Nikkō – 日光
Have you ever been to the Tōshō-gū Shrine, in Nikkō city?
Registered as World Heritage site, it is a huge shintō shrine located in a rich natural environment, about 150 km north to Tōkyō.
What’s special about Nikkō?
If we talk about Nikkō’s symbol, Tōshō-gū Shrine comes immediately to our minds.
Many shrines in Japan have the same name (including the one located in the central Ueno, in Tōkyō), but this is the main one and the most representative.
Nikkō’s Tōshō-gū Shrine lays in the heart of a cedar forest: in foggy days the atmosphere becomes quite mysterious.
The decorations on the buildings are splendid, like for the Yōmei Gate (World Heritage), coated by gold leaves.
Moreover, here you can see many sculptures representing animals. They seem to be a symbol for peace.
For example, the sleeping cat and the three “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys are especially famous: they apparently teach to avoid seeing, hearing and talking bad things during childhood.
Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined in Tōshō-gū Shrine. In fact, before his death he left his last will:
There are many other shrines and temples in Nikkō area. There’s much to see!
Like the charming vermillion bridge called Shin-kyō, the Rin’nō-ji temple (which was built by the monk who first brought Buddhism in Nikkō) and the Futarasan Shrine.
How to reach Nikkō
For more information about how to reach Nikkō, click here!
As it is one of our favorite destinations, we have been to Nikkō several times.
The trains running on the Nikkō Line give the feeling of matching the atmosphere with their retro colors.
JR Nikkō Station is a gorgeous white building which also shows some western palace decorations.
Since Tōshō-gū Shrine is not very far, we went there by foot from the station. Along the way tourist information offices, souvenir shops and restaurants are scattered here and there.
While we were getting closer to the shrine we could see the vermillion bridge called Shin-kyō: it is one of the Three Famous Bridges of Japan, and it is also a World Heritage. The other two bridges are the Kinta-kyō in Iwakuni and the Saru-hashi located in Yamanashi Prefecture.
The Shin-kyō bridge is located here since ancients times, the one we can see nowadays is a seventeenth century reconstruction.
The Ōtani river flows under this bridge, in a beautiful valley which occasionally gets covered by fog.
Sightseeing the area in autumn is recommended because of the red foliage, but summer’s fresh green leaves are also nice.
There are many holy sites in Nikkō:
Rin’nō-ji Temple is a very important one. In the three Buddhist halls (Sanbutsu-dō) of the main pavilion you can see the wooden statues of Amida, Senju Kannon and Batō Kannon. Over the temple a path with cedar trees on both sides takes place. This path and its lanterns create a mysterious atmosphere.
When we went through the torii gate of Tōshō-gū Shrine we could immediately see the main gate (Niō-mon) and a five-stored pagoda on the left. The contrast between the red pagoda and the green leaves was amazing.
Right over the main gate we saw the sculpture of the three monkeys. The tales about these three animals can be heard in many countries, also in the West. It was nice to see the original ones.
We went further and we came by the Yōmei-mon. This area seems very wide in pictures, but when you are in front of this building you can’t take your sight away from it. We went over this building cluster and could see the “sleeping cat” statue.
Next to the Kitō-den, where marriages and other rites are celebrated, there is a lush path leading to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb.
Besides Tōshō-gū Shrine and Rin’nō-ji Temple, in Nikkō you can find the Futarasan Shrine and the place where the body of one of the three Edo period shoguns, Tokugawa Iemitsu lays.
These holy sites are also a must!