Day 02 Home Day 04
Day 03 (Thursday, 2016-08-11)
Temperature: 30dC
  • Ueno park.
  • Tokyo to Nikko, temple and shrine visits and return.
  • Image Notes
    Cone d'Oranj missed the morning Shinkasen to Utsonmia (on the way to Nikko) so it decides to take a short visit through Ueno Park. As one of the larger (largest?) parks in Tokyo Ueno Park has an eclectic population of inhabitants. There's some temples, a zoo, a baseball diamond and a science museum. As a park it also shelters most homeless people in Tokyo (not that there are many).
    This is a very small version of the Fushimi Inari shrine. Only a handful of tori that one can go through here.
    And there's this little temple at the end of the path. With those smart looking foxes.
    And the Cone has made friends with some sort of serpent guarding the fountain at the temple.
    It looks diabolically terifying.
    The Ueno Park overlooks the Ueno Train Station.
    And here the retainers of Cone d'Oranj are ignoring their contractual duties of photographing the Cone to take pictures of themselves.
    Back at the Shinkansen station the Cone is getting to know the bullet train.
    And what better way to learn about the train other than befriending a naive train engineer. Most often they look and act very professionally. Though in the presence of Cone d'Oranj their professional facade starts breaking up. The Cone will learn their secretes with or without their help.

    One secrete is the keyword "mamonaku" which means "soon" and it preceeds the announcement of the name of the next station. So the Cone pays atention for what name follows the mamonaku announcement.
    Shinkasen departing from train station.
    A small shrine on top of a building.
    Another baseball game - again there are not that many spectators for such nice facilities.
    A cemetery embedded tightly in the fabric of the neighbourhood.
    Japan Zoning

    Japan has its own very peculiar flavor of building neighbourhoods. The Cone curiosity was aroused by how everywhere it went the towns looked the same. After researching the interwebs it discovered some interesting facts about Japan zoning.
  • Zones laws are national not regional - this limits Not In My Back Yard attitudes.
  • The zoning laws instead of defining "exclusive" use define a "maximum nuisance" use. Which results in many more mixed uses zones. For example "Residential" zones are lowest nuisance level. The next one up being "School" zoning. If one approves an area for "School" zoning it indirectly approves it for all lower nuisance zones (i.e. Residential) also. This way the builders have more flexibility in what they can build and the neighbourhoods are more vibrant from what the Cone can tell.

    North American's "exclusive" use per zone

    Japan's "maximum nuisance" use per zone

    Source: Urban kchoze
  • This image was taken so that Google searches for "lion with cone in mouth" return some hits. It is at Utsunomya train station.
    The Cone studying the ways of the train engineers.
    The Cone arrives in Nikko. It feels a little like Calimanesti. It is nestled in low mountains with many slow springs flowing through. Most of the temples are all bunched up around the main area of the town.

    Interestingly on the Utsonomya to Nikko train there were more tourists than Japanese people. Italians lead the pack by quiet a margin - with no American's in sight.
    A slightly geeky samurai that the Cone targeted as soon as it got out of the train station.
    And a local lady trying to get the Cone to dress in a kimono and get a photoshoot going. But the Cone's ego is too big for being contained in a kimono.
    The Cone with utmost stealthiness lands next to a dragon fly. The dragonfly is in awe at the brilliant orangeness of the Cone. You can see it in its multifaceted eyes.
    And the bridge in the background is of course the famous Shinkyo ("sacred") Bridge, ranked as one of the 3 finest bridges in all of Japan. Yup - that right there is top of the line bridge constructed in 1636. Nobody can go on it now - and back in the Edo period only the emperor was allowed to cross it.

    The Cone would like to meet the Troll under this bridge. It must be a very strong Troll to prevent everyone except the emperor from crossing it.
    A relative of the water-spewing, dragon-serpent demon from Ueno was also found here. The Cone caught-up with this one and told it about its Ueno sibling.
    That's Avatar Ang the last Air Bender.
    And this is a picture of the Rinnoji temple plastered on the outside of the building that completely swallowed the actual temple as part of a massive restauration project.

    Rinnoji temple is the most important temple in Nikko. It was founded by Avatar Ang (aka Shodo Shonin) the monk who introduced Buddhism to Niko in 900AD.

    To keep the Cone happy the temple was still open during the renovation (which will last until 2019).
    Work is wrapping up for the day at the restoration site.
    Each of the roof tile is signed (for a fee) by tourists. It will then become part of the roof for another hundred years or so. Pretty creative fund raising - the Cone is impressed.
    Costs of restoring historical buildings

    The Cone estimates the restauration of the Rinnoji temple at around $300M - $400M. Other buildings around Nikko are also undergoing major restaurations. All in this latest Nikko restauration spree costs probably over $1B and lasts around 10 years.

