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Our Japan Blog


Keith still not feeling well, so Pete and Anne set off to Nikko, Edo period sanctuary (1600-1868) famous Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Tosho-gu Shrine and mausoleum, the shogun whose descendants ruled Japan for more than 250 years. Ieyasu’s grandson began work on the original shrine using 15,000 artisans and workers from all over Japan. Nikko was also the center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries before Tokugawa Iemitsu began work of Tosho-gu.

We walked about 2 miles through the village and hiked up to Nikko National Park first photographing the lovely Shinkyo Bridge and next visiting the National Treasure House with its rare paintings of all the Tokugawa shoguns and the Shoyoen or strolling garden.

Then we ascended the steps of the Rinno-ji the Buddhist temple founded in 1200, the building itself has as its foundation 360 m zelkova trees. The Three Buddhas Hall contains the largest wooden Buddhas in Japan. The central image is the god Amida Nyorai, flanked by Senju, deity of mercy and compassion and Bato, god of the animal kingdom.

We walked over to the elaborate Tosho-gu first taking in the stone torii gate and the five-story pagoda. Just beyond is the Sanjinko, or 3 sacred storehouses, and the Shinkyusha or sacred stable, notable for its carved reliefs including the famous “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” wise monkeys, teaching Buddhist principles. We climbed the steps to the drum tower, Honji-do, renowned for its painting of the crying dragon under which the monks demonstrate the acoustical properties of the hall. Anne photographed the Sunset Gate ((Yomei-mon) with is elaborate decorations: Gold leaf, carvings, dancing girls, mythical beasts, somewhat in the Chinese style. The main hall (Honden) is notable for the paintings of the 36 immortal Kyoto poets, the 100 dragons and mythical beasts. We paid a few yen extra to view the sleeping cat, symbol of peace, next door, and to climb the hundreds of steps through the cedars to the Tokugawa Ieyasu mausoleum.

Our last visit was to the Taiyuin-byo, both a Buddhist temple and the mausoleum for Tokugawa Iemitsu, Ieyasu’s grandson, the pathway there is lined with dozens of lanterns and the guardian gods hold their hand up (to welcome) or hand down (to suppress evil). Lots more dragons.

We were treated to another festival, this time a surprise, the Yayoi Matsuri Procession at the Futarasan-jinja, the current building dates from 1619, making it the oldest building in Nikko National Park. This jinja is the protector shrine for Nikko and is dedicated to the nearby mountain Nantai-san.

Then took the train back to Tokyo to pack for home.

Shinko Bridge

Tosho-gu Steps

Tosho-gu Wall Decoration

Five Story Pagoda

Yayoi Matsuri Procession

Yayoi Matsuri Children with Instruments

Rinno-ji Main Entrance

“Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil.”

Tosho-gu with Elephants

Tokugawa Ieyasu Mausoleum