By Patricia Lightfoot
Here is the second instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day.
The train from Tokyo took some time to leave the greater metropolitan area, which was not surprising as some 38 million people live there, and move into a landscape of villages, small holdings, rice fields, trees with no leaves but bearing orange fruit, a few large houses with gardens of manicured trees, and distant mountains. Our first stop was Central Nikko (Town).
Day 5: Nikko
Word of the day
Itadakimas or bon appetit! The plate of noodles and chicken, chicken kebabs, pickles and rice served in the modest restaurant that was one of the few to be open in this tourist town at the end of a day of sight-seeing was truly welcome.
The sights included the Nikko Toshogu Shrine; the Rinnoji Temple, which is currently being renovated, but still open to visitors; and a truly exquisite Japanese garden, Shoyoen, which was clearly designed to please the senses. Musicians played at one end of the little lake, as we wandered along the paths and across the bridge, while admiring the positioning of rocks and plants and the gorgeous red of the Japanese maples. If I were in the unlikely position of being imprisoned somewhere for a lifetime, this garden would be a good location in which to watch the seasons pass.
Places visited: Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Rinnoji Temple, the temple’s Treasure House, Shoyoen Japanese garden
Day 6: Yumoto Onsen
Words of the day
Shinsetsu or “kindness,” because a woman sitting on the bus lurching along the switchbacks up into the mountains to the village of Yumoto Onsen kindly offered to hold my daypack as I stood with my suitcase. She was one of a group of cheerful older women heading out on a hike together.
Onsen or “hot springs,” because the village we stayed in had hot springs, which could be enjoyed in indoor and outdoor baths at various inns.
Oishi or delicious, because the food served for breakfast and dinner at our inn or ryokan was outstanding.
We learned from the owner of the inn that during World War II, the Emperor’s son was sent to the village for safekeeping. The soldiers who accompanied him had stayed at the inn, and the Emperor’s son had listened there to his father’s radio broadcast announcing the end of the war.
Places visited: Hike around Yunoko Lake and view of Yudaki waterfall, indoor and outdoor baths
Day 7: Yumoto Onsen
Word of the day
“Aw kaw shaw,” which is a representation of the noise made when getting up from the floor. The combination of sleeping on the floor, often eating at low tables and frequent shoe removal involves a lot of getting up from the floor, sitting down again and getting up again.
At the end of a hike along well-marked trails, we came across snow monkeys near one of the lakes, though fortunately we encountered no bears, maybe because other walkers were amply supplied with bear bells.
Places visited: Hike in the mountains around Yumoto Onsen, indoor and outdoor baths
Photos: Patricia Lightfoot and Phillip Lightfoot