With Year of the Monkey approaching next month, I can’t help but think back to the time I went to Nikko in search of the carvings depicting the see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil monkeys.
It was 25 years ago to the month and I was staying with my mom’s close friends in Yokohama. It took a couple weeks to get them to allow me to go on a day trip by myself. My mom spent the first two weeks with me in Japan, but had to return to the US for work. Before she left, she suggested I go to Hakone or to Nikko. When she mentioned the monkey carvings in Nikko, I was game and chose that.
So I boarded a train from Yokohama to Tokyo (as far as I recall) and then found one to Nikko.
Only it never arrived in Nikko.
I waited and waited for the train to reach Nikko, but after a couple hours, I didn’t see any signs for the city or hear anything about Nikko on the loudspeakers. My Japanese was almost non-existent, but I did learn the works for Nikko station and how to ask where it was.
“Nikko eki doko desu-ka?” I asked a young couple after another half hour passed with no sign of my destination.
They didn’t know English, but pointed to the back of the train. So I figured we’d either passed it or I’d boarded the wrong train.
As it turned out, it was the latter. When I disembarked at the next station and found a train employee, I learned that I needed to turn around and at some point switch lines to get to Nikko.
Maybe my mom’s friends were on to something when they didn’t want me to leave Yokohama on my own.
In any case, by the time I finally made it to Nikko, I had forty-five minutes until the last train was to leave that station. Plus, it was getting dark and cold.
I raced around the Toshogu Shrine and asked some travelers to take my photo.
All these years I thought I’d surely taken a photo of the monkeys. After all, they were the reason I’d gone to Nikko. Maybe I need to start wearing my reading glasses, but for the life of me, I can’t see the carved wooden monkeys anywhere in these photos. Do you?
I hope you enjoy the photos anyway. I made it back to Yokohama in time for dinner and before I was late. I didn’t tell my friends that I’d gotten lost until many years later.