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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

History

Nikko Toshogu Shrine 日光東照宮

Dedicated to a famed warlord, this magnificent shrine gave rise to a world-famous saying

Nikko Toshogu enshrines the most famous samurai leader Tokugawa Ieyasu. Its carved and brilliantly decorated structures are part of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage site and the highlight of any visit to Tochigi.

Don't Miss

  • The shrine's towering and colorful five-story pagoda
  • The original carving that inspired the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” maxim

How to Get There

Nikko is well serviced by public transportation, and getting to its World Heritage sites is easy.

From Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station, the World Heritage tour bus makes stops at Nikko's UNESCO sites, including Toshogu Shrine. The ride takes about 15 minutes.

If time allows, the walk from Nikko Station takes about 45 minutes and provides the opportunity to enter the World Heritage site from Shinkyo Bridge, sacred Nikko's traditional gateway.

The gods of Nikko

Tokugawa Ieyasu played a pivotal role in unifying Japan and is one of the most important figures in the nation's history. His rise to the status of shogun initiated the Edo period (1603-1867), which was the most peaceful and prosperous period in the long history of ancient Japan and propelled the merchant city of Edo towards its destiny as the world-renowned megalopolis of Tokyo.

A year after his death, Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined at Nikko, elevating his status to divinity. Toshogu branch shrines spread throughout Japan.

Every year, Toshogu Shrine holds the Shuki Taisai Grand Festival in the fall and spring with a procession of a thousand warriors, re-enacting the arrival of Tokugawa Ieyasu's remains in Nikko.

Design fit for divinity

When Toshogu Shrine was constructed, the designers had something divine in mind. The ingenuity and careful attention to detail that went into constructing Nikko Toshogu Shrine is extraordinary. It's vibrant colors, and flamboyant carvings stand in stark contrast to much of Japan's more spartan design.

Among the breathtaking structures at Toshogu Shrine, the five-storied pagoda is the most conspicuous because of its height. It stands near the main entrance. The five stories represent the elements of existence: in ascending order, earth, water, fire, wind, and void.

The Yomeimon Gate is Japan's most lavishly decorated gate. It's covered with 508 detailed carvings of children and elders and mythical beasts. It is a masterpiece of Edo-period craftsmanship.

Yomeimon Gate

Although not as lavish as most structures at Toshogu Shrine, the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu is its most significant site. You'll ascend a long set of stairs through thick forest before approaching the tomb. The view of the shrine from above and the Yomeimon Gate is worth the climb.

Tokugawa Ieyasu's tomb

Superb carvings

You could spend hours taking in the all the intricate carvings that cover Toshogu Shrine, but three are particularly renowned.

The Nemuri-neko, or sleeping cat, was carved with two flying sparrows on its backside. The animals' co-existence was said to symbolize a peaceful future for the newly unified Japan.

One of the more bizarre, yet memorable carvings at Toshogu Shrine is the "Imagined Elephant," or Sozo-no-zo. It was carved by an artist who had never seen one, and the elephant's mythic proportions show through.

The sleeping cat and the Sozo No Zo

The shrine's most famous carving by far is the Three Wise Monkeys. The first "sees no evil," another "speaks no evil," and the last "hears no evil."

The carving is one of a series of eight on the Sacred Horse's stable, that uses monkeys to portray the phases of human existence, with wisdom for each stage. The three monkeys teach children how to avoid bad things in life by seeing, speaking, and hearing no evil.

The three wise monkeys

More in Nikko

After taking in this magnificent shrine at your leisure, Futarasan Shrine and Rinnoji Temple, Nikko's other World Heritage sites, are both within walking distance. A short stroll over to Taiyuinbyo, an elaborate shrine that also serves as the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson Iemetsu, who built the Toshogu, is also well worth a visit.

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