The last leg of our around-the-world journey was to KEK, a Japanese high energy accelerator research organization. People at KEK work very closely with Fermilab, so we knew a number of people there. We stayed in visitor housing at KEK except when we took our trip to Nikko and the hot springs.
Japan was an absolutely amazing place. First, we had spent three months in a very drab world - Soviet Russia. Then to arrive in one of the most colorful and beautiful places in the world was extremely shocking. Not only the color and movement shocked us, also the choices. After buying virtually everything we wanted for three months, suddenly we were confronted with incredible choices. I remember looking at things in a department store and trying to figure out what to choose as a souvenir. I couldn't choose.
We spent a little time in Tokyo, visiting gardens and walking around town.
Our big excursion was a trip on the train from Tokyo to Nikko. We stayed several nights at a hot spring spa, then visited Lake Chuzenji and the Nikko shrine and gardens.
Nikko's Toshogu Shrine was built to honor the memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan's first Shogun. Tokugawa, born in 1542 during a period of great civil wars, succeeded in unifying Japan.
Nikko is a complete sensory overload. Everywhere you look there are details that could be appreciated and so little time! Nikko has both shinto and buddhist parts.
Nikko is the home of the monkeys See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Nio are heavenly kings or protectors who generally stand guard at the entrance gate
of a Buddhist temple. They are represented in pairs and placed at either side of
the entry gate.
We found the Japanese people to be very friendly and helpful. If we looked confused in Tokyo, someone came to our rescue. We were looking for some restaurant, but this man decided we should eat at the restaurant on the top floor of a department store. He took us up there and ordered food for us. Restaurants often have models of their food outside to help people (especially foreigners, I suppose) decide what they want to eat. So you can just point, but this man had us choose and then he told the waiter. At the shrine, when we got off the bus we didn't know where our hotel was. A very nice man took us to our hotel and then went off to his.