Nikko 日光: Tosho-gu 東照宮

By Cubie - March 11, 2015

In the late 12th to 17th century, Japan was ruled by samurais. However politics remained unstable until 1600 when Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康) unified the country after the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康) became the first shogun of Tokugawa shogunate of Japan which ruled Japan from 1600 to 1868. This founder of Tokugawa shogunate was originated from Kansai. He established his capital in Kanto, primarily to distance himself from the imperial forces in Kansai. However, in 1615 Toyotomi Hideyori (豊臣 秀頼), the last heir of Toyotomi clan came in conflict with the Tokugawa clan. This led to the Siege of Osaka in 1614-1615. The Toyotomi clan was dissolved with the passing of Hideyori. 

Nikko was the chosen site of Tokugawa Ieyasu's mausoleum. This final resting place of the founder of the dynasty is the famous Toshogu Shrine (東照宮, Tōshōgū). 

I didn't have the pleasure of a tour guide to Tosho-gu but I did read Ru's ultimate guide to Nikko's Tosho-gu and so should you. It even gives links to get the usual information though we didn't print all these out to guide us while we walkabout in Tosho-gu (or we would've saved ¥500 on the audio guide).

You'll be given a laminated sheet and a touch pen. Touch the pen on the number on the laminated sheet and the audio will start. Little P and I shared one audio guide. Somehow almost all of the text ends with, "This has been listed as the UNESCO World Heritage." I quote from Little P, "It feels like once it mentioned it has been listed as the UNESCO World Heritage it is self explanatory." Um... some of the guide really didn't explain much but would just end with the line above. While I really do get it that Tosho-gu is definitely worth a see and even worth that ¥1,300 entrance fee, I would appreciate if the audio guide gives a little more introduction.

The touch pen
We were just at the time when the white horse was being led out of the Sacred Stable (Shinkyusha 神厩舎). 

Next to the stable are The Three Monkeys 三猿.

I shamelessly 'borrowed' the story description from Nikko Tosho-gu itself.

(1) A mother monkey is looking far into the future of her child, and a child is looking up at the mother
(2) Three monkeys tells us that children should "See no evil, Say no evil, Hear no evil."
(3) He is about to be independent.
(4) He is ambitiously looking up
(5) He is frustrated in life and desperately looking down the cliff while one of his friends is cheering him up.
(6) He is love-sick
(7) A newly-wedded couple are going to sail through the rough waves of life together
(8) She is an expectant mother, and return to the first

I really do like the animal carvings in Tosho-gu. I know it does sound shallow given the scope of things (after all, this house the founder of Tokugawa shogunate) and it is the UNESCO listed heritage...and I came up with I like the animal carvings but I do.

It is called the "imaginary elephants" because the carving artist has not seen a real one before
Heading towards Ieyasu's grave is where you can find the famous sleeping cat (nemuri-neko 眠猫). 

The famous sleeping cat (Nemuri-neko)
Sparrows behind the dozing cat

Ieyasu's grave
There are a few places where photos are prohibited including the shrine that house the "Crying Dragon" (naki-ryu 鳴き龍). Some talk in Japanese were given by a priest on the crying dragon before he demonstrated the sound. The priest then hit two wooden clappers and echo is said to sound mimicking the cry of a dragon.

Oh and the famous Yomei-mon 陽明門. This gate was described as the most famous gate in Japan but it is under heavy renovation at time of travel. We were allowed to see snips of it under a big white canvas cloth.

Yup - that's Yomei-mon in November 2014

Side note: I think it is time for some ice-cream! ^^

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  1. There was a horse? You saw a horse?! I'm now going to retreat into a corner a sulk. How dare you? I never saw that horse! Sulk.


    I can never decide whether Tosho-gu is genuinely splendid or the worst possible taste disguised as art for the sake of the male ego. Ah well. Horse. HORSE! ^^

    1. Haha - well, horse and animal carvings! ^^