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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Nikko: Toshogu

Toshogu, or literally Shrine of the Eastern Glimmer, is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine was built to keep the spirits of Ieyasu alive.

At the grand entrance, there is a carved stone with the shrine's name and there is a huge stone torii not far beyond.






Just to the left of the grand entrance is the five-storey pagoda which is 190 years old since its reconstruction in 1818. The predecessor of the pagoda was there since 1650. Since this is one of the landmarks at Toshogu, all the tourists were busy pressing their shutter-release buttons there.




By turning your head right from the view of the pagoda, You won't miss the Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses) for the glimmering roof lining will certainly catch your attention. The amount of gold leaves used to decorate the buildings was considered monumental as simplicity was traditionally the key to the shrine architecture of Japan.






On the wall of the upper storey of one of the storehouses are figurines of elephant which were carved by a craftsman who had never seen the real thing. This is the main reason for the popularity of these figurines.




To the left of the main entrance to the Main Hall is Shinyosha (Sacred Stable) where a white horse is kept.




This stable is an important relic for the symbolic relief carvings of monkeys adorning the beams of the structure. The most famous panel of wooden carving is the 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil' monkeys. All these panels depict the teaching and principles of Buddhism.












Just a few steps from the Sacred Stable is another torii leading the way to the Main Hall.




Flanking the entrance to the Main Hall are two drum towers on the side.




The perimeter wall separating the compound of the Main Hall is lavishly adorned with panels of wooden carving depicting plants and birds, mainly peacock. The amount of gold leaves used is really astonishing.










The main gate to the main hall is another monumental landmark of Toshogu, the Yomei-mon (Sunset Gate). It is dazzlingly decorated with carvings and paintings of all kinds, flowers, dancers, etc.




Even the inner side of the perimeter wall is not spared from being carved and painted.




Once inside the compound, Toshogu's Honden (Main Hall) is right in front. Its appearance is however dwarfed by the grandeur of Yomei-mon.




The corridor leading to the main hall is lined with wine jars offered by the followers of the shrine. As photography is not allowed inside the Main Hall, I am not able to show you the 100 dragons on the ceiling.




To the right of the Main Hall is the entrance to the hill leading to the tomb of Ieyasu, which required me to pay an additional fee.




This additional ticket permitted me to the viewing of Nemuri-Neko, a small wooden carving of a sleeping cat famous throughout Japan for its life-likeness. It is right above the gate leading to an uphill path to the tomb of Ieyasu on top of the hill.




The uphill path is lined with towering cedar trees, ending at the top of the hill with a shrine beside the tomb of Ieyasu.




This is where the spirits of Ieyasu are kept forever.


Thursday, 26 February 2009

Nikko: The Journey

Nikko is a small city which is about 100km north of Tokyo. It is about 2 to 3 hours away by local train.

On 13 June 2008, I woke up very early to catch a bus from Saitama University to the nearest train station, embarking on my journey to Nikko, one of the most beautiful places in Japan.

As I was trying to save on the travelling cost, I had to transit several times. I arrived at the first transit point in about half an hour. This station is called Minami-Kurihashi.






I took another train on the Tobu line bound for Shintochigi from here. In about 45 minutes time, I was already waiting at the platform of Shintochigi for my final stretch of train ride to Tobu-Nikko station.




Since this was my final stretch of the train ride, I already put off guard my attention to the announcement and I pulled out my camera snapping happily. The countryside of Japan is really beautiful and most of the lands along the railway tracks are covered with paddy fields.






The train came to a stop at a small train station and a lady train master came in to make an announcement which I didn't understand. I thought I was safe as this was the train bound for my destination. Not until I saw the first two train cars were detached and left the third car that I was in, I sensed something really wrong!




I quickly came out of the train car and checked the destination of these two train cars left behind and thank goodness that they were bound for the other destination that I had no clue at all. So, I needed to wait for the later train bound for Tobu-Nikko station. This time, I entered the first train car with the destination "Tobu-Nikko" clearly labeled on the car!




I was finally on the right train car for my destination.




So, if you are in Japan taking the local train to the countryside, make sure that you are on the correct car by checking the label on the outside of each train car.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Sumo Wrestling: Part 4













Location: Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo, Japan
Event: Grand Sumo Tournaments
Date taken: September 22nd, 2008
Camera equipment: Nikon D300 + Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D




Sunday, 22 February 2009

The People I Met at the Satok Sunday Market

I went to Satok Sunday Market again today with one of my Jedis, Ruey. I am putting up the series of photos I took of the people at this vibrant market in Kuching in this post.








































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