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Nikkō Tōshō-gū (日光東照宮) is a Shinto shrine located in Nikkō, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. It is part of the "Shrines and Temples of Nikkō", a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nikkō Tōshō-gū
Type Tōshō-gū
Dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu
Founded 1617
Address Nikkō, Tochigi
Coordinates 36°45′29.03″N 139°35′56.25″E / 36.7580639°N 139.5989583°E / 36.7580639; 139.5989583
Shinto torii icon vermillion.svg Glossary of Shinto



Tōshō-gū is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. It was initially built in 1617, during the Edo period, while Ieyasu's son Hidetada was shogun. It was enlarged during the time of the third shogun, Iemitsu. Ieyasu is enshrined there, where his remains are also entombed. This shrine was built by Tokugawa retainer Tōdō Takatora.

During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate carried out stately processions from Edo to the Nikkō Tōshō-gū along the Nikkō Kaidō. The shrine's annual spring and autumn festivals reenact these occasions, and are known as "processions of a thousand warriors." Also part of the beauty is the row of majestic trees lining the roadway, termed the Cedar Avenue of Nikkō.

Five structures at Nikkō Tōshō-gū are categorized as National Treasures of Japan, and three more as Important Cultural Properties. Additionally, two swords in the possession of the shrine are National Treasures, and numerous other objects are Important Cultural Properties. Famous buildings at the Tōshō-gū include the richly decorated Yōmeimon, a gate that is also known as "higurashi-no-mon". The latter name means that one could look at it until sundown, and not tire of seeing it. Carvings in deep relief, painted in rich colors, decorate the surface of the structure. The next gate is the karamon decorated with white ornaments. Located nearby is a woodcarving of a sleepy cat, "Nemuri-neko", attributed to Hidari Jingorō.

Five-story pagoda at Nikkō Tōshō-gū

The stable of the shrine's sacred horses bears a carving of the three wise monkeys, who hear, speak and see no evil, a traditional symbol in Chinese and Japanese culture.

The original five-storey pagoda was donated by a daimyō in 1650, but it was burned down during a fire, and was rebuilt in 1818. Each storey represents an element–earth, water, fire, wind and aether (or void)–in ascending order. Inside the pagoda, a central shinbashira pillar hangs from chains[1] to minimize damage from earthquakes.[2]

The collection of carvings including The Three Wise Monkeys
Stone steps and Torii to Ieyasu's tomb
Ieyasu's enshrinement

Hundreds of stone steps lead through the cryptomeria forest up to the grave of Ieyasu. A torii at the top bears calligraphy attributed to Emperor Go-Mizunoo. A bronze urn contains the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

In 2008 Yuri Kawasaki became the first female Shinto priest ever to serve at Nikkō Tōshō-gū.[3]


See alsoEdit

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ Parent, Mary Neighbour (2003), "shinbashira", Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System, retrieved 2009-03-28 
  2. ^ Tanimura, Akihiko; Ishida, Shuzo (1997), "Energy dispersion and dissipation mechanism of a Shinbashira-Frame system", Journal of Structural Engineering B, 43B: 143–150, ISSN 0910-8033 
  3. ^ 1st female Shinto priest named at Nikko Toshogu at Discover

External linksEdit