In contrast to the ornate shogun tombs, the Imperial Villa in Nikko was Spartan. I removed my shoes at the entrance, donned the slippers provided, and paid the Y510 admission fee—about $4.75.
This was the emperor’s office. There weren’t a lot of visitors, and there wasn’t a lot of oohing and ahhing going on around me.
There was a video at the beginning. I got the idea after five minutes but I couldn’t skip the rest of it because an elderly lady kept looking over at me with a smile as if to say, “You, foreigner! Isn’t this impressive?” I smiled and made sure I got well ahead of them once we started walking through.
There were some lovely embellishments, like this window built to frame a 300-year-old weeping cherry tree. In America we would have chopped down the tree to make way for construction.
A few painted panels were all the art there was.
I went to make a pit stop and stopped short. Bathroom slippers. Keiko had mentioned these. There was no one around. Should I just say “screw it,” and walk in with my regular slippers? I decided to behave as I would if people were around, out of respect.
There was a clearly-defined path through the building marked with ropes. Was I going to have to look at all 106 rooms, most of which were empty and contained no art? I was relieved when after about 30 rooms I reached the exit.
The villa was used mostly by the current emperor’s grandfather, if I’ve got it right. If you have nothing better to do sometime, watch the old US military propaganda film, “Know Your Enemy: Japan.” It’s on Netflix. I watched it before I left and if even half of it is true, the Japanese were every bit as vicious as the Germans in WWII.
Like the Germans, they believed they were a master race, and even had a blueprint to take over the world, akin to Mein Kampf, called The Tanaka Plan.
According to this film—which is obviously biased—the Japanese believe their emperor is a God—literally. If they died in the service to the emperor, they would go straight to heaven—thus the ferociousness of their fighting and willingness to commit suicide via kamikaze attacks.
Here’s what I don’t get. If the emperor really was a God, why couldn’t he have stayed in Tokyo? Surely, God could survive bombing attacks, and protect his people from them, too. Why did he come to Nikko and hide out in this villa, complete with bomb shelters in the woods?
The woods and gardens were lovely. Here’s that 300-year-old tree, propped up with giant wooden poles.
There was a pond and a moss-covered path.
It was still only noon. I returned to the Turtle Inn and had a cup of cheapo instant noodles they had available for guests to purchase, and Skyped with Keiko about our plans.
Then I headed back out to visit the main shrine, Toshogu. This time I entered where the tour buses did, hoping it might be a bit less climbing. It was not. I don’t know what this sign said but it was cute.
The first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, united Japan and ushered in 260 years of peace. I’m sure that peace was won at the point of a sword, but that was not mentioned. This was one of about 25 buildings in the complex.
This detail depicts monkeys supporting one of their friends who is feeling discouraged.
I had rented an audio guide which informed me that giraffes are featured on this torii (gate) because they are considered spiritual animals. I like giraffes, and I couldn’t see any and wondered how 17th Century Japanese would know about them.
Climbing the hundreds of stairs, I passed people bent over, gasping and clutching their chests. Go to places like this while your knees and heart are good.
The tomb at the top had so many golden gewgaws the Trumps would have loved it. The guide said to note the “hundreds of painted tapirs which are symbolic of peace.” There were no tapirs, but hundreds of dragons.
What had they mistakenly translated into giraffe?