Last Thursday we had some errands to run, and as much as I hate errands, I can’t complain too much in this case. One of those errands brought us to Futaara shrine in Nikko. See what I mean? There are plenty of a lot worse places you could be forced to visit on official business. Like the Immigration Office in Utsunomiya, or the drivers license testing center in Kanuma. I’ll take the Shrine and Temple complex anytime.
Since we are chronic cheapskates and hate paying for parking (which, as you can imagine, is rather expensive in touristy areas, and you don’t get any more touristy than Sannai in Nikko), we did what we always do. Instead of stopping at one of the big parking lots nearby Rinnoji, we continued up the mountain, past the grave of monk Shodo, towards Takinoo shrine.
You want to park for free when visiting Nikko? Then you gotta do the same. Follow the narrow, twisty road along the river and soon you will see plenty of spaces where you can park your car, 100% legally, for free.
The downside of this arrangement is that you still need to walk to the shrines. But you walk alone, or almost alone, through the woods. There are no loud tourist crowds, no information booths, no commotion. Just you and a stone path through the forest. But don’t worry, the path is well maintained. It’s the same path that the shinto priests use during Yayoi festival when they carry mikoshi back from Takinoo shrine to Futaara.
The path will take you by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. Seeing the sign there, I realized that it might be a good idea to climb this mountain as a practice run for next year’s Mt. Nantai midnight extravaganza. Yes, we’ll be climbing that mountain again. And again - at night.
Sad, this is the shrine by the entrance to Mt. Nyoho. People, who do that, should be tarred and feathered and made to wear a sign around the neck proclaiming "I have an IQ of a stool sample." And Marielle (because I'm pretty sure that's who wrote it - judging from the crossed out "Andrea" above) - yes, you're stupid. Anyone who disrespects any place of worship like that is a moron. Case closed.
But Nyoho is relatively easy to climb, or at least those familiar with it say so, and I’d like to believe them. So maybe in September when the weather’s nice and not too hot, we'd give it a try. Are you up for some Nikko mountain climbing this fall? You're welcome to join us. This time we’ll do it, like normal people, during daytime.
Following this stone path to Futaara, you’ll exit the woods at the back of the shrine. You’ll also get to see a lovely view of Taiyuin along the way (it will be on the right).
And, as an added bonus, you can also stop by the grave of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s horse (one of them, anyway, presumably he had more than one). Now, how’s that for special? If you consider that the dude never actually visited Nikko when he was alive, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Apparently when Ieyasu's spirit was transferred to Toshogu, his faithful horse came to Nikko as well. Once in Nikko, the horse's job was to serve in ritual ceremonies. I guess those ceremonies when shinto priests get to ride horses and such. And then the poor creature ended up in the woods.
So yeah, now you know where the locals park when they visit the shrines in Nikko.