Japan - Nikko

Last day tour of the trip was to Nikko, which I chose because of the promise of seeing a waterfall. By this time, I was already so tired, was getting migraine often, and I was just ready to finish the whole routine and do things on my own. It sounds like I wasn't having any fun. Well tired Eka is a cranky Eka and so I just wanted to be quiet and alone. Started the day as usual. Had breakfast in which I told the manager, can I just have only 1 sausage and eggs? I said something like that twice. The plate came and it came with the salad, fries, and ham and yes there were 1 sausage and eggs (usually there are 2 sausages). I looked at it confused and asked the waitress if it's for me and she didn't really speak english and I think she said yes and nodded. She left. I still looked at the plate. She noticed I was looking at the plate all confused and she came and took the plate away while expressing that she's sorry and went to the chef to confirm everything. Yep, everything was correct it seemed because she brought the plate back without any changes. At this point, I said it's okay, fine. Decided to not pursue the matter any further because it would just take too much work and I think the Japanese take their work seriously and personally and to say something is wrong with it would be like a personal attack to them and I just didn't want to put that much stress to them. Tokyo is bidding for 2020 Olympic and seriously I think they should put English skill as one of their priority.

After breakfast, I went to the meeting place as usual. Saw the om and tante from Surabaya from 2 days before and I greeted them. They were going to Mt. Fuji that day. On the bus to the bus station, the tante decided to sit with me and told the husband to sit with another Indonesian boy who was alone. I didn't get to introduce myself to him. Anyway, chatted with the tante during the ride. Being the polite Javanese, she addressed me with the term "mbak" and that straightaway made me feel like I'm so impolite. The tante's daughter backpacked to Japan alone once and that's admirable especially since she was younger than me and doesn't really speak Japanese much. I was tempted to ask how they deal with the food situation being muslims, however I didn't ask that. I think it's kinda hard to find halal food for muslims in Japan. So om and tante travel quite a lot, in fact this June or July, the tante and her daughter are going to travel to New Zealand. The thought that came to my head was that what do they do, how can they afford all this? The daughter works in a bank, but I highly doubt she has astronomical salary. They are so many of this kind of Indonesian. Perhaps hidden from the big cities (though Surabaya is not actually small) with massive spending power. There are a lot of potential that can be mined from these people. Unfortunately traveling oversea for Indonesians are not that easy. If only those countries can try to be more lenient to us :(

As usual we're sorted into our tours and I said my goodbye to the tante and om and didn't see them anymore after that. Got my seat and I thought I was supposed to sit by the window, but there was already a girl there so I grudgingly took the seat at the aisle. The girl was typing long emails in her ipad and of course the spy me glanced more than once at her screen and found out she's french and found out her name is Mylène. A rather nice name, I think. We didn't really talk during the trip. I was getting headache :( The seat felt squeezy :( It's a long ride to Nikko and we stopped once for toilet break. Maybe Mylène captured my vibe of being uncomfortable and cranky that she offered the window seat for me. I wish I did say, no you take it, etc instead I just asked are you sure and then took the seat. Yay! Window seat is much better for me. We spoke a bit in french to ask each other's name. By this time, I was too tired and my brain wasn't working really well to speak in other languages (when has it ever worked well?).

We arrived at our first stop, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which is where you can see the carving of the three wise monkeys. It's located at the stable. My brain made the connection of how interesting that this wise carving is located at the stable and the famous painting, The Last Supper, was located in a room which was also once used as a stable. Anyway, there are actually 8 panels of the monkey carving. The one we're most familiar with is in panel 2. I took the picture of the all the panels and there's actually a story about the panels as a whole which I couldn't remember now. To see the panels, go here to start at panel 1 and click the right arrow to proceed to the next. The shrine itself has a really big compound. I kinda forget most of the information. There's a pagoda whose structure was studied for the construction of Tokyo Sky Tree. Very interesting. I didn't enter that Pagoda though. I reckoned it would involve stairs. Looking at my pictures, I realized that this shrine is very unique. It's the only shrine I've visited with a lot of detailed carving everywhere. They're pretty beautiful. Unfortunately I wasn't that amused when I was there (too tired!).

