I have finally found countryside in Japan. It was hiding in Nikko. Rivers, mountainous hills, temples, fresh air. The problem is that the Japanese do not change their clocks to adjust to daylight hours.. so the sun rises at 4 am. I got up this morning at 4:30. It is 6 am now, and I have the front lobby to myself. I am tired, but I cannot sleep another wink. Maybe its because I know this is my last day in Japan.

Green is the colour of Nikko. Lush and alive. The trees hide temples in the hills; temples decorated with flamboyant golds and popping colour. Dragons and guardian dogs stare out at you. Concrete lanterns have gone to sleep and wear a blanket of moss. Japan sighs in Nikko, and remembers to take a break.

The best thing about our hotel is that the river runs right by it, and sings you to sleep. The worst thing is everything else. At first I was being positive and calling it lived in and rustic, but after my shower experience this morning, I just have to call it run down and kinda icky. The caulking has not been finished around the bathroom, and the shower is so narrow at one end that I barely fit sideways, and am forced to touch the gross shower curtain. The lobby is fine, but who cares about the lobby. You do not have to be naked in the lobby.

Somewhere near here, along the river, are statues of deities that protect women and children - Jizos, I believe they are called. Legend has it that it is impossible to count them all because their numbers change all the time.

One sad thing about this place is about an hour from here is a lovely forest and lake where people traditionally commit suicide, usually people who cannot find someone to marry. Approximately 30 people a year hang themselves from the trees. I knew Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, but man .. maybe I will wait for my friends before I take a stroll in the forest.


words: Danielle V., Canada
Steve Wing, Florida (sand shadow)

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