Friday, October 15, 2010

Nikko: Part 2 of 2

Link to Part 1

For lunch, we picked a place that had an interesting ambiance. It was low key and not very fancy, but it had some Cheesy Tourist Trap qualities and some Quaint Japanese Izakaya qualities. The ceramic tea mugs (which we could have purchased at the gift shop across the street, but that doesn't make me like them less) have illustrations on them of some local landmarks. On the left is a sleeping neko, which is a carving in a shrine that we could have gone to see, but we didn't feel like paying admission to that on top of all the other shrines. On the right is the sear/hear/speak no evil monkeys.

Nikko is apparently known for its tofu skin, so our friend ordered some and shared with me. It was impressively delicious, I didn't expect it to have as much flavor as it did. It didn't have much, mind you, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure what kind of leaf they used as a garnish.

I ordered udon (mmmm, udon...thick, chewy white noodles. Yum.) with itty bitty mushrooms. There was something unpleasantly cold and gelatinous on top, I think it was what the mushrooms had been stored in, but other than that, the dish was delicious. The broth was fish stock, so it didn't upset my stomach as much as beef or chicken broth, but I guess I don't eat enough fish for my system to take it entirely in stride. Three cheers for ubiquitous vending machines and Royal Milk Tea!


After lunch we decided to take a city bus out to see the other major tourist attraction, one of the handful of waterfalls in the area. Here's another Same But Different...the seats are nice and plush, but on the side of the seat is an extra fold-out seat.
It adds a fifth seat that completely blocks the aisle.
Both to and from the waterfall, the bus trip involved going up (and down on the return trip) a pretty steep slope. On the outbound journey, there was an announcement in Japanese, English, and Chinese stating that we were about to go through (insert name of slope here, I don't remember it) and that the passengers may wish to buckle their safety belts or hold onto the handle on the back of the seat in front of them, and also not to be alarmed if the bus begins to sway. The TV monitor at the front of the bus switched from filler announcements to soothing pictures of happy people and beautiful landscapes.

It really wasn't that bad, but when I sat in the center of the very back seat I realized how unreal it was that the bus, at just about every turn, rotated almost a complete 360˚. This looks totally fake, but it's the video taken with the camera on my lap.

video

It had been raining all day. Cold, soggy, and overcast. And here's the waterfall observation deck:
Breathtaking.

I took a few more pictures around the deck, but there just wasn't much we could see.


There was an elevator that went down the hundred meters to the bottom of the waterfall. Sort of...there were more stairs involved to reach the lower observation deck, and the whole cement tunnel experience might have been creepy if it weren't so cheerfully lit and well maintained.

Woo, observation point! Behold, the majesty of the Bottom of the Stairs in a Cement Tunnel!

Outside, though, it was significantly less misty and opaque.

While we couldn't see where the waterfall was coming from, we could see where it went.

Outside the requisite gift shop, Husband O'Mine noticed one of the vending machines had Hello Kitty Eggs! Obviously other people had noticed, too, because that one was nearly empty while the other three were close to full.

It had a Hello Kitty button inside.


On the walk back to the bus stop, we passed by a small natural history museum. I have no idea why the wooden bear would be positioned this way. Like it's hiding from you...

...or shouting at the sign.

I was much more in the mood for a hot drink, but I'm curious about the "Herb & Relax Lemorea."

What I did get was a hot can of cocoa.

We stopped in Utsunomiya for food, about halfway back to Tokyo. This is where the monkey tavern is, but we decided not to go through the hassle of trying to make a reservation, get a taxi (or walk 45 minutes), and rush to eat before the friend with us had to leave to catch the last train back home, and just hope the monkeys were there...so we walked around the train station area for some food. Preferably gyoza (Chinese dumplings, or pot stickers) because this city is known for them. We were referred to one or two by some helpful store employees, but the first one had a 2-hour wait (with a line at least a block long), the other was about an hour. The search continued.


While we were waiting to cross the street, I saw a New and Interesting Beverage.
Lifeguard. According to the can, full of 7 vitamins, 7 amino acids, and Royal Jelly. I was a little disappointed to find out that it tastes like an energy drink, with no bizarre texture.

Waffle Sand! With Happy Ice Cream Mascot! We went back here for dessert, but they had closed early. No waffle sand for Kim. (Sad face! Next time...)

After tromping around in the rain for a while, we ultimately went to this gyoza place with a charming little statue out front.

The meat-eaters had gyoza (even the vegetable ones had some pork inside), and I got a sort of rice pudding meal set. The big dish is rice topped with some sort of bland vegetable, something that might have been raisins made from red grapes, chivey things, and pine nuts. The dish on the top right is salt and seeds, bottom right was some sort of dumpling thing I gave to the carnivores, and bottom left is pickled vegetables. Not the most amazing meal I've ever had, but I'm just glad I found something that didn't contain pork.

Pachinko parlor sign...we walked by this a couple times, and all I can see is the penguin flying out of that woman's nether region.

Helpful sign in the train station pointing us to the right line. One arm is animated...it's a little absurd, but definitely photo worthy.

All in all, not bad for a day trip.

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