    Assume a conservative 5,000 daily visitors for 6 months of the year for a total of 1M visitors a year. Each visitor probably adds around $20 to the local economy. This is an optimistic estimate of the profits from sales of bus tickets, temple tickets, snacks, trinkets etc. This adds to a total value of 20M a year.

    This means the cost of restoring these historical artifacts would pay itself in 50 years. There is probably additional profits that Japan makes in the long term from tourists flying in - though the Cone feels that the complexity of the restauration project and the costs associated with it are very high.

    This project is commendable for its goal and is worth pursuing even if it doesn't make a profit. The Cone conjectures that a rich society will shift to spending money with no goal towards making a profit. It's wealth will be consumed to maintain an atmosphere that resonates with the desires of the locals. Japan has built almost everything it could that mad a profit. It now shifts its attention towards project that are not financially profitable but are acceptable to the public at large because of their national importance. This "devestment" structure is going to persist until the money runs out. Or so the Cone theorizes.

    Another theory the Cone has is that by preserving historical artifacts the Japanese government is creating negentropy. Potentially as the outside world becomes more homogenous and loses its unique attractions the ancient buildings Japan is currently preserving will increase in real value. Value that then can be extracted through tourism.
    The view from the top of the restoration building. In the distance is main section of Nikko.
    One of the head monks at the Rinnoji temple wanted to pose with the Cone. Gracefully the Cone took time out of its busy schedule and accepted the request of this die hard fan.
    Don't be sad little devil. The Cone is here to help you carry this cauldron of ash.
    The cone found two traditionally dressed locals to pose with. Nobody knows how to react when the Cone is around.
    The road leading to Toshogu Jinja (shrine = jinja). In 1625 someone rich planted 2,500 cedars - unfortunately due to pollution and "vibrations" (the Cone is just repeating the words of the guide) most of the Cedears died.
    Entrance at Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 - 1616) shrine. He was allegedly the greatest Shogun who unified Japan in the 1600s. His Tokugawa shogunate lasted until 1868 when the Meiji Restaoration "took over". Ieyasu lived during the time of great warriors of Nobunaga and Takeda - as depicted in the game Shogun - Total War from which the Cone has learned all the historical relevant and accurate facts. Ieyasu actually retired when he got older. His remains are in Nikko.
    This the daily "To Do" list for each monk at the shrine. The Cone perused it and was satisfied with the level of dilligence employed in this institution.
    The Cone looks at all the little Yodas statues on top of the gate. They look almost 3D printed. As the great Ieyasu Yoda once said:
  • Makes it feel nothing is missing when incoveniences for granted is taken.
  • Decision is not difficult. Well consideration hard is.
  • Sleeping cat (Nemurineko)

    The sleeping cat is sculpted on the beam of the gate leading up to Ieyasu's mausoleum. It's a tiny work that one would easily miss if not for the huge arrow sitting below it.

    The guide said that when looking from one end (left to right) the cat appears to be sleeping with the sparrow next to it. This symbolizes peace and the strong not abusing the weak. Looking from the other end (right to left) the cat appears to be ready to strike which suggests the strong is always ready to prevent invaders. Unfortunately due to optical problems the Cone could not identify where the bird is. So it only saw a cat.
    The imagined elephants (Sozonozo Elephants)

    One of the artists employed to build the shrine was so keen to transpose the life of the great Ieyasu into art that they wanted to capture his spirit by sculpting elephants above the entrances of one of the storehouses. The problem was they had no ideas what elephants looked like.
    The Cone presents you the world famouse obese (ox - puffer fish - dog) take on the body of elephants. At least the artist tried... and they almost got the color right.
    This is kind of the garage of the temple. Where the monks keep their hottest wheels or cart like boxes.
    This cat-lion-unicorn-dog looks very skeptical of the Cone.
    The boiled lobster naked samurai is about to sneeze. Is he allergic to the Cone? Find out after the break.
    The Cone finds the beer kegs the monk have saved up over the centuries. Each one is brewed with yeast from a different era and has its own ancient flavor.

