October 26, 2002, Tokyo, Japan

NIKKO - Sightseeing With The Yabui Family

I was in Tokyo for the World Championship in Mah-Jongg. That Saturday, my friend Yab took me on a wonderful day trip to Nikko. The real challenge in making this page was in choosing which photos to include and exclude. I took a LOT of wonderful pictures at Nikko!

This is my good friend Hisashi Yabui ("Yab") with his wife, Shoko, and their son, Tomotsugu (called "Tomo-chan" for short).
After a two and a half hour drive, which included the famous "Irohazaka Road" (which made me somewhat carsick because of all the sharp curves combined with Yab's driving style), we arrived in the little town on the shore of lake Chuzenjiko. It was raining heavily. If it looks like this photo is taken from the driver's seat, think again. Japanese cars have the steering wheel on the right side.
The Yabui family engages in momiji gari (viewing the koyo, the leaves that are changing colors). It was cold!
Here I am at Kegon Falls.
The Yabui family at Kegon Falls. Yab told me that Kegon means "beautiful harshness."
After more driving, back down the mountain over the remainder of the Irohazaka Road, we finally arrived in Nikko. We were all hungry! There is a river behind the parking lot, and I thought Tomo-chan looked like he needed his picture taken beside it.
In the restaurant, Tomo-chan ordered tempura. We were all surprised to see that among his fried treats was this maple leaf tempura! Yes, it was intended to be eaten. So Tomo-chan ate it. I guess this is what you could call a seasonal dish.
From my seat in the restaurant, I admired the clouds in the hills. After we ate, we climbed a long stone stairway to get to Toshogu Shrine, the place where the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa is entombed.
Holy smoke!
Even with the heavy rainfall, Nikko's Toshogu Shrine gets a lot of tourist traffic!
The most famous aspect of Toshogu is probably this carving, called "Sanzaru" (the three monkeys). Kikazaru, Iwazaru, Mizaru is Japanese for "Hear no evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil."
There are many many animal carvings and statues at Toshogu. This blue dog guards one of the gates within the shrine.
Another famous animal carving at Toshogu is this sleeping cat.
This is the tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Shogun of Japan. I suddenly had an epiphany as I visited this spot. I've read about Ieyasu's great-grandson, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa (the fifth Shogun), who was a renowned lover of animals. Tsunayoshi issued edicts protecting dogs and horses. These edicts were in effect during the time of the 47 Ronin, and during the period covered by the novels of Laura Joh Rowland. Toshogu Shrine was completed in 1636, twenty years after Ieyasu's death and ten years before Tsunayoshi was born. But seeing all these animal carvings made me realize that Ieyasu must have had a profound connection with animals, which likely influenced Tsunayoshi's later edicts.
Tomo-chan had seen me take a picture of the blue dog, and as we passed back through the dogs' gate, he insisted that I take a picture of the green dog - the other half of the gate guard!
The trees are extremely tall at Toshogu. I had visited Toshogu once before, twenty years earlier, and the only things I recalled about it were the Sanzaru and the tall trees. The trees are Japanese cypress, and they were planted in the 17th century!
After another long drive, we arrived back in Tokyo. We stopped in to see Yab's mother and sister. That's his sister at his left, and his mother at the right. I'm afraid we stayed only ten minutes - I had to get back to the hotel for the final closing ceremony of the WCMJ!

Click here to see pictures of the World Championship in Mah-Jongg...

And click here to see more pictures from Japan.

Copyright 2002 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.