Temple Hopping


We peer out the rain has stopped but the mist is hanging like a silky veil in the hills. The ground is squishy underfoot but the tent is not afloat. We are far too lazy in our packing up and pay for it literally when the attendant comes round at nine but it’s a resonable 1000yen so we don’t mind. It was a port in a storm for which we are very grateful.
We are in an area with a high concentration of temples the first on our list is Chuson-Ji. We head round the town twice passing another biker doing the same before finding the car park £5 seems a bit steep to us so we hunt around and find a free one not far away. It is possibly the residents parking but as one is having a dinner party with lots of guests who come and chat about what we are doing we don’t worry too much. Apart from the hike up the hill and the ice creams being double price (even Kev baulked at the price) it’s well worth it. An intricate complex of temples and shrines one houses a  golden minature temple, there are also magnificent views over the surrounding towns. Roof can’t find me  for a while and then catches me making a fuss of the temple cat. Buddhist animals seem to be the best treated in the whole of Asia so if we ever come back as an animal could it be a Buddhist one please ! Fairly late in our tour we spot a natural staircase made of tree roots which looked intrigueing, Roof took some pictures of me climbing it and our curiousity was rewarded by finding a stage which is used to stage plays and live performances. The whole area has a good ambiance about it and the adjacent Buddhist shrine is always busy. The etiquette is to make a shallow bow, followed by a deep bow then make an offering, then ring the bell on the rope, clap twice and make a shallow bow. Neither of us are religous people but we are both impressed with Buddhists philophosy and serenity. A lot of Buddhist holy places are in areas of natural beauty and magnificence such as the mountainous areas of Mongolia. That said we are not about to go out and buy some orange robes (sorry Harri).  
Our second shrine next day is at Yonezawa not an intentional stop we had been riding all day following a river valley for most of it and wanted an ice cream so passing through the town saw signs for a shine. It’s another complex of various shrines and temples with an avenue leading to the town we while away a few hours before finally heading off into town where we are stopped by a fellow biker asking if we’re the owners of the strange beast in the car park. We have a good chat about bikes and travel before going our seperate ways.
We are headed towards Nikko we arrive about 3pm so decide to find a camp and return tomorrow. Nearby is a lake so we turn towards that, what we don’t realise is it is in the next valley. The road up the mountain is so steep that there are two, one way up the other down only, it seems very strange to overtake on a blind bend knowing it is safe to do so. There is cafe near the top which we use to don our wet weather gear as it starting to rain. By the time we are passing the lake it is full on rain and beginning to get dark. The cafe owner told us of a campsite on the lake which we fail to find. We continue on and find a map which shows two more campsites. After driving down minute roads we find the place is now a building site and shut off. So we head for the final one it is dark, we are sopping wet, we drive in woods passing bear signs along the way. Arriving in a woodland clearing we see signs that this is a campsite. There are lights on in nearby houses so we decide to stay we have nowhere else to go. We are so wet and it is raining so hard it is difficult to do anything, to increase our difficulties the pitches are cleared squares in the woods with no vehicle access. We hunt for one we can squeek the bike near enough to, mission accomplished we pitch camp. We are in bear country here so take our food and cook in the dishwashing area. There is no let up in the rain all night it’s fairly late so we fall into the tent only to be woken in the wee small hours by the fact the air mattress has developed a leak and we are on the floor, of course we have to go out in the rain to connect the pump! We reawake at the crack of dawn and are away before 6.30 heading towards Nikko it has stopped raining Hooray. We stop at a bridge that is smothered with photographers something must be good. It turns out to be a senic walk past waterfalls with the leaves turning, it is the first sunny day to view them and tv crews are out in force. It is spectacular and we take loads of photos before continuing down to the lake shore for breakfast. Here we see loads of school children on a day trip they are taking a cruise boat. One teacher approaches to take photos, we hand him a card he halts the children and explains our trip. A round of applause errupts then one brave lad shakes Kev’s hand, now they all want to shake hands with both of us (bearing in mind there are about 100 of them) We feel a bit like royalty but its lightheated and the kids are well behaved and nice. Fun over we return to our toast and coffee.
We drag ourselves away and ride the down road of the mountain, this just as exciting as the up one only today we get to see the view as well. Our final temple complex is at Nikko this is a very touristy town but it’s within easy reach of Tokyo and very famous so you can understand why. The town is now full of souvenir shops but these are all housed in old buildings. Next to the approach to the temple complex is the old traditional style red bridge where many a photo has been taken, we take our photo here too before heading up the hill towards the temples. They are spread out over a large area and unfortunately two are under a shroud of plastic and scaffold. All the temples here in Japan undergo restoration to preserve them but this was done to such a degree both Roof and I felt the place has lost some of its magic. We wander around all the free outside ones but don’t pay to see the inner parts as they were very expensive. There is much to see including a large pegoda which dominates the square.
By now we are a bit templed out so make tracks back towards the lake to find some camping. We travel further up the mountain than yesterday looking for likely spots. We pass a monkey sitting on the crash barrier we have been warned against these so don’t stop. Beyond a tunnel Roof spots a fields it is a tricky entrance as we think it was left from when the tunnel was built but perfect for our needs, he takes a run up and bounces down the hill to arrive unscathed in the field scattering the grazing deer. Now we only have the monkeys to contend with !
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