    Someone pointed out that those are not beer kegs.
    Here are a couple hundred love letters for the Cone. The Cone thanks its fans for their admiration but reminds them its busy life style has no room for such feelings.
    These are the four Devils protecting the inner courtyard of the shrine. The red one looks eager like a kid on Christmas morning - look at those tiny clenched fists - so kawaii.
    The green one looks like a sassy girl. "Oh no Mister. You ain't going in while I have something to say!"
    The blue one stares you down. "Eat your brocolli or you won't have any cake!"
    The White Devil looks FABULOUS - and the Cone agrees.
    Up the stairs the Cone's retainer goes - into the inner temple where a sermon is being held and no pictures are allowed.
    Temple stairs

    The legend tells that the stairs at most of the shrines and temples were built to protect against the evil one eyed Buddhist enemies. These stairs are hand made and each row is slightly different in height and width than the previous one - some achieve dangerous height to width ratios. One needs good depth perception to navigate the thousand stairs at all these shrines without injury - especially when descending back to the main road. And depth perception is the Achile's heel of one eyed monks - as everyone knows.
    The tiniest bonsai tree takes a picture with the Cone. How do you get to grow one of these plants?
    The Cone went up an unkempt alley to escape the deluge of tourists on the main roads. Here it discovered the side-quest of the Tiny Frog.
    The frog fell into the stairwell and had to be helped out for 100XP. The quest was completed successfully and picture was received as bonus.
    The Cone found a "fashion-super car to ride to gather attention from everyone". This car was classified by Jalopnik as actually the "World's Ugliest Car". The Cone isn't polarized it just knows the car is a Mitsuoka Orochi and about 500 of them have been produced world wide.

    NOTE 1: It does look like a smilling frog. Maybe its the ride of the little frog.

    NOTE 2: On the road the few sports car the Cone saw were driven by older men - often accompanied by young ladies. Coming from Vancouver the Cone felt strange to see seniors driving high end sports cars - but supposedly in this part of the world kids don't normally have the kind of wealth and pampering some Vancouver kids have. Even "the high end" sports cars of Japan are close to the grocery getters of Vancouver. The cone implies from this that the Japanese rich do not tie their wealth to depreciating assets.
    Look at this lawn at the Tamozawa Villa - so perfectly maintained. How do they do it? The Cone will learn the answer in a few days.

    The Villa was the former Imperial Family Nikko residence - by the time the Cone got to it the visiting hours were over.
    Another local Nikko resident is showing interest in the pointy end of the Cone. The Cone gracefully permits it.
    The Cone's retainers are at it again. Their crass deriliction of duty towards the Cone's needs will not be tolerated for much longer.
    The Cone defeated the Troll of this bridge and extended its domain by placing itself in the center of the Circle of Power. Now it can proceed to the next stage - the "Atmospheric Walking Trail".
    The Cone reaches the Kanmangafuchi Abyss on the Atmospheric Trail. Here Jizo, a Bodhisattva who cares for the deceased, stores 70 of its statues. The Cone is pleased with its reception.
    It seems the statues are slowly growing up from piles of rocks. This one is actually a baby.
    This one is a teenager - an adult body that's missing a mature head.
    And this one is a full adult - tainted by the passage of time.
    The Cone adds its own statue and thus creates its own Bodhisattva - Conezo. Conezo cares for the living and beautiful orange pointy shapes.
    On top of a Jinzo statue the Cone meets the dragon fly from the bridge. They exchange pleasenteries and discuss the intricacies of the color red.
    Abandoned but not forgotten. The Cone found a hidden car and took possession of it by climbing on the hood.

    The car is actually a gift of the local cones - seen in front of the car - to his excellency Cone d'Oranj. The local cones have been waiting for this moment for decades and one of them passed out as the emotions of fulfilling its life time goal of meeting Cone d'Oranj got the better of it.
    Abandoned buildings

    The car above is a reminder that many buildings in Nikko are abandoned. At a cursory look this is not evident but if one spends a couple of minutes they will notice a significant proportion of houses in Nikko have not been lived in for decades. There's parts of windows missing, dust and rust on the door handles, crooked entry ways that indicate the door can't actually open and other signs. The surprising observation is that these houses don't look derilict - someone is still doing a minimum of upkeep on them. It probably also helps that there is very little vandalism going on throughout the country side. Most likely because the young people have long left for the city.

    On a more general note Japan has achieved a somewhat optimal equilibrium in maintaining its infrastructure. Walking through Tokyo an incongruity between the decrepit state of some of the infrastructure (rusted and dirty) and the fact that it is carefully maintained quickly becomes obvious. The Cone knows the infrastructure is still maintained as it is fully operational and kept clean of garbage. However very little effort is being put in keeping it aestethically pleasant. Hopefully the same equilibrium can be reached in the future for Vancouver infrastructure also.
    The day is almost over. On the way back to Nikko train station the Cone learns that the local parents prevent their offsprings from eating chicken by wresteling it out of their stretched hands. One can see how hard the children really want the forbiden chicken.
    The Cone advises to use the right train for the job. When you need to relax take the slow train. When you need to go fast take the Hyperloop.
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