There were some areas in which we had to take off our shoes and we couldn't take any picture. Unfortunately, the only one which I can remember is Yakushido temple, where there's a dragon painting on the ceiling. It's called the weeping dragon or the crying dragon. The staff would strike clappers under the dragon and after that there'll be a hissing sound (I think it's more like hissing) which makes it seem like the dragon is crying.

After that, we were given quite a substantial time to explore the area on our own. I actually heard some Indonesian in my tour group, so I was trying to find those people, but I couldn't find them. I ended up at another shrine nearby the main compound. It's much smaller. Nothing really interesting to report there.

I also made it to the nearby Rinnoji Temple which was unfortunately under massive renovation. There's some big Buddha statues there, including one with a mustache. That was weird, never saw one like that before and it made me want to laugh and I was thinking how bad I was for wanting to do that. Even though it's under renovation, we still cannot take pictures inside it.

Then it was lunch. As usual, the tables were organized based on the number of people in the group. So that meant I was sitting with Mylène. This whole sitting situation kinda confused many people. Eventually another solo traveler found his way to our table and he happened to be french american, named Patrick from Pittsburg. Mylène was like, cool, Eka can speak french too, so conversation on that table was in french. It felt surreal. It slightly reminded me of french classes but because it's such a real life situation, it really felt surreal to me. There's actually a time when I had to speak french. Although when I said french, it meant they talked more and I spoke very little and was mixed in english. Patrick kindly said it's alright to not speak in french. Got to know more about them. Patrick is working in some sort of nuclear engineering company in Japan. I forget the name of the company, I guess because it's unknown to me. He commented nuclear related stuff is not very popular in Japan currently :D His family is in the states still, so it's kinda a long distance relationship for him. His kids seem to be really smart as well, I think one of them is studying neurology. It was Sunday and since he's never been to Nikko, he decided to take the tour. Mylène went on a Mt. Fuji tour the day before and since it was raining, it's rather sad that even though she was at the 5th station, she couldn't see anything. So in retrospect, I had to say my Kamakura and Yokohama trip went much better despite of the rain. I kinda forget where Patrick comes from in France but Mylène comes from Bordeaux or a little village near Bordeaux. She has a brother who married a Japanese and they live in Sapporo currently. They also have a little baby, I think it's a boy. I remember that conversation somehow turned to Marseille and Mylène was commenting that she was quite taken aback when she saw the armed policemen there. I commented that it's good for tourists like me and I told them the Basilique is beautiful. It surprised them that I've been there since Patrick has never been there and Mylène only visited it for the first time this January. I also commented that such armed security can be seen sometime in Singapore too because of terrorists concern.

I finished lunch and I wanted to dismiss myself, but I think I didn't do it well and I'm afraid I was seen as rude for just leaving like that :( They were still talking when I left and at that time I was actually very curious to hunt down the Indonesian party. There's something about this Indonesian group which made me rather unsure earlier in the day. It was because they weren't speaking fully in Indonesian and before lunch I realized that they were speaking in Bangkanese too. Well I was 99% sure because I had to admit that I did have a slight doubt that perhaps they're from Belitung instead. Bangka is the island where my parents come from. So I was pretty excited about this. I found them at the souvenir shop and straight away addressed the older lady as, A-i. It's the Indonesian chinese way of addressing a "tante". I suppose I could use a more Bangkanese word but I thought A-i was good enough. She was travelling with her husband and daughter, Nike (pronounced knee-ke). The daughter lives in Jakarta now because she was studying in Jakarta, but in Bangka they live in the same city as my mom and they do have relatives from where my dad comes from. Unfortunately my knowledge of the family back there is rather limited, so I can't really explain where my aunts and cousins live, though I'm fairly certain they would have known my family too. It's pretty exciting meeting them since this marked the first time I have met anyone with the same root as me in any of my trips. The daughter is younger than me, I think just graduated from University last year with a degree in Information Technology and she's departing for Australia this June or perhaps July to study pastry making for a year. Cue jaw drop. Another classic example of how Indonesian parents really don't mind spending lots of money for their kids. What is adulthood for middle class Indonesian? Your age can classify you as an adult but dear parents will still pay for everything. Also another example of how the high spending power of Indonesians can be hidden away from the big cities. I wonder how the uncle can afford all these. I wonder if he's the owner of some illegal tin mines or he's very successful in the bird nest business. Anyway, it's pretty good talking to them. Turns out meeting Indonesians is great, meeting someone from Bangka is better. Either way, I'm just always happy to meet nice Indonesians :D

