• SLUG

    Illustrations for SLUG Magazine
  • The Grand Adventures of Todd Daily

    He is a globe trotting phenomenon. He is Todd Daily. Together with his trusty friends, Todd is setting off on one of his greatest explorations, to find himself!  
  • found in the woods

    - Found in the Woods - I got off the train in Nikko; it was a smaller local train that I had switched to about an hour north of Tokyo. The doors were the kind that you have to manually slide open like an older style of train. I got the feeling that I was traveling back in time and that is something I enjoy and search for while traveling. I bought the tickets to Nikko because I heard it was a small town with some old temples and shrines and I was looking for that kind of experience. I wanted to see Japan on a more personal and historic level. I was confronted with a much different sight however when I exited the train station. I saw a very typical modern Japan. Squat houses with clay-tiled roofs, the sidewalk looked fresh, next to the street that was recently paved. There were posts and flags in dirt to construct new buildings, others buildings being torn down to make way for the new. It seemed that Nikko had become aware of its charm and attraction and was adjusting to accommodate the tourists. I still considered it a town but it looked more modern than old. A lot of what I was seeing I had seen in other towns and cities across Japan. I turned right out of the train station and headed north towards the temples. I hoped that as I ventured in that direction I would find some ancient secrets or at least some interesting old Japanese architecture. The sidewalk was freshly cut and laid granite slabs and some of the curbs hadn’t been installed yet. People were going about their daily lives, in and out of shops. Some of the folks from the train were walking in the direction of the temples and looked like they had the same intentions as me. I had joined the rank of tourist. We trudged up the slight slope through the city, past all the shops with little knick-knacks and souvenirs. We were on a mission to see truth, history, the meaning of life, or maybe just something cool. There was a mist in the air and it constantly looked like it was about to rain but we didn’t care. We were prepared with rain jackets which, when worn were uncomfortably warm but wet without. Most tourists had a canon DSLR camera hanging from their neck, curved brim ball cap and sunglasses. Despite the mist and cloud-cover it was still humid as summers are in Japan. My skin was tanned and my hair was slightly sun bleached from walking around similar towns for the previous two weeks. The threat of rain was a nice break from the sweltering sun and provided a mysterious mood to my adventure. I crossed over an old looking bridge with some ornate decoration along the side. It stood about forty feet above a rushing river that was clean and blue adding to the mystery of this land. On the other side of the bridge the road made a T and in front of me stood a steep tree covered hill. I knew there was a temple nestled in there somewhere. I continued to the right but eventually lost the sidewalk. I didn’t know exactly where the temple was or how to get there by footpath so I started wandering along the side of the road. There was a lot of traffic heading up the hill toward the temple that made it a little difficult to walk on the street. I followed the cars to a parking lot for the temple, people were getting out of their cars and gearing up for some sightseeing, more cars arrived every second and the decent sized lot looked like it was getting full. I fell in with the stream of tourists heading to the temple entrance that was marked with a large torii, one of those typical Japanese double post gateways with a downward curved beam across the top. Once past the torii we entered into the temple grounds. It was a large area with a collection of shrines devoted to different spirits and ancestors. The larger of the shrines were similar to a one room wood cabin. You could enter in those and there were other, smaller ones that were more of a display. The wood was cut into planks and stained a soy sauce brown. The roofs were covered in clay shingles and extend past the walls then slightly curved upwards. Some of the buildings were open so you could go inside and perform a prayer ritual. You could kneel at the feet of statues of men, carved from wood. They were ornamented with candy colored origami cranes that were strung about them into a necklace. There were ornate pots made from shiny copper as well as detailed carved and painted wood around them. After a prayer you could throw some change into a tub and pull on a large rope that would ring a bell. I usually enjoyed doing this but I was feeling strange because there were so many people around. As I watched the people perform the ritual they would kneel down on the cushion giggling, then throw in some change and ring the bell like it was an arcade game. As they shuffled away they looked as awkward as I felt. Other people milled