Nikko – 日光
Have you ever been to the Tōshō-gū Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture?
Registered as World Heritage site, it is a huge shinto shrine located in a rich natural environment, about 150 km north to Tokyo.
This time we are going to talk about Nikkō city, where Tosho-gu is also located!
What’s special about Nikko?
If we talk about Nikkō’s symbol, Tōshō-gū Shrine comes immediately to our minds.
Many shrines are also so called in Japan (including one located in the central Ueno, in Tokyo), but this is the main one, and the most representative.
Nikkō’s Tōshō-gū Shrine is located in the heart of a cedar forest: when the fog comes out the atmosphere becomes mysterious.
Decorations on the buildings are splendid, and the Yōmei Gate (World Heritage) is 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 taught 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:
“Build a small hall on Mount Nikkō and enshrine me as a deity: I will so become the protector god of peace in Japan”
There are many other shrines and temples in Nikkō area.v 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 Nikko
For more information about how to reach Nikko, click here!
As it is one of my favorite destinations, I have been to Nikkō several times.
The trains running on the Nikkō Line give the feeling of matching the atmosphere with their retro colors.
Nikkō Station is a gorgeous white building which also shows some western palace decorations.
Since Tōshō-gū Shrine is not very far, I went there by foot from the station. Along the way tourist information offices, souvenir shops and restaurants are scattered here and there.
While I was getting closer to the shrine I 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 I went through the torii gate of Tōshō-gū Shrine I 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 I 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.
I went further and I 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. I 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!