basic Japanese (assisted by Google translate) to talk to them about where we were from and some details about our trip. They helped break the ice by sharing some sake and nuts with us. In return we shared some chocolate cake which they seemed to enjoy. There really is something special about the act of giving food to someone.
The Togushu shrine included the famous “Three Wise Monkeys”, a carving depicting three monkeys, which popularized the proverb “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. Interestingly, there are differing explanations of of this saying; while in in the west it refers to a lack of moral responsibility (“I didn’t see anything bad, I didn’t hear anything bad, and I’m not going to talk about anything bad”), in Buddhist tradition, the message behind this proverb is said to be about not dwelling on evil thoughts. The Buddhist interpretation of “speak no evil” seems to have equivalents in the Torah with”hotzaat shem ra” (unsubstantiated defamation), and “leshon hara” (gossiping about things which may be true but with a nonconstructive purpose). Random trivia fact: Mahatma Gandhi used to carry around a small statue of the three monkeys – the exception to his lifestyle of non-possession.
Kegon waterfall was beautiful, but “over accessible”. The path to the viewing platform (which included an elevator ride) made the whole experience feel a little artificial – a little like watching something on television. We chatted about this for a while, including how different the experience was from the likes of Gulfoss in Iceland – where there was and element of danger and struggle that seemed to make everything more vivid. I found an interesting background article on motivation (http://blog.idonethis.com/the-science-of-motivation-your-brain-on-dopamine/) which seems to validate this idea – if you want a dopamine hit, it helps to feel like you have achieved something – which it is difficult to do if no struggle was necessary.
While wondering around Lake Chuznenji we had an interesting conversation around the importance of intention – and how to have positive experiences with people it helps so much to really feel positive. I remember the marked difference it made when I was practicing compassion meditation (http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/compassion_meditation) – a habit I need to resume.