Late last week I took a quick trip to Nikko, famous for its monkeys, hot springs, and an ornate shrine to the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The monkey thing is real. Unfortunately it seems like contact with humans has not been great for their dispositions - just moments after I took this photo, these monkeys were aggressively harassing and chasing a woman in her sixties. Hard to imagine anything more terrifying.
I stayed in the upper part of Nikko, near lake Chuzenji. It was quiet, and I mostly focused on hiking around the lake and seeing some of the amazing natural sights. This is a deservedly well-known waterfall.
It has generally been my experience that Japanese hiking trails are amazingly treacherous. The trail on the southern edge of the lake was no exception, requiring borderline mountaineering.
It was more than worth it though, partly thanks to the amazing weather and greenery exploding everywhere.
The sakura were even still in bloom, just beginning to shower pink petals.
There was a steady traffic flow, moving just behind me across the bridge I was standing on when I took this.
One of an amazing series of six panels in one of the shrines in Nikko's main complex. A friendly Japanese guy helped me with the info - they were painted in the 1970s by a guy named Yaneda Hiroshi, but sadly I haven't been able to find anything else about him.
There's a small, 400 year old garden within the temple complex. It was really sublime, got me thinking about how we need to refigure our ideas of what constitutes "art" so it can more easily encompass achievements like this.
One final shot from within the Tokugawa tomb. I can't recommend it enough - it's full of weird, unique stuff like this candalabra, objects and architectural gestures that achieve the rare feat of being more than just 'representative' of Japan, and move into the realm of unique art. It's a shame that it required totalitarianism to get that done, but maybe that's just Japan for you.