The Travelling Trooper Visits Toshogu Shrine

I didn’t have much time this morning, but I wanted to check out Rinnoji Temple and the Toshogu Shrine before heading off to Hakone. I found the latter, but I didn’t find the former.

Instead I found this beauty.

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I’m not the most spiritual person, but I did appreciate the way this place married the resplendent beauty of the trees with the spiritual energy of the buildings. The snow added that magical touch. Not as beautiful as the fight scene featuring Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman in Kill Bill…but somewhere along those lines.

Next up, Toshogu Shrine. To get there, though, we had to walk down this gorgeous tree-lined path.

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Then on to the shrine itself.

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This 36 metre beauty sits just outside the shrine itself.
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Two of these guys guard the entrance to the grounds at Omotemon Gate.

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No amound of purifying water in the world will make me clean.

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Once we were done with the shrine, it was time to say goodbye to Nikko. We had a couple of trains to catch to get to Hakone.

Along the way, I tried looking online for a ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese inn. They usually feature an onsen, which is a hot spring that is usually located outside. Visiting an onsen is supposed to be a Japanese experience one should not pass up.

What separates onsens from other hot springs is that one is expected to go in naked. It’s supposed to be a very relaxing experience, especially when there is a serene, lush green enviornment all around you.

Unfortunately, on the train ride, I realized that many of the ryokans in central Hakone were already fully booked.

We arrived at Hakone Yumoto Station and went straight to the visitor information centre, where a woman kindly directed us to a ryokan that was just a 3 minute walk away. I think the reason it wasn’t full was that it didn’t appear to cater to foreigners. None of their brochures or signs were in English, and I hadn’t found them on any sites like Book.com or Agoda.com.

I lay down for a good thirty minutes in our LAVISH ryokan room and took a desperately needed power nap. This is what $100 gets you in Hakone for the night.

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Then I got up and Trevor and I went for our first onsen experience.

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Usually, people with tattoos aren’t allowed in onsens. I worked my charm on the guy and he let me in. (It probably had to do with the fact that I already paid, but whatever.)

Before you step into the hot spring, though, you must take a quick shower. You sit on a tiny little stool and do you thing. They provide soap and shampoo.

Once we were nice and clean, we were ready to get nice and warm in the hot spring. There was an outdoor and an indoor option. Obviously, we opted for the outdoor option.

It was great because we had the whole place to ourselves. All of the phyisical exhaustion just melted away. I got lost in the sound of the bubbles, and somehow, before I knew it, thirty minutes had passed by.

It was time for dinner.

A couple friends had talked about how great the food at 7/11 is here, so I thought I’d check it out. I mean, obviously, it wasn’t going to be Michelin Star calibre, but I was told you get a solid bang for your buck.

I was lied to.

I bought a grossly bland sushi roll that had what I think were beans in it, a gross thing that resembled chili, dumplings, some things that tasted like that old bag of Mr. Noodles you used to eat as a kid, and some chocolate sweets. Poorly spent $15. And it was so much food that I had to tell the cashier to give me two sets of chopsticks so she’d think the food was for two people. Didn’t want her thinking I was a pig or something.

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