Determined after yesterday's escapades to not let Narita beat me, I arose this morning and trudged back through the humidity to the train station. Once again I got lost, I am sensing this is going to become a theme on my travels. However this time I happened to get lost in the right direction. I had followed my nose down past some interesting looking shrine-like statues, that were part of a construction site, only to come face to face with a sign telling me that I was going exactly the right way. I didn't have very ambitious dreams for today, I set myself the goal of finding the Narita-san Shinsho-ji (the main temple here in Narita) and check out the surrounding gardens, and I had managed to stumble onto the road that leads straight to it.
The narrow road ambles down the hill to the temple, and is lined with food stalls and restaurants. I stop into one for breakfast, rice wrapped in nori, and continue pottering down the street. Everywhere along the road interests catch my eye. Small shrines down alleyways, a barrel of live fish for sale, sealed bags of pickled things I don't even recognise. It is all so beautiful and quaint, each shop attendant takes such care to set out their wares. There is such elegance in the simplicity and the care. Further down the hill I reach the temple gate, it is magnificent, with stone stairs leading upwards, solid hardwood beams raising a peaked tile roof, stone guardians giving cold stares from either side. I pass the gate, it is cool from the water nearby, there is a bridge. Crossing the bridge looking at either side I can see statues of mini deities on either bank and large stone markers. There are small bare islands in the water to either side of the bridge, to my right there are only wishes or prayers in the form of coins thrown on the island, but to my left the water teems and the island moves. It is covered in turtles. They seem to converge just under the bridge, people must feed them.
I continue through the temple buildings, climbing up stairs to the buildings and down hills to the gardens. No one is taking photos, I'm not sure if it is not allowed, I cannot read the signs but it does not seem right to anyway. It is so serene here, the gardens are lush and green with little stone faces poking out at you from unexpected places. I follow the sound of running water down mossy stone stairs to a waterfall, the brook it creates has stepping stones across it. With timid footing I cross, to find a paved room built into the rock. There are spouts in the face of the rock, it would almost be a shower room if there was more water today, but it only trickles lightly from the top. I turn to leave and come face to face with an ugly carving. A shrine built to house a very angry looking deity.
I continue down the garden paths and park myself on a stone bench near a bridge and babbling water. Every now and then the sounds of a modern life penetrate the peace, a plane over head, a leaf blower maintaining the order of the garden, and a jogger who has lapped me twice. There are carp making ripples on the surface of the brook occasionally leaping high out of the water to capture their insect prey, the turtles watch them from the rocks, still sentinels.
Looking out over the trees, I can understand how the art of Bonsai was created here in Japan, the leaves and flowers of all the flora are so dainty, they really do lend themselves to smaller trunks than that which nature has given them. It makes sense then that an art form has emerged to train the trunks to better suit the diminutive ilk of the leaves.