Ibaraki was a prefecture full of awe-filled gazes.
From the glowing coastline of Oarai to the vibrant park of Hitachi, this prefecture houses some of the most beautiful panoramic landscapes in the world.
Unlike other prefectures, Ibaraki has a peaceful, serene aura about it.
It's not boisterous, like its populated counterparts. It's unlike any other prefecture I've visited. Hokkaido certainly had a variety of scenery, but nothing as graceful as Ibaraki.
Like I touched on yesterday, perhaps the flower-coated fields of Hitachi symbolize an inherent life force. Something about the area is just fresh and harkens back, to a more primal time.
Speaking of callbacks to a different era, the plan for the day is to head over to the Tochigi Prefecture and see the Toshogu Shrine.
This place serves as the resting site for Tokugawa Leyasu, a famous ruler of Japan during the Edo period.
Because of its significance to the history of Japan, the site has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
According to my GPS, the route for today is just under 2 hours. Considering the recent trend of micro trips throughout this region, I can't complain about today's commute.
I have a feeling the upcoming prefectures are going to be kind on my tires, so today should be one of the longer rides I'll make in a while.
I gear up the DZed and make my way west towards Tochigi. I'll be staying in the nearby town of Nikko tonight, as the obvious proximity to the Shrine made it convenient to do so.
I've heard that there are a few good motorsports circuits in the prefecture, but I won't have time to visit.
While anytime I can watch racing is worthwhile, It's hard to imagine any of those places harnessing more excitement than the Sugo Sportsland.
As I shift my way through the powerband, navigating my way through the large open roads, I eventually pull into the town of Nikko.
Nothing fancy about the accommodations tonight, so it's safe to say the old ruler of Japan has a better place to sleep than I do this evening.
With my stuff set aside, I work my way over to the Shrine.
Aside from the Shrine, the area also houses a Museum. I decided to pay the 2100 yen (20 dollars) entrance fee for both and make my way into the premises.
One of the first things you'll notice as you head into the Shrine is the immense amount of gold used to decorate the place.
In addition to the loud shades of gold, a number of wood carvings are installed throughout the Shrine.
These carvings have everything from dragons to monkeys, all with the same amount of articulate detail. The latter is an infamous detail here as there are three monkeys, in total.
Each one represents a pillar of the "see no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil" mantra.
I'm just amazed at the tedious craftsmanship of these wood carvings. To think that structures like this, with such items in tow, have lasted hundreds of years is astounding.
It says a lot when you're able to take someone's attention off of gaudy, gold-laced structures, but these wood carvings are a sight to behold.
Speaking of gold, it appears that every building uses the same encrusted, rich accessory in its architecture.
As I move past the initial area, I'm greeted by the Yomeimon Gate and Honjido Hall.
The latter is known for having a large dragon painted on the ceiling, famously referred to as the "Crying Dragon".
From what I was told, if you clap or hit two pieces of wood under the head of the dragon, the resulting sound is what they equate to a Dragon making a crying sound.
The biggest factor in this sound has to do with the acoustic setup of the Hall, itself. Because of its architecture, the sound reverberates in that form.
Unfortunately, the effect seems to be at its best when using wood. I made my way towards the Main Shrine and Museum.
I was told that photography was not allowed in the Shrine, itself, so hopefully, the sights will be enough to be etched into my memory bank.
The Shrine has a clear walking path to the Mausoleum, where the former ruler is buried. After taking in what I could in the building, I make my way up the stairs and towards the gravesite.
The site is filled with rich shades of brown, centered around a miniature-looking pagoda serving as the gravestone.
Perhaps this is partially due to me being from such a young country, but it's surreal to see a former leader (who has been dead for hundreds of years) have a preciously preserved grave.
Not only that, but I later discovered in the Museum all of the various items he used during his reign as ruler of the country.
Everything from weapons to letters that he wrote can be found in this building. The sheer preservation of these items is akin to other landmarks that I've noticed in this country.
Unlike some places, history is honored here in Japan. They don't brush over notable events. Famous people or landmarks are cherished, revered, and honored every day.
It's something not lost on a visitor, like myself, as I make my way about the area.
A few hours pass and I find my way out of the heavily decorated Shrine. Overall, I'm just impressed at the articulation of the architecture here.
For any craftspeople out there (especially woodworkers), this place is a must-see.
On the agenda for tomorrow is the Kusatsu Onsen. I got my first taste of such an experience in Tohoku, but I've heard that Kusatsu is a famous hot spring resort around these parts.
I can't wait to take another dip!