Our last stop for the day was Rinnoji and Taiyuin Reibyo, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu. By the end of this Nikko trip, hubby declared his quota for temples and shrines full for the next several months LOL!
This Sanbutsudo, or Three Buddha Hall, the most famous out of the 15 buildings within the Rinnoji complex. It houses three very large gold plated statues of Amitabha (如來佛祖, Amida Nyorai, Phật Tổ Như Lai), the Thousand-Arms Senju Kannon (千手觀音, Thiên Thủ Quan Âm) and the Horse Head Bato Kannon (馬頭觀音, Mã Thủ Quan Âm). You can see more pictures of Rinnoji here, and you can read more about the Horse Head Kannon here.
If you are wondering, yes, this is just a hollow building encaging the actual temple hall. From all the sources I've seen and read, this hall used to be "free range" like all the other halls and only recently was there such an ugly roof covering it. Perhaps they meant to shelter it from the weather? There are gold plated statues inside, after all. Then again, it's been there for centuries, no? Why covering it up now? Also, photography is no longer allowed inside the enclosure, where as it seems like people were able to take pictures before.
Perhaps the most famous (if not then definitely most visible!) part of Futarasan Jinja is this beautiful Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge) over the Daiya River. This is the very first thing we saw before even crossing the street intersection to start climbing up the mountain where the other shrines and temples are! And gosh it was utterly gorgeous, especially with that crystal clear water below. I would stand there all day and stare at it, though I'd probably be toasted and burnt to a crisp after an hour or so under the bright sun...
On our third day in Nikko, hubby and I split up with my sister and her friends again. We went off to see the famous World Heritage temples and shrines while she, K. and Y. headed off to Tobu World Square. Hubby and I had a great time marveling at the gorgeous temples and shrines. Though I have to admit that due to the approximate and sometimes out right blending of locations, after a while all the buildings started to meld together and, at least for myself, I couldn't tell which was which anymore. Blasphemy, I know ^.^
This map here shows the network of the temples and shrines system in Nikko, all of which are World Heritage Sites. It seems pretty clear from the map that each of the temple or shrine has its own area, right? Wrong. The map should have been color-coded to show which building belongs to which complex, because they're really kind of...all over the place. For example, the small cluster of buildings at the bottom right of the map actually separately belonging to Futarasan Jinja (Shinkyo, Hongu Jinja), Nikko Toshogu (Otabisho), and Nikkozan Rinnoji (Sanjunoto).
***Map from Nikko's Official Website, where you can also see a list of all the Nikko World Heritage temples and shrines along with their pictures.
On a side note, while googling around for english information for Nikko Edomura I found yet a Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, also called Edo Wonderland, very similar but is cheaper (admission is about half that of Nikko Edomura!) while seemingly much newer, larger, more detailed Edo theme park located in Hokkaido ^.^ See this website for detailed pictures of the Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura. Of course, getting to Hokkaido will cost an arm and a leg by itself, so if you're in Kanto, your best bet is Nikko Edomura.
On my previous Takimibashi Suspension Bridge post, I mentioned that hubby, my sister and I had a difficult time navigating Kinugawa Onsen. From all the information source we had, it was never clear to any of us that Kinugawa Onsen is an onsen town and not a specific onsen. Particularly the foreign language pamphlets and brochure, they all have beautiful pictures of these outdoor baths along with the name Kinugawa Onsen or Kawaji Onsen (yet another onsen town in the vicinity), but never a specific name of any hotel/ryokan/onsen where we could find the baths pictured.
Getting off the train at Kinugawa Koen Station, with the map outside we finally realized we were in the Kinugawa Onsen town. To make sure our understanding were correct hubby picked up a different brochure, this time in Chinese, and it was clear as day to us in that version that Kinugawa Onsen is a town! Uhh...they couldn't put together a clearer, at least less vague, brochure in English but they could in Chinese?!? Har? I was so incredulous I had to google again to get to this Kinugawa WikiTravel page when I got back to our hostel, Sumica Guesthouse, later that night.
The next several posts will be on the "pilgrimage" trip to Nikko hubby and I had promised my sister ever since we arrived in Japan. It was her lifelong dream to go there with us (yes, I'm being sarcastic) and you'll see what I'm talking about when I get to that post ^.^ Just try very hard not to giggle at her inner otaku when you're there, mmkay?
But first let's get the touristy stuff out of the way, shall we? On our very first day at Nikko, we took a train up to Kinugawa Onsen to, well, visit an onsen. Here is where things got really tricky: on the Wikipedia link I just gave, the web in general, the various brochures, maps, pamphlets and whatnot we got about "Kinugawa Onsen," even the directions from the host of the awesome hostel we stayed at, Sumica Guesthouse, it was not exactly clear to us what this "place" is. Perhaps we were all silly tourists, but it did not dawn upon us until we got off the train that this "Kinugawa Onsen" we are looking for is actually an entire town! So really, "Kinugawa Onsen" should be understood as "onsens at Kigunawa" rather than a specific onsen named "Kinugawa." I confirmed this later that night googling for "Kinugawa" and finally found this Kinugawa WikiTravel page. Anyway, in this Kinugawa Onsen town, there are numerous hotels and ryokans with their own hot spring baths and a few other hot spring bathhouses that are open to the public with just an entrance fee (rather than requiring room-booking for overnight stays).