A few snapshots from a wonderful white weekend away made possible by a wonderful guy called U...
The small wooden shrine in the dark forest is lit by a sunbeam sneaking through the dense trees. The golden wood of the shrine seems to glow in the light, and is visible even after we walk back to the car along the overgrown trail.
The deserted shrine and neglected garden are covered with a dusting of snow. The forest behind the temple hides a seemingly endless number of small shrines. Their stone is old and worn, the characters indiscernible. One is broken and half buried by decomposing leave and underbrush.
The snow-covered balcony of our hotel with a private wooden bath continuously being filled by natural hot springs.
The source of the hot springs, where the hot sulphuric water bubbles up through the ground. Squat wooden huts and wooden walkways covered in snow dot the steaming mud. Pooling water create splashes of colour - mint green, turquoise, an emerald.
Yunoko Lake and Yutaki Falls covered in ice and snow except where the hot springs warm the water. Cold with a biting wind one minute, sparkling in the bright sunlight the next minute.
Oku-nikko's "Winter Festival" was the only disappointment - a dozen open igloos with ice sculptures by artists from hotels around the country. The mermaids, dancers, and warrior princesses demonstrate the (fully-endowed) interests of their creators (and much of the male population of Japan)
Most of the year Nikko Toshogu is teeming with visitors from around the world and across the country. Bus tours follow the flag of their guide, school groups run from spot to spot yelling and squealing. But late on a cold but sunny Sunday afternoon the crowds are small and subdued. One father holds the leashes of three small dogs as his wife and daughter rush to see the sleeping cat. Slowly the crowds depart and the blue suited security guard pulls a barricade across the famous gate. The shrine, like the cedar forest that surrounds it, descends into quiet stillness.