about the grounds snapping pictures of everything and looking at nothing. For some reason the proof of being at this place wasn’t enough for me. I felt like I was failing my mission as a tourist to find truth or meaning. I appreciated the shrines and the tradition but I felt like everything had a heavy coating of amusement park attraction glossed over it. I had spent a few days down in Kyoto a week earlier and saw temples and shrines similar to those in Nikko but on a grander scale. I left disinterested in the direction of another temple. I walked down a glossy wet asphalt path that connected the temple to another attraction. I had picked up a pamphlet and read about where I was heading. There were three monkeys carved into the façade of the shrine that are supposedly the original ‘hear no, speak no, see no evil’ monkeys. On either side of the perfectly paved walk way I noticed I was surrounded by massive trees with gnarled roots covered in fungus and moss. I felt a little silly as I knelt down to take some pictures of the moss while people hurried by. The sun was peering through the clouds at that moment and streaked through the treetops to sprinkle patches of light all over the moss and roots. Reluctantly I continued on. I was met at the temple entrance by a box office. I stepped back a bit and scanned the sign above the window. They were asking 1000 yen to enter the area to see the carved monkeys, that’s about ten dollars. I knew that ten dollars wasn’t going to break the bank but I wanted to spend that money on ramen or sushi more than I wanted to take a picture of some tiny carvings with my iPhone. But I did come to Nikko to see the temples and history right? And this was supposed to be the main attraction. I paced about struggling to make a decision when something caught my eye. Behind me, people were entering and exiting the temple, bathrooms or chatting and checking their maps then walking off, but in front of me there was an empty dirt path carving its way up into the forest. I pocketed my pamphlet and started to walk. It felt natural and where I wanted to be. There were no buildings or shrines in my view, no history, just trees. The din of the crowd faded behind me and I was met with soft chirps of insects and birds. I walked for about ten minutes when I came upon a statue to the left of the path. It was an old sitting Buddha carved from stone, completely alone and exposed to the elements. Travelers such as I had placed tokens all around him, half empty bottles of water, flowers, buttons and coins. I pulled a one yen coin from my shorts pocket and placed it in his lap. He stared off forever into eternity with a cheerful grin and I knew that giving up that coin would benefit me more than him. I continued up the path deeper into the forest and higher up the mountain. Eventually the path turned to stairs, simple wood logs supported with dirt, the same kind you would see in any nature walk. I climbed up without hesitation. I must have been about a half an hour away from the temples now. At the top of the stairs there was a small clearing where I found some simple shrines. Guarding the gateway were stone statues of monkeys that came up to about my waist. They had fierce looks on their faces. There were two small huts with statues in them and a smaller shrine no bigger than a refrigerator. The huts were made of wood stained deep and dark, as if they were burnt. The statues inside were also carved wood and had similar origami necklaces. Everything was covered in moss and forest residue. There were some smaller stone statues of men scattered about. They were sitting in a cross-legged position and their surface was pitted from the elements much like the Buddha I saw earlier. One of the men had a simple, smooth rock placed on his neck instead of a head. They also had coins in their laps and around their feet. There were no pamphlet write-ups or maps to this shrine. There was nothing famous to draw a crowd or make any money. Tourists disregarded it, yet it was still cared for. Someone walked up and kept the area clean and neat. I thought about the devotion of the monks who hiked up the mountain to construct these shrines. There was something special that caused them to dedicate their time and energy to this. I was getting closer to the truth I was seeking. I stayed in this small area for close to half an hour examining all the statues and huts. I took photos of the moss and rocks as they interacted with the man made structures. The nature and shrines complemented each other and co-existed. I continued up the mountain and walked along the ridge for another half hour until I thought it might be smart to turn around so I could catch my train. I was alone except for the trees, grass, dirt and rocks. On top of the mountain it was so peaceful. I was the only thing moving, except on occasion I would catch a glimpse of an animal. I said a prayer, stacked three small stones about the size of my hand on top of one another, surrounded them with twigs to form a triangle, and started back down the mountain.