The main temples and shrines being Rinno-ji; Temple, Toshogu Shrine and Futaarasan Shrine. Which are all in one area north of the Nikko town. There are many other sights here and it really warrants a few days visit to see the area properly.
The first Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543–1616) established the Tokugawa Shogunate which unified Japan for around 250 years.
The Tokugawa period (also known as the Edo period) was from 1603 to 1868 and marked a time of peace and economic growth for Japan.
The Edo period came to an end, with the Meiji restoration in 1868.
The third shogun, Ieyasu’s grandson Iemitsu Tokugawa (1604–1651) is also buried in Nikko.
The entrance to the world heritage temples and Shrines begins at red lacquered Shinkyo bridge crossing the Daiya river. There are many different pathways to walk around the site, its cedar lined roads all lead to one or other of the shrines or temples.
The main shrines have a fee to enter and the details are in English at the gates.
Within the Toshogu shrine area there are many different buildings all ornately carved and lavishly decorated. This is just one of the towers, but there are many, many buildings, even more ornate than this. its just not possible to do them justice in a blog.
Going through the gate is a number of unbelievably lavish and detailed buildings leading up to the tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa, some couple of hundred steps up the mountain.
Look out for the three Monkeys – hear no evil; see no evil; speak no evil – in various carvings. There are also a number of store rooms on the other side that are ornately carved with different animals.
The other site to visit is Taiyuinbyo is the tomb of the third shogun Iemitsu who was also grandson to Ieyasu and unfortunately the gate here is also being renovated, but still worth a visit. Its not as lavish as grand-daddy’s tomb, but the 4 guardians at the gate are interesting – all different colors looking fiercely protective..
Kendara –White; Umarokya -Blue; Abatsumara -Green; Bidara -Red
Interestingly I found out today that up until the end of the Edo period Shinto and Buddhism were more mixed than they are nowadays. After the Meiji restoration they were separated more distinctly, although not at the Nikko shrines & temples. So the Buddhist temples and the Shinto Shrines became more defined. In Nikko Toshogu became a shrine and Taiyuinbyo became a sub- temple of the Rinnoji Temple, but they both kept a mixture of both religions.