I awoke the following rainy day having had an odd dream, to clean my bicycle chain I use a toothbrush, a very oily toothbrush I might add. In the ethereal realm and against the science of hygiene it appeared to be perfectly acceptable for me to use this toothbrush in order to clean my teeth. I do worry about my sub-conscience sometimes and upon waking I checked my teeth. As a British standard, horrible, yet not oily. It was just a dream, I was thankful.
As it was chucking it down I re-created a scene from 7 years previously by having a stroll down to Kanmangafuchi Abyss. An eerie, secluded gorge just outside of town formed many years ago by the eruption of nearby Mt. Nantai. A mood lingers in the air as a row of stone carved Bodhisattva’s known as Jizo align a pathway along the gorge. The Jizo, often referred to as ‘Bake Jizo’, meaning ghost Jizo sit upon a short stone tablet in the lotus position. They don red bibs and a red hat and are said to be the guardians for the souls of dead and unborn children in the underworld. Local lore tells of how the number of Jizo in Kamangafuchi Abyss is unknown as they are ever-changing, hence the name ‘Ghost Jizo,’ but for sake of argument, there’s about 70! They exist in various states, some well defined and a little weathered, other’s merely piles of rubble and some just completely absent. As I walked passed them my footsteps felt heavy upon the loose gravel, amplified almost and seemingly much louder than the rapids of the nearby gorge. Despite being the only human stupid enough to come here in the heavy rain I felt as if I was being watched. But not in an unsettling way, the Jizo have a certain presence about them, as does the forest that contains them, an aura of mystery that when combined with the day’s elements create a somewhat soothing yet mystical ethos. One can really feel at peace here, one of just a few places in the world where I have ever felt like this. I believe this is what drew me back.
Towards the backend of the afternoon the rain began to peter out. I proceeded to the temple district. One of the tourist Mecca’s of Japan, designated a UNESO world heritage site in 1999 Nikko consists of some 103 buildings and structures, some dating back as early as 766. Most notable is the Tōshō-gū Shrine, the final resting place for the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is here that the tourist droves sportingly participate in taking pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures. And just when you think you may have found a classic photo opportunity it will be marred by a big white ‘No Smoking’ sign. However, the lack of good photographic opportunities cannot void the craftsmanship on display, many buildings intricately decorated and highly detailed, Tōshō-gū Shrine alone consisting of some 5173 sculptures. Unfortunately one of the big draws being the Yomeimon Gate was currently being refurbished and was smothered in scaffolding. A job that wouldn’t be complete until sometime in 2019. Walking further around the complex soaking it all in I at one stage found myself condensed into a Russian tour group. Walking along a small internal wooden walkway just about fit enough for a kitten to do some break dancing I came up upon a pack of angry looking individuals, ferocious voices echoed from the front of the brigade. Were they death threats or was it just casual banter amongst close friends and loved ones? I couldn’t tell. This was not where I wanted to be, not here, not now….probably not ever. I turned to retreat but found myself caged in by the remainder of the group that came flooding in behind me. I tried to etch past and I got scorned at by a middle aged lady with hilarious hair. The Russian massif were not going to let me pass, and this is why inevitably that the Russian’s are always the baddies. I was now part of the tour. Agreeing and nodding my head from time to time and mostly trying my best to look like an angry person until I could slip away undetected….further into the mountains.