Next stop was Tamozawa Imperial Villa. I think it used to be used as some sort of holiday residence for the imperial family, but they're not using it anymore. The guide was telling us it's dreadfully cold during winter. It was a rather nice place and we can take pictures everywhere, so I did. After following the route, I have to admit I was losing interest. I guess because the view of the garden outside was more interesting. The design of the villa is quite wonderful. There's an inner garden, so from any of the room, you can kinda look in and see some nice plants, though these gardens can be rather small.

Then there's the outer garden, which you can also see from inside the villa. They make for really really nice view and I was more interested in looking at them from different parts of the villa.

When I finished exploring the villa, I thought that was it and I was wondering what I should do with the rest of the time. As I was putting my shoes (we have to take off our shoes to explore the villa), the guard was pointing to the garden. I was a bit unsure if I can just go and explore it or it needs a separate ticket. The guard of course didn't speak english. It turned out we could explore the outer garden, yay! I was pretty happy. I think I was the first person in the group to explore it since I think the rest wasn't sure as well if we could explore it. It was really great. There were flowering trees, a pond and running stream, and enough little path to get you away and hidden from view. The stream had really nice plants in it. It's not a really big garden, but it's just as beautiful and wonderful to explore.

I was really happy when I explored this garden :D It's like the best thing of this whole trip. Before I went back to the bus, I got myself an ice cream cone just because I saw Patrick got one and he seemed to be enjoying it so much :P Last stop was Kirifuri waterfall and this was quite a disappointment. I thought we would be quite near to the waterfall and would be able to touch the water like when I went to see a waterfall in Puncak 2 years ago. It turned out we were given the option to go to the observation point where we kinda could get a glimpse of the waterfall. It was disappointing for me. The waterfall was still pretty far and the view were kinda obstructed by trees. The waterfall itself seems to be rather cool because it seems there are several levels of the waterfall. It's not just a one straight drop down.

After that, it was the ride home. Pretty long ride. There was traffic. It wasn't a traffic jam but we're not moving as fast as I would have liked. When the guide was telling us that we would be making a stop for toilet break, an Australian lady just said that we should go on without the break. She said why don't we take a vote. One person said it's a good idea to skip the break and that darn Australian lady just said we all decided to go on. Hello, shouldn't everyone be consulted before you say something on our behalf?!? I thought she was just being too aggressive, not that I wanted the break, in fact I didn't even get down. The guide having to stick to her job checklist said we really had to take a break and of course the Australian lady and her family all went down too. Of course they may argue might as well, but I think if you think strongly that it's not necessary to have that break, you should be committed to your cause.

Anyway, found out that Mylène was staying in the same hotel as mine. So I asked an embarrassing question if I could follow her on our way back since I wasn't that sure. She said of course then asked me how long I had been staying in the hotel. I told her that I'd been lost twice and yesterday I saw a lot of homeless people very near our hotel that got me quite scared. I may appear pretty dumb :( Anyway we arrived in Shinjuku and I don't recall we said goodbye to Patrick, but anyways Mylène led the way. It was quite a walk and she got us safe and sound, yay! I wonder if she thought I was such a strange Asian girl who couldn't find her own way back to the hotel though she's been staying there for some days. Whatever it is, I am truly thankful to have her around. It's like Godsend and I feel sorry that I wasn't exceptionally friendly to her :( We said our goodnight and wished each other a good trip and I was happy to be finishing my last day tour which meant it was the start of me exploring things on my own, on my last day in Tokyo the next day. That story is coming up. For pictures from the Nikko trip, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 10:44:00 PM •

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