Our Goshuin book is lacking some love, so we set to that with a short trip out to Nikko, about 2hrs from Tokyo and a beautiful mountain Village that hosts some beautiful temples and shrines, specifically the Togushu complex.
Having bartered decent behaviour from Small by way of offering up (yet another) Akihabara for a tootle afterwards in the hope that we find the right street, we cracked on with our three part journey to Nikko. She was a hell of a lot more awake than the day before, but the bar had ben set quite low. I acquired some 'coffee jelly' by mistake, and spent an embarrassingly long time figuring out how to change that jiggling caffeinated almost sentient substance into something drinkable. Turned out I just needed to shake it. Obviously- I was pre-coffee parenting. It was the equivalent of putting a Mensa test in the way of getting a place in junior school, just cruel.
Having swiped in at the station and made our way to Tokyo, we hopped on the bullet train packed up with the cutest bullet train bento box for Small and a giant tempura prawn to add a bit of leverage to the element of peace. She has by now figured out that if she so much as whispers loudly enough for someone other than me to hear her, it's horrifically not the done thing, and is subsequently sat with puppy eyes, gesticulating with more theatrical pizazz than a RADA dropout, glaring at me.
I still don't understand how you're allowed to eat on the Shinkansen but not on a train that's a same time frame, but it doesn't matter, it was all gone within ten minutes, before we'd even pulled off if I'm completely honest. Small naturally frothing at the choos anticipating the sensation of being catapulted into deeper space with the GForce of Tom Hanks crashing down to earth, but ultimately, whilst fast, it didn't feel very 'bullet-ey'. And why would it I guess, can you imagine the whiplash? We got there like hot shit off a shovel however and before we knew it arrived at Utsunomiya, connected and landed in Nikko.
Now, we're in the hills, it's fresh, the air smells and tastes incredible and I can't help but think that the spring water we've been buying from out local shop that Small insists 'smells of sushi' is in fact just pure as fuck and filtered through nature's answer to a top of the range Brita filter. It doesn't smell of fish, mind, and it's entirely implausible she's capable of racial slurs, so I'll take that as her having a capacity to distinguish between tap water and fancy shit. There's hope yet. Used extemely broken Japanese asking about where the bus was to the shrine complex in the mountains, because fuck that and we land.
It's primarily Japanese folk, and I was relieved that there wasn't the abundance of tourists fucking the atmosphere up with their loud talking cheeseburger snaffling attitudes, until I released that sans the burgers, I'm the tourist. We did everything as all should be however, so much as a fat blue haired English girl and her hyperactive gobshite kid can, I guess.
I was glad of having frantically posted on Reddit asking for recommendations about suggestions for our tiny window of opportunity to see everything, having scrapped the chance to go an hour further from Nikko centre to a traditional Edo themed amusement centre. No time for that when there's all the pretties to see!
Kudos to Small, she eventually said she was glad we were doing something special together. We did the Futusoran Jinja, Togushu, Yomeimon gate and the Nikkosan Rinnijo, passing by the sleeping cat sculpture (which we both absolutely adored) and battling the 207 steps to the resting place of a highly respected Shogun, Tokugawa Iegasau.
Following the advice of Reddit (the Netmums of travel advisors) and after as many temple visits as we could muster, we headed for what I'd hoped would be a leisurely stroll down the 634m above sea level 'hill' to the station, Small gingerly nursing a finger that she burned sticking it into a pile of burning incense while I had my back turned (theme, much?!). Stopping by *only* for a souffle mousse pancake and a cheeky visit to pick up some 90 year old art prints, we found ourselves twatting it down to make it to the only train that would make out connection for the bullet train. The views and the mountain air had been delightful, but all good things must come to an end, I guess. And I realised that aiming to get down a steel hill of 1.5m in 20 mins laden with all the temple charms and arty luggage wasn't my finest adult calculation.
Very full of pancakes might I add as it goes by this point; Tell me now that those sweet red bean paste pancakes are filled with anything different to that kidney bean crumble I made as a very poor very broke student of 22ish? Same delicious shit, different context!
Small being unable to discern between a normal and a bullet train, she was convinced we had three of the Japanese spaceships to get, so was extremely happy. However sitting in the middle of Utsunomiya station frantically looking for our lost tickets, it's fair to say that I was not.
She'd remembered my promise of Akihabara by this point, and stuffing my bag to enable avoiding a trip home to dump our haul we headed to the electric town with minutes to spare on retrieving our 'lost' tickets.
It was so fucking shiny! Threw ourselves into the first shop we came across, I found myself in a bizarre google translate dance whereby it eventually transpired after 30 minutes that I was signing up to a delivery based pre-order scheme. Upon ditching and apologies to Small for the lost time acutely aware everything shut in one hour, we headed to a figure shop. Second hand and very cheap figurines of Japanese pop culture characters, we were both in our elements until Small's bubble of innocence almost burst when finding myself having to explain away the nude provocatively posed little plastic minxes and swiftlys exiting.
The fatigue has kicked in by now, I've promised her a little tickle at one of the hundreds of arcades, bags full of plushies that I know I'll regret trying to pack and feeling sorely guilty for my mum-splaining of aforementioned naked female anime figures.
Turned out I was quite ok at the tactical grabbers, coming away with another three huge teddies I have no fucking space for, and we went on the hunt for food.
It's 10pm by this point and we're both feeling the burn we ended up falling into a fish restaurant. Noticed the grill on the table and remembering her last adventures with cooking her own food, (fucking brilliant), we'd committed to the seating and it was last chance saloon.... Notwithstanding my not-very-Japanese dimensions were sure to make it difficult to snake my way out on a hurry, so we made peace and ordered. We were presented with Dave and Lisa, the tiny fish, to Small's great delight, until Lisa's head fell off and I realised I didn't know the Japanese for 'please tell me what the fuck I'm meant to do with this?'. All things in, full bellies were had and we traipsed to Akihabara station to get home.
She was pleased with her haul, and I had a cold can of Asahi waiting for me, all was well.