Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nikko

There were some pros and cons on this trip, but overall we had a great time. We were a little bummed that this cabin cost so much when it was just a step up from tent camping. Yeah, it's pretty, but air conditioning beats pretty in my book. My advice: Nikko would be perfect in the Fall. PERFECT. In the summer, not so much. I assumed "up in the mountains" meant cooler than Tokyo. Not even a little bit. 



 Thankfully, this stream was right around the corner. The dogs got to run free. They got to swim in ice cold mountain water that was so clean and pure that they didn't stink like wet dog.


 I can't get over how clean the water was. 



 These dogs crack me up. I remembered just how much I like 'em when they aren't up under my feet constantly. They are much less annoying when they have space to run. As are the children...

 Titus cracks me up. This picture makes me see him as a dad, thirty years from now, yelling at his own kids. "Y'all get down off those rocks! I ain't tryin' to go to the ER while we're on vacation." 


 I love this picture of Tarzan Titus so stinking much. He knows I love it and is now going to pose like this every time the camera swings in his direction. 
 I love watching the way this happy little scene falls apart in the next few shots. 

 "Jude!"

 That water was cold. COLD.
 Felix managed to tick all three brothers off with one swoop of his hand. 
 He and I were the only ones that found it funny. 
Sean, "He gets being aggravating from you." 
Me, "I know and it's hilarious." 


 Sean had a mosquito on his face. I took care of it. 
 He threatened to throw me in.  
 The lady running the cluster of cabins said she didn't know about all the bear signs. She just giggled and averted her eyes when I asked about bears. Her noncommittal answers gave me just enough confidence to google translate this sign and figure out just how dangerous Asian black bears are. 

 Day 1 was a bit of a bust. The no A/C thing put a bit of a damper on things. It was legit probably 90 degrees in the cabin. Once we readjusted our expectations, things went much smoother. In hindsight, if the cabin had been at all pleasant, we wouldn't have gone out and seen as much.

Day 2 we went up to Kegon Falls. It was pretty. A bit commercialized as everything in Japan is wont to be. We couldn't hike the falls. We had to pay to take an elevator to a platform for closer viewing. I have't decided yet if it was worth it. It was pretty steep given the number of kiddos we have.

The drive up to the falls was amazing. TONS of switchbacks. We were told monkey sightings are frequent on the switchbacks, but we didn't see any. 

There were a bunch of sparrows flittering about in the mist coming off the falls. It was pretty amazing to watch how they swooped and played. 

I want Jude to use this picture when he proposes marriage someday. I wish I'd thought to take one of him solo but he was (obviously) very much over the taking of pictures at this point. 

 These Fujifilm benches have continued to pop up on our adventures. It's turning into a "thing."

After the Falls and lunch, we'd planned on seeing some monkey entertainment show. The reviews were mixed and the venue looked a tad sketchy. Sean wasn't convinced it would've been worth the cost to get in. We opted to offer the kiddos a compromise. We'd give them half the cost of the monkey show tickets to blow at the arcade. They chose wisely. 

We spotted this pair of Godzilla on the way. 


 Jude loves anything that moves that he has the power to steer. 

 Poor Felix didn't win anything. He got SUPER close several times, but was always let down. Especially with his brothers gloating about their prizes. 
 Titus won a fidget spinner. This was him running towards me saying, "I don't even CARE that it's pink!"
 This guy studied all the machines until he figured out which would be the easiest win. He didn't even care what the prize was, but now he has a pouch to store SD cards in. 

 The downpours that day made for a lovely mist under the Shinkyo Bridge. I bet this place is gorgeous in the Fall. I haven't decided if I loved it enough to go back a second time. I'm leaning towards probably not. 

Thankfully, the rainy day gave way to a clear enough evening to head back to the creek by our cabin. 







 My Feefs. He's such a good big brother. I don't know how or why or where it comes from, but I somehow got one patient kid. You can see him still holding Jude's hand in this one. Melt a mama's heart!
 Even Ruby gets pity from this one. Goofy dog would rather be toted than swim for herself. 
 Jude got a water canon. We were fine as long as he was shooting a brother with it...
When he shot at me or Sean with it, not as fun! That look!


 Simon found this very, very large vertebrae...and then the dogs snatched it and ate it. I hope they didn't destroy evidence in some long unsolved Nikko mystery. 
 Oh this creek. It redeemed the whole trip. 

