Hey, guys! Guess who's still on a plane!
You're right! It's me!
WHY IS THIS PLANE RIDE SO LONG UGGGGGGH
Okay, since I'm STILL stuck here, you get day three of the tour, aka the only day we actually went to Nikko.
I woke up early to bid my host family goodbye, and my host mom was apparently still convinced I was too skinny 'cause she gave me enough snacks and omiyage to feed a small army. She also gave me a pair of chopsticks (the disposable kind, not the reusable kind) in a paper slip she had made for every meal we had eaten together. And they all had different patterns and basically she is a super classy lady.
Anyway, then we went to the hotel where all the touring people got on the bus and waved like crazy people at all the people staying behind.
And then we drove and drove and drove and drove and drove up an incredibly windy road that made a bunch of us carsick. But then we stopped.
(From left to right: Steven, me, Alyssa, Sara, Karen, Michele, Ashley).
Did I mention SNOW?
So then we rode a ropeway to the top of the mountain!
So then we got to the top of the mountain:
I'd marry that waterfall.
Michele and her host family (who came to Nikko)!
I'm still not getting over the waterfall.
So then we went back down the mountain!
And then we drove and drove and drove a bunch more and more of us got carsick but then we stopped do see another waterfall:
Can you see it?
I can...sort of...
So then I went exploring, because any chance to wind up falling down a bridge into knee-deep snow is a chance I am going to take.
So then we got on the bus AGAIN (but not before I managed to submerge myself up to my hip in snow) and drove and drove and drove and drove. And then we stopped to see one of the three "best" (what does that even mean) waterfalls in Japan.
...nah, I like the other one better.
That ice, though...
So then we got back on the bus and drove to get lunch which we were told was going to be okonomiyaki but actually turned out to be hamburg steak, which confused the heck out of Karen because she thought that maybe it was some bizarre form of okonomiyaki she'd never had before.
So then we hopped on the bus again (I never want to ride a bus again...or at least not for a while) to go to Toushouguu, also known as That Crazy Shrine in Nikko. It's basically where Tokugawa Ieyasu (the first Tokugawa shogunate) is enshrined, which means that it encapsulates...many of his...quirks.
The first thing you should know about Toushouguu is that there's a saying in Japanese, "You haven't seen extravagant until you've seen Nikko." And it's referring to Toushouguu.
Looking pretty normal so far!
One interesting thing about Toushouguu is that, unlike most other shrines, the Buddhist aspects were pretty much left alone during the Meiji Restoration, because it was such an important cultural property.
...and now we head instead the main gate...
...what is this.
These are THE monkeys. People claim that this is the first place the three monkeys motif appeared.
I don't even know what this is. A candle holder?
WHY ARE THERE ELEPHANTS ON THE ROOF
Okay, seriously, think about how long it took to paint this thing.
SO MUCH DETAIL.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, you bring a whole new meaning to power trip. A WHOLE NEW MEANING.
...every single roof-edging-thing has his family crest on it.
Yes, that is Kirin Beer.
As an offering.
Yes, that is sesame oil.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, you were a very weird man.
You know, mikoshi are supposed to be super extravagant, but next to the shrine, this one just looks kind of drab.
SERIOUSLY, GUYS, WHAT IS UP WITH THIS.
"Would you like lions, elephants, or kirin?"
I don't have words.
So, yeah, that was Toushouguu, except I couldn't see all of it because the tour budgeted time really badly. GUH.
Random side shrine!
So then we went over to Rinnoji...
...which was under construction. Guh.
But it had a kind of okay garden.
After that there was a lot of drama that isn't really worth writing about and then a bunch of the other Fulbrighters and I hopped on a train back to Tokyo! There was some excitement on the train involving flying candy, but we made it in basically one piece except that I started getting hay fever, which sucked.
Nellie met up with Michele and I, 'cause we were all staying at a hostel together, and we heard about her crazy adventures and then we met up with Alex and ate dinner and crashed. It was pretty exciting!
...good grief, I still have an hour of this flight to go. GUH.
[Edit: Okay, so now I'm on the ground and I'll end this post with a bunch of random pictures from Sara and Karen:
Me managing to fall into the snow!
Snow all over my pants, what a pro.
I, uh, climbed this stairway because everyone told me it was too dangerous.
I live on the edge.
(Well, that and it was supposed to be the way you climb back up, and I'm anal like that.)
...and then I climbed a giant snow dune and accidentally sunk in up to my hip.
Oh, hey, it's the other fellows being semi-normal!
I'm gonna go collapse now.