Nikko Toshogu

toshogu, nikko, nikko toshogu, Kanto

The History and Background

Nikko Toshogu is one of the most remarkable shrines in Japan, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Situated in the culturally rich city of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, the shrine is a significant spiritual landmark with over 400 years of history. It was built in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years during the Edo Period.

The shrine exhibits the essence of Edo-era artistry with its intricate carvings, magnificent structures, and lavish use of color. The Yomeimon Gate, a national treasure and also known as “Higurashi-no-mon,” meaning the gate at which one could look all day, is particularly noteworthy for its detailed carvings and grandeur.

Architectural Highlights

Nikko Toshogu is more than just a shrine; it is an architectural masterpiece that is well worth a visit. The buildings within the shrine compound are stunningly decorated with a great number of wooden carvings, each telling a unique story.

Among the complex’s 55 buildings, the most famous is the Five-Story Pagoda (Gojunoto), standing at the entrance. Another famous carving is the “See no Evil, Speak no Evil and Hear no Evil” monkeys, known as the Three Wise Monkeys, found on the Sacred Stable (Shinkyusha).

Don’t miss out on the Sleeping Cat (Nemuri-neko), a delicate carving said to be the work of the master sculptor Hidari Jingoro. This carving is located at the entrance of Okusha (inner shrine), a sacred area where the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu is located.

Practical Information for a Seamless Visit

To ensure an unforgettable and smooth visit to Nikko Toshogu, here are some tips and practical information:

  • It’s best to allot at least half a day for the visit as there’s a lot to see.
  • The shrine is open from 8 AM to 5 PM (until 4 PM from November to March).
  • Entrance fee is 1,300 yen for adults, 450 yen for children.
  • Remember to wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking quite a bit, and there are steps to climb if you wish to visit the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Access to Nikko Toshogu

  • By Train from Tokyo: From Tokyo, take a direct, limited express train to Nikko. This route is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and takes approximately 2 hours.
  • By Bus from Nikko station: From Nikko station, it is a short 10-minute bus ride to the shrine. Buses run every 20 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs around 210 yen.
  • By Car: Nikko is approximately 125 kilometers north of Tokyo. It takes around 2.5 hours to reach by car, though it could be longer during peak travel periods.

Nikko Toshogu is a shining jewel of Japanese heritage and culture. Visiting this shrine offers an opportunity to explore the grandeur and craftsmanship of traditional Japan, making it a must-visit location for anyone coming to Nikko.


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