It was weird for me. I don't know if this is normal amongst the people here or if I'm just some overly emotional weirdo. One night we stayed up late playing Farkle with the boys. Games and poker nights were a regular thing in Virginia. Really, everywhere we've lived, we've done periods of games with friends and games with family. Here, we haven't worked that into our norm yet. So as we were playing, Sean said to the boys, "We need to get back into playing Farkle when we get home." When he said it, my mind immediately envisioned our dining room in Virginia. All of us, sitting around the table playing cards or throwing dice. I saw what my heart remembered there, not here. I was teetering on the edge of tears the rest of the night. 

As much as I love it here--and I love it here more than anywhere we've ever lived--it doesn't feel like home. I mean, it does and it doesn't. The house doesn't feel like a home. It's ugly and it's brown and it looks like every other person's house. Maybe I had too much pride in my house in Virginia. Maybe I loved a possession too much. Or maybe I just miss the familiarity. I miss the feeling of sitting around my table with my people. I know what an opportunity we've been given here. I mean, just look at these pictures! I get that, but it's hard to leave pieces of yourself all over the place. To bury our roots deeply and quickly only to have to pluck ourselves up and start over again and again and again. It's not easy, but it is worth it. 


On our last day, we visited some of Nikko's shrines. The collection of shrines there are World Heritage Sites. Honestly...not worth it. It was ridiculously hot and there were tons and tons and tons of people there. Cool enough, I guess, but the shrines are all starting to feel the same. Plus, there's just something that feels wrong about paying to see these sites. The trinket stands take away any sense that these are legit holy sites. It would be like buying a Jesus keychain inside St Peter's Basilica. I dunno, maybe that's a thing? 

The shrines here don't feel at all holy. Every once in a great while, you'll see people bowing, but you're more likely to see a foreigner doing a handstand or a Japanese person throwing peace signs in all manners of selfies. On this particular day, we stood behind a line of students that were made to bow in front of an old cedar tree stump and clap their hands and chant something that I couldn't understand. It was very strange and the kids were forced to do it by the lady that was guiding their group. If I could do it again, I wouldn't pay to see any of these sites. 

I thought the famous monkeys would be a little more than this. They have done of good job of commercializing the crap out of this tiny little piece of a much larger building. I don't know why I thought they would be something much grander than this. 
 The kids weren't at all into this idea until every Japanese person that passed started saying, "AWWW, Kawaii!!!" 





 The side of an old cedar tree stump. 


 Um, creeeeeeeeepy.


This visit led us to talk about some great things with our kids. I have never and will never force my children into Christianity. I hope and pray that they embrace the truth of Christianity, but I wholeheartedly believe it is between them and God. We have taught them what we believe, as their parents, but realize they will have to make the choice individually. We read Acts 17 together and I figured I'd post it here. It comes up often as there are shrines EVERYWHERE here. 

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

As it turns out, shrines are unavoidable. This last spot wasn't so much a shrine as just a path of creepy statues alongside a waterfall and gorge. It's called Kanmangafuchi Abyss and it was, by far, my favorite attraction. We were able to climb down the rocks from the main path and we had the whole waterfall to ourselves.





 The rocks were all super smooth and the water was the most incredible shade of blue. 

 The water was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. I've never seen anything like it.




 I had fun playing with shutter speed. :)







 ...and then it started to rain. The rocks were already slippery because of how smooth they are, I was a little worried about how we'd climb back up on wet rocks. The hiking trail had cleared of all visitors...except for one lone lady standing at the top. She had a lanyard on and looked somewhat official, perturbed, and ready to scold. When she saw we were not Japanese, she walked away. We google translated all the signs nearby and none said climbing down to the water was prohibited. One said something about fishing, so we are still under the assumption we didn't do anything wrong, but I can't be sure.



 We heard some monkeys up in the trees, but we couldn't find them. 


We had one last night in the cabin. What started out as a somewhat disappointing trip given the heat, turned out pretty fantastic. I think all of our vacations do that. We have these insane expectations of perfect weather, grateful children, spousal coexistence where every request is met with enthusiasm, affordable attractions. Once we realized the weather here will never be perfect in July, our children can be ingrates, bickering can creep up(even on vaca), and nothing is affordable when you have more kids than common sense...things looked up.

Sean and I took one last loop around the block before we packed up. We sure are lucky to get to see God's handiwork in so many places--especially in our own lives. I am grateful for the experiences we've been forced into.