Tuesday, November 07, 2006
A Day in Nikko 日光
Nestled in the mountains north of Tokyo lies one of the greatest cultural and natural treasures in all of Japan. For over a thousand years, the temples and shrines of Nikko hid amongst the enormous cedar forests on rugged hills. Shrouded in mystery and seclusion, Nikko holds some of the greatest wonders of traditional Japanese architecture, art, history and culture.
But like most wonderful things that have been “loved to death,” Nikko is now an immensely popular tourist trap for Tokyo residents vainly seeking a respite from the crowded subways and sidewalks of one of the world’s most crowded cities. Their futile attempt at escape from an insane urban nightmare is thwarted at every turn in the crowded National Park.
Traffic slows to a crawl, inching across poorly planned public infrastructure with the speed of glaciers. Over one hour behind schedule, as I approach Nikko station to pick up my friend Erika I summon every ounce of self restraint to keep my temper in check.
Once I actually meet up with Erika, and she takes me into the temples, I jostle with only a mildly annoying crowd.
I also see my first wild monkey! I see one monkey and ponder the whereabouts of the rest of his clan. He sat on a sidewalk with busy traffic and started harassing people for food. He lunged at several passing tourists with plastic bags. Erika tells me that the monkeys pester unsuspecting travelers because they want food, the annoying product of ignorant tourists feeding wild animals and turning them into pests. I can’t help but recall living in the canyon and watching people do the same to squirrels, deer and any other critter brave enough to eat from someone's hand.
We left sooner than I expected, thinking the traffic will be just as bad leaving the place.