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Historic Sites by Shinkansen

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Historic Sites by Shinkansen (from Tokyo)
 
Travel by Shinkansen can be expensive, a round-trip bullet train to Kyoto starts at 25,420 ($254.20) and takes 2 1/2 hours each way! That's 5 hours of your day dedicated to travelling by train.
 
So we've decided to highlight two Shinkansen trips that will be easier on your budget and closer to home base, so you can spend more time having fun in Tokyo and less time looking out of a train window. 
 
For 6,600 ($66) round trip you can see the beautiful Odawara Castle (near the seaside) only an hour away by Shinkansen *(or take the "Romance Car" from Shinjuku to Odawara for half that price).
 
For 7,800 ($78) round trip you can go to beautiful Nikko (in the mountains) and see the original "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" monkey carving over the temple's doorway it's about an 1 1/2 hours away by Shinkansen.
 
We'll start with Odawara Castle.
 
Odawara Castle 小田原城
 
Odawara Castle
 
 
This beautiful defense castle was built high on a hill in 1495 and became the stronghold for five generations of the Hojo clan (samurai lords) until 1590, when the Tokugawa Shogunate arranged for the relocation of the Okubo clan (samurai lords) there.
 
We visited Odawara in 2010, (unbeknownst to us, there was a typhoon warning!).  Everything turned out ok, you can see for yourself in the YouTube video below:

 
 
 
You can walk the grounds for free, there's a moat surrounding the entire castle...
Odawara Castle Moat
 
 

...with attractive red bridges for you to cross the moat with.

Odawara Castle Bridge
 

 

Then you get to check out the outer-gates and courtyards at Odawara Castle.

Odawara Castle Gate


... and take a closer look at the details.

Odawara Castle Detail


They also offer costume rental there, so you might snap a cool pic of people having fun.

Odawara Castle Samurai

 


For a donation of 400 ($4) you can enter the castle itself and learn a little more about its dramatic history. Odawara Castle Entrance

 

...and at the top of the castle, you enjoy a beautiful view and pretend that you own all the land you survey.  Ahhhhh.

Odawara Castle View

 

 


In fact seeing the beautiful view at Odawara castle Tokugawa Ieyasu (the leader and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate) is what prompted him to install the Okubo clan there.

Ieyasu was so powerful (and popular) that his soul was enshrined in many temples around Japan.  Those shrines are known as Tosho-gu, the most most famous of which is located in Nikko.

 

Nikko 日光

There are three major shrines in Nikko.  The Tosho-gu (with the three wise monkeys), the Rinno-ji (a complex of 15 Buddhist buildings some adorned with beautifully red painted floors and ceilings) and the Futarasan (with a sacred bridge transformed into a shrine).

Check out our 2010 trip to Nikko on YouTube below:

 

Tosho-gu

"Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil" the phrase is probably derived from old confucian proverb, but the japanese phrase is "mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" .  The suffix "zaru" means "don't" and the japanese word for monkey ("saru") becomes "zaru" when it's a suffix.  So in Japanese this phrase was always a pun as it could easily sound like "hear monkey, see monkey, speak monkey".  Therefore, in 1617 when the Tosho-gu shrine at Nikko was built, the proverb was fittingly illustrated using monkeys.

Nikko Tosho-gu

 

All images of "The Three Monkeys" have been derived from this original source, and the carving (pictured above) still remains above the stable of the shrine's sacred horses (pictured below).

Nikko Tosho-gu Stables

 

 

 

But to get to the stable, you'll have to go through a few gates.  First you'll cross under the Iron Torii.

Nikko Tosho-gu Iron Torii

 


 Then through the ornately decorated guardian gate...

Nikko Tosho-gu Yomei

 


which has its own intricate carvings...

Nikko Tosho-gu Yomei

 

 


 ...before you continue on your way to the impressive main building....

Nikko Tosho-gu


...and the five storied pagoda.

Nikko Tosho-gu Pagoda

 

 

It's alot to take in but you'll have time to see the Rinno-ji complex too!

Rinno-ji

Rinno-ji

Pictured above is the Hondo main hall called Sanbutso-do and is the biggest shrine in Nikko, it houses three statues of Buddha inside.

 

Rinno-ji is so expansive that it would be difficult to explain all of its highlights, it's a great place to just pick a road...

Rinno-ji

  and stumble upon some really ornate buildings...

Rinno-ji Taiyu-in
 

...or modest ones...

Rinno-ji
 

 ...and it's going to be beautiful even if the weather's not so good.

Rinno-ji Taiyu-in


Below is the walkway between the twin halls of Jogyo-do and Hokke-do

Nikko Tosho-gu


There are only two temples in the world with this style of rare architecture.   One is here in Nikko and the other at a shrine in Mt. Hiei (near Kyoto).

Another rare feature of Nikko is the Futarasan temple, where a sacred bridge has been turned into a Shinto shrine. 

Futarasan Jinja 二荒山神社

This shrine was founded in the year 767, and not only features a very cool sacred bridge as a place of worship but also houses two swords that are national treasures of Japan. 

Futarasan Entrance

 


By now you're familiar with what a Torii gate looks like, pictured above is the entrance to Futarasan shrine.

Futarasan


The main hall of Honden (above) houses the famous swords but the treasure rooms are closed to visitors.

Also belonging to Futarasan Shrine is a sacred bridge called Shinkyo that you're likely to see on your way to the shrines from Nikko train station.

Nikko Futarasan Shrine

 It's the oldest bridge in the country, and is known as one of the finest three bridges in Japan. Futarasan


 

Getting There - Odawara - Odawara Castle

 

From Shinjuku 新宿 - Take the Chuo 中央 line to Tokyo 東京(station) and get a ticket for the Shinkansen* to Odawara.

Price: 3,300

Time: 63 minutes

*OR save some money by taking Odakyu's Super Hakone Express from Shinjuku straight to Odawara for 1,720 (66 minutes).  The cars are called "romance cars" because you pretty much have to go with a buddy as the seats are doubled up (meaning there's seating for two instead of individual seats with armrests on the train).

 

From Nakano 中野 - Take the Chuo 中央 line to Tokyo 東京(station) and get a ticket for the Shinkansen* to Odawara.

Price: 3,300

Time: 66 minutes

*OR save some money by taking Odakyu's Super Hakone Express from Shinjuku straight to Odawara for 1,720 (66 minutes).  The cars are called "romance cars" because you pretty much have to go with a buddy as the seats are doubled up (meaning there's seating for two instead of individual seats with armrests on the train).

 

Getting There - Nikko - Tobu-Nikko

 

From Shinjuku 新宿 - Take the Nikko 日光 or Kinugawa 鬼怒川Express Train to Tobu-Nikko 東武日光 (some times require transfer at Shimo-Imaichi, check timetable below).

Price: 3,900

Time: 112 minutes

Nikko Timetable

 

From Nakano 中野 - Take the Chuo 中央 line or Chuo-Sobu 中央総武  line to Shinjuku 新宿 then take the Nikko 日光 or Kinugawa 鬼怒川  Express train to Tobu-Nikko 東武日光 (some times require transfer at Shimo-Imaichi, check timetable below).

Price: 3900

Time: 124 minutes

Nikko Timetable

 

Of note: the JR East pass has a limited time offer for Sep 1- Nov 30 of 2010 to include 3 non-consecutive days on all JR lines (including the two Shinkansen rides above) for 10,000 ($100), so if you were planning on taking both trips and you're going to be there during that time, it would definitely be worth the price.  Click the link below for more information.

 

Japan Rail East

 

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そうだ 東京行こう!