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One fine autumn day in Nikkō, Japan

- Story & photos by Marky Ramone Go

As I stare at the carved maxim of the three wise monkeys pinned on an overhead panel at Tōshōgū, the proverbial mantra was made apparent to me almost immediatel­y; “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Recognizin­g where I stood at that very moment, surrounded by temples concealed under a canopy of autumn leaves, I couldn’t fathom how any of my senses can conjure a negative energy.

As the yellow glare of the sun seeps through the gap of intertwini­ng tree branches, I felt the cool wind of the fall season penetratin­g through my thin sweater. Proceeding forward, I gingerly slid my strides while taking my sweet time admiring the centuries-old structures around me. With each step, I can hear a faint crackling sound of fallen shrubberie­s—with hues of dark red and gold—spread out on the ground like the tail end of a dotted brush stroke.

Arrival at Nikkō Town

After a couple of hours watching the fast-moving slide show of Japanese countrysid­e from my train’s window seat, I alighted at the tobu Nikkō railway station instantly feeling the city’s fleeting wind. following the few days of walking and trainsport­ing around tokyo, I’ve gotten used to hearing the symphony of clackety-clack from the walking hordes of Japanese commuters. In this station, though, the sounds of footsteps were a little muffled and the movements of the crowd were more relaxed.

A quaint town vibe greeted me outside. there was a tourist bus heading to the temples, waiting for travelers to board. I opted to proceed on foot for more sightseein­g opportunit­ies. Circling my first destinatio­n on my tattered old-school map; the Shinkyo Bridge, I casually started my

exploratio­n.

Lining up both sides of the immaculate road are small establishm­ents; cafés and sushi joints emitting a scrumptiou­s aroma tempting my starving self. I stopped a couple of times to check the menu prices—each time retreating to the road—after realizing its not within reach of my food budget.

After 15 minutes, I reached a curve where I turned left, and immediatel­y, I caught sight of a red lacquered arch stunningly across the Daiya river. there it was—the sacred bridge erected in 1636 at the entrance of Nikkō’s futarasan Shrine. raved to be as one of three most beautiful bridges in Japan, Shinkyo Bridge, which is now off limits to people, is such a Zen sighting blending beautifull­y against the green forests background while clear waters streams underneath.

Shrines and temples of Nikkō

BuoyeD by excitement, I advanced with hurried steps into the futarasan Shrine where the foliage-covered grounds mirror a Jackson Pollock unfinished canvas. Inside the complex, the crowd seems to thicken as a Mounted Archery competitio­n is being held. I stood among the spectators as I watched a few archers wearing colorful traditiona­l Samurai armor and Kamakura-era clothing, fired three arrows at the stationary target while riding their respective horses at full gallop.

following a footpath that passes through a small forest, I started marveling at the small temples and shrines that seems to increase in size as I go further. the 400-year-old Shinto shrine— flanked on both sides by equally old giant trees—met my gaze and dropped jaw as I could only mouth the word “wow.”

As the three wise monkeys, Mizaru, Mikazaru and Mazaru, attract a crowd of onlookers all marveling at its 17th-century carved form by Hidari Jingoro that to depict man’s life cycle, I moved on to the other temples and shrines of all sizes.

I passed by the 1619 Honden, considered as the most sacred building in every Shinto shrine. It is here where the three futarasan deities are enshrined. Nearby are the Haiden worship hall, and the giant torii leading to more worship halls and hondens.

the shrines and temples of Nikkō cover 103 structures built inside two Shinto complexes, futarasan Shrine and tōshōgū, as well as the lone Buddhist temple, the rinno-ji. these three complexes are all located beside each other and can be explored in a day. Inscribed collective­ly as a unesco World Heritage Site in 1999, these sacred buildings are also classified as National treasures of Japan and Important Cultural Properties.

As my mind reeled from a morning filled with newfound learnings about feudal Japanese history, I started feeling hunger pangs. taking a break from my educationa­l exploratio­n, I walked toward a long line of people standing near a white tent. I saw them ordering food I initially thought was an ordinary Japanese dish. It turned out to be Soba Noodles (buckwheat), which is one of the local dishes Nikkō is known for.

As I sat to chow down my food, I let out a sigh of relief as I finally rested my weary feet. Looking at the reddened tree leaves and the blue sky above me, I nodded at the invisible Gods—whom the many shrines and temples in Nikkō were built for—and delivered a short message “Arigato for letting the universe bring me here.”

 ??  ?? FuTArASAN jinja is a Shinto shrine located in Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture.
FuTArASAN jinja is a Shinto shrine located in Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture.
 ??  ?? AuTumN leaves leave a warm backdrop to a temple.
AuTumN leaves leave a warm backdrop to a temple.
 ??  ?? ShiNkyo, the sacred bridge that serves as entrance to Nikko sanctuary.
ShiNkyo, the sacred bridge that serves as entrance to Nikko sanctuary.
 ??  ?? huge Torii greets visitors as they enter the Shinto shrine.
huge Torii greets visitors as they enter the Shinto shrine.
 ??  ?? mouNTed archers compete at the Futarasan Shrine.
mouNTed archers compete at the Futarasan Shrine.

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