Nikko is a city in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, famous for several well-known shrines and temples. 2 shrines and 1 temple are collectively a UNESCO world heritage site.
At Tobu Nikko Station. In early December, there was still a surprising amount of fall foliage to be seen.
The first stop on my World Heritage tour was Rinnoji temple.
Outside Rinnoji temple.
Rinnoji temple is currently being restored, so there is a plastic shell with a picture of what the temple will look like covering the real temple. You can still go inside during restoration.
More pictures after the jump (more…)
During my visit to Tokyo in late November/early December, I stayed in Asakusa. I had previously only been to Asakusa during the day, so it was interesting to see the area at night. The main tourist attraction in Asakusa is the Sensoji temple and the shopping street leading up to the temple, Nakamise street. During the day, the temple and shopping area are swamped with tourists. But at night, the shops are shuttered and the people are gone. The temple is still lit-up and the area feels quite peaceful.
Sensoji temple at night. Not a soul to be found.
Nakamise Street with all the shops shuttered.
Multilingual sign for the women's toilet.
Kaminari gate at night
Just across the river from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, is Wat Arun. (You can easily use a ferry to cross the river.) The Wat Arun temple is especially beautiful at sunset.
Wat Arun rises out of the river bank and turns a dazzling golden hue as the sun goes down.
Looking across the river towards the Temple of the Emerald Buddha from Wat Arun
Not too far from Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the Emerald Buddha, is Wat Pho, where the reclining Buddha resides. Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It is also home to the country’s first public education institution.
The reclining Buddha. It is huge!
Close up to Buddha's head.
Praying at Wat Pho
My first stop in Bangkok was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew. Wat Phra Kaew was the Grand Palace and it is impressively ostentatious. Or, as my Thai friend described it, “This is why Thai people visit the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto and say ‘Eh, it’ s ok’,” instead of lavishing praise on it like many other people do. Don’t get me wrong, the Golden Pavilion is impressive compared to other Japanese temples, but it pales in comparison to Wat Phra Kaew. Construction began on the palace in 1782 and Thai Kings lived there (on and off, some choosing to live elsewhere) until 1946. But the palace is still used for ceremonies and other occasions.
If you visit Wat Phra Kaew, don’t forget to cover up. Bangkok may be sweltering hot, but this is a strict dress code on the temple grounds. You need close toed shoes, long pants or skirts, and a shirt with sleeves. You can rent clothes to cover up with from the office by the gate, but it would be easier and cheaper to just dress a little more conservatively than you might be tempted to in the Bangkok heat.
Wat Phra Kaew
Approaching the entrance.
Yaksha Demon guarding the palace
After visiting the Silver Pavilion on snowy New Year’s Eve, we headed across town to the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji (金閣寺).
The Golden Pavilion lives up to its name and is actually golden, unlike the silver pavilion. But, the Golden Pavilion is not an original. The first time I visited the pavilion, I marveled at the spectacular temple covered in gold leaf. Then I read the book Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which is a fictional retelling of true events. In 1950, a monk burned down the Golden Pavilion. The current temple is a reconstruction dating from 1955. It’s still a great place to visit, but I was rather disappointed to find out it wasn’t original. I felt like I’d been lied to.
The Golden Pavilion seen from across the reflective pond. It wasn't very reflective with all the snow.
There so many people there that we could barely move. Here you can see everyone trying to get the same picture. Maybe we should just have one person take a picture and then share it with everyone.