Some days are perfect for walks. For a week I’d been afraid that our single day in Nikko would be washed out by thunderstorms. But in the last two days the prediction had changed. When the day broke, I looked out at a cloud flecked sky, sunny and with a nip in the air. It was going to be a long day on foot, and it was the perfect weather for that. By the time the thunderstorm hit in the late afternoon, we planned to be on the train to Tokyo.
We were planning to take a bus to the Toshogu shrine, and then walk back in the afternoon through the town. But the wonderful weather changed our minds. We got off at the bus stop to the shrine, and then walked back along the Daiya river to the 17th century Shinkyo (sacred bridge). Thirty years after I’d first seen it, the bridge has been strengthened and you can buy a ticket to walk across it. We didn’t bother to do that. Standing on the bank of the river I look a photo of the tall grass next to us, the rushing stream, and the beautiful spring growth on the trees across from us.
The village of Nikko grew up next to an area considered sacred in the old Shinto belief, especially Mt. Nantai. Some day we will go back to visit the 8th century Futarasan jinja and hike its god, the mountain. The Toshogu shrine was built with some thought in this spot in the 17th century, thereby associating the godhood of Tokugawa Iyeasu with the other gods of the region. Standing by the rushing stream, in the narrow valley between hills, it was not hard to understand why the whole area must have seemed sacred to the people who live here.
So much of the mood of a scene depends on the light which you see it by. I pointed my phone to one side and caught the sunny sky, with the bright growth of spring. When I turned to take a view on the other side, clouds had slid across the sun, and a dark atmosphere had fallen across the same hills. After looking at the Shinkyo, we walked back up the slope to the Toshogu shrine. The sky remained wonderful throughout the morning.
A bit of mid-morning dango, and grilled fish on a skewer kept us going through the long walk inside the shrine. When we emerged, the storm clouds were peeping over the surrounding mountains. We walked to the neighbouring Rinno-ji, and the play of sunlight and clouds gave us a wonderful view of the main hall. The weather eventually broke with a crack of thunder and instant downpour, immediately after we’d boarded the train on our way out of Nikko. The sky and the gods of the mountain had been good to us.