Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the Mausoleum of a Shogun   日光東照宮

Date of publication :

Yomeimon gate, Nikko Toshogu

Ieyasu's Final Resting Place

The heart and soul of Nikko are within the walls of Toshogu, the mausoleum of the first shogun and one of the major UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan.

Just steps from Futarasan Jinja, Nikko's Toshogu shrine was built in 1617 by the shogun Hidetada to host the deified spirit of his father, the founder of the shogunate in Edo, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

If the body of the deceased shogun is at the Kunozan Toshogu, the shrine of Nikko was supposed to protect the north of Edo, now Tokyo, against evil influences.

The shrine was later rebuilt on a monumenta scale by the grand-son of Ieyasu, the third shogun Iemitsu.

A shrine like no other

Toshogu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Daigongen, deified Ieyasu, but taking a lot of inspiration from Buddhist temples, as you will see in the pagodas and the doors, thus making Ieyasu a Buddhist saint.

The shrine is also unique in its style. Dating back to the end of the Sengoku period, Toshogu is bright gold, scarlet and other bright colors.

The most precious materials were used, the most talented artists were employed, ostentation is everywhere to the point that the Japanese sometimes consider that the shrine is too loaded.

Toshogu shrine is the opposite of the usual sobriety of Japanese sacred places.

An open-air museum

The shrine contains some major works of Japanese art. Wood carvings therein are particularly famous: the nemurineko (sleeping cat) or the three monkeys (iwazaru, kikazaru and minazaru) are the most famous pieces of the sculptor Hidari Jingoro, an artist who became almost legendary.

He is also the author of the sculptures Yomeimon door, the door of the diamond, pearl and a golden splendor that one could look from sunrise to sunset without tiring.

One can also admire the Karamon door, or Chinese gate, and delicate ornaments.

You will also find also many diplomatic gifts in honor of the shogun on the esplanades of the shrine, such as the Oranda Doro, a lantern made in the Netherlands, as well as European chandeliers or bells and lanterns offered by Korea.

Peace under the shade of the trees

To see the pagoda of Ieyasu, you will need to earn this privilege,  as his cenotaph is located behind the temple after a long stone corridor surrounded by trees and many steps. A pause to catch your breath is even necessary. Arriving at the peaceful sober cenotaph there remains only to admire the place...

Comments Read comments from our travellers