Nikko’s Futarasan shrine is only five minutes’ or so walk from its more famous neighbour, Toshogu, but it seemed to us that we were in a different world. The crowds had dissipated, leaving just a handful of tourists and some local families. We strolled around in a much more leisurely way than had been possible at Toshogu, taking photos and soaking up the tranquil atmosphere and the rich colours of the leaves just starting to take on their autumn hues.
Red, in Japan, is the colour of the sun (not yellow as in other cultures). It stands for life, power and protection, but also for death. It is thought capable of expelling demons and illness. You see red everywhere; on temple roofs, torii gates at shrines, lanterns and pagodas. And in the bibs and caps worn by the haunting Jizō statues of Kanmangafuchi Abyss in Nikko.