Nikko Toshogu Shrine

A Magnificent Shrine, Dedicated to a Famed Warlord

Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a magnificent shrine located in Nikko, Tochigi. It is dedicated to the most famous samurai leader in Japanese history, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shrine is known for its carved and brilliantly decorated structures, making it a highlight of any visit to Tochigi.

The shrine is part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage site, which showcases the rich cultural and historical significance of the region. It is a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry of the Edo period, with its intricate carvings and vibrant colors.

Don’t Miss: The Towering and Colorful Five-Story Pagoda

One of the most iconic features of Nikko Toshogu Shrine is its towering and colorful five-story pagoda. The pagoda stands as a symbol of japan‘s ancient architectural heritage and offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. Its vibrant colors and intricate details make it a sight to behold.

The Original Carving That Inspired the “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” Maxim

Another must-see at Nikko Toshogu Shrine is the original carving that inspired the famous “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” maxim. The carving depicts three monkeys, each covering their eyes, mouth, and ears, respectively. It is a powerful symbol of wisdom and moral values.

How to Get There: Easy Access by Public Transportation

Nikko is well-serviced by public transportation, making it easy to visit the World Heritage sites, including Nikko Toshogu Shrine. From Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station, you can take the World Heritage tour bus, which stops at various UNESCO sites in Nikko. The ride takes approximately 15 minutes. Alternatively, if you have time, you can take a leisurely 45-minute walk from Nikko Station and enter the World Heritage site from Shinkyo Bridge, a sacred gateway to Nikko.

The Gods of Nikko: Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Edo Period

Tokugawa Ieyasu played a pivotal role in unifying Japan and is one of the most important figures in Japanese history. His rise to the status of shogun marked the beginning of the Edo period, a time of peace and prosperity in Japan. The Edo period saw the transformation of Edo, now known as Tokyo, into a world-renowned metropolis. After his death, Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined at Nikko, elevating his status to that of a divinity. Toshogu branch shrines can be found throughout Japan, honoring his legacy. Every year, Nikko Toshogu Shrine holds the Shuki Taisai Grand Festival in the fall and spring, featuring a procession of a thousand warriors, re-enacting the arrival of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s remains in Nikko.

Design Fit for Divinity: The Ingenuity of Nikko Toshogu Shrine

When Nikko Toshogu Shrine was constructed, the designers had something divine in mind. The shrine’s architecture showcases incredible ingenuity and attention to detail. Its vibrant colors and flamboyant carvings stand in stark contrast to the more minimalist design found in many other Japanese structures. The five-storied pagoda, located near the main entrance, is particularly striking with its ascending order representation of the elements of existence: earth, water, fire, wind, and void.

The Yomeimon Gate, Japan’s Most Lavishly Decorated Gate

The Yomeimon Gate is one of the most lavishly decorated gates in Japan. It features 508 detailed carvings of children, elders, and mythical beasts, showcasing the exquisite craftsmanship of the Edo period. The gate is a masterpiece of design and serves as a grand entrance to the inner shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The Okumiya or Inner Shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu

The okumiya, or inner shrine, of Tokugawa Ieyasu is the most significant site within Nikko Toshogu Shrine. To reach it, visitors must ascend a long set of stairs through a thick forest. The view from above, overlooking the main hall and the Yomeimon Gate, is well worth the climb. It offers a unique perspective of the shrine’s grandeur and the surrounding natural beauty.

Superb Carvings: Intricate Artwork at Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Nikko Toshogu Shrine is renowned for its intricate carvings, which cover almost every surface of the shrine. Three carvings, in particular, stand out for their beauty and significance.

The Nemuri-neko, or sleeping cat, is a carving that features two flying sparrows on its backside. The coexistence of these animals symbolizes a peaceful future for a unified Japan. Another notable carving is the “Imagined Elephant,” or Sozo-no-zo. It was created by an artist who had never seen an elephant, resulting in a mythical depiction of the animal. However, the shrine’s most famous carving is the Three Wise Monkeys, which is part of a series of eight carvings on the Sacred Horse’s stable. The Three Wise Monkeys represent the stages of human existence and teach valuable life lessons.

More in Nikko: Futarasan-jinja Shrine, Rinnoji Temple, and Taiyuinbyo

After exploring Nikko Toshogu Shrine, visitors can also visit other nearby World Heritage sites. Futarasan-jinja Shrine and Rinnoji Temple are both within walking distance and offer further insights into Nikko’s rich cultural heritage. A short stroll away is Taiyuinbyo, an elaborate shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grandson, Iemitsu. It is a serene and beautiful place that is well worth a visit.

In conclusion, Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a magnificent testament to Japan’s rich history and cultural heritage. Its carved and brilliantly decorated structures, including the towering five-story pagoda and the intricate carvings, make it a must-visit destination in Tochigi. The shrine’s significance lies not only in its architectural beauty but also in its role as a sacred site dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, a revered figure in Japanese history. A visit to Nikko Toshogu Shrine offers a glimpse into Japan’s past and provides a deeper understanding of its cultural traditions.

Address And Maps Location:

2301 Sannai, Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken

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