Nikko day 2 (1st Japan trip for Murray & Emma)

Woke up a bit early for breakfast so went and had a quick bath to loosen up the spine. The two futons helped but not quite enough to avoid a kink in the spine.Breakfast at 08:00 Cast iron pot over an open flame (a paraffin block) with pork, tofu, mushroom and a herb in water. By the time it had warmed through and boiled for a few minutes the pork was delicious and the tofu was flavoured with the delicious broth. Tiny, tiny fried fish and grated daikon. Rice and pickles including a lovely umeboshi that really tasted of plum. Salad of cabbage, tofu and tomato. Cold grilled salmon. Miso soup.Block of scrambled egg with grated pickled radish. Very spicy natto. Tasted but left it.Walked to Rinno-ji sanbutsudo, walked around sho yo en the Edo strolling garden, which was very nice, so much moss, one tiny branch just turned its leaves to bright red and the biggest koi I’ve ever seen. Looked around the treasure house: Unicorn horn, ferocious horse mask with golden horn, bronze fox mask abbot’s baton, crane standing on turtle bronze stands, incense burner shishi lions. In Sanbutsudo, the first of the many red-painted and gilded buildings of the day, went behind the front screen and down to peer up at three 8-metre gilded bhuddas seated on lotus flowers. Very impressive. Then on to Toshogu 5 story pagoda. So many torii gates and stone lanterns. Everything carved, painted and gilded, 3 monkeys, sacred horse, so many stairs, crowds and holy souvenirs, sake barrels and whisky, sleeping cat, the Tokugawa Ieasu tomb : stairs, more stairs and a surprisingly sedate bronze bell structure. More temples, portable shrines (Mikoshi) for festivals. Break for lunch: banana and shaved ice with adzuki bean paste. One more shrine with the kami trees. Futarasan shinto shrine had several drums and used the mitsudomoe as its mon.The furthest shrine (Buddhist Taiyuin)  also the most peaceful and least gaudy set in a valley and hillside full of tall quiet trees, moss and more stone lanterns in crowds!Another kaiseki dinner The cookpot this time was a slice of onion, a piece of carrot, a stalk of asparagus and three slices of thick bacon. We were instructed with some difficulty to pour soy sauce into the covered cookpot and then let it simmer away until cooked through. This was of course delicious.A small dish of sweetish pickles in something like cream. A sweet aperitif in a heart shaped porcelain cup. Some small relative of a lobster then appeared. The shell emptied and left for display with the chilled flesh hiding under greenery beside it sitting in a very light marinade. Delicious. Sashimi beef that melted in your mouth, a large firm white fish with a smooth silver skin, a smaller softer white fish, slices of tofu, scallops between lemon.Dish of pickled lotus bud, silver skinned fish pickled and a roll like a sushi but surrounded by ‘tamango’ some distant relative of  polenta. Tempura of four different mushrooms.A dish of herring type fish covered in mayonnaise and cheese and an omame, a giant bean like adzuki. Boiled beef, green vegetable, tamango steeped in the beef broth and a sweet parcel of something. Bowl of suimono broth with another tiny dish of a rather tough raw meat with soy sauce and pickles.Then tea and fruit (grapes, orange and melon, mostly pre-cut and with the base of each grape sliced flat so it did not roll when you tried to stab it).Cold sake. Murray 

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