Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hidden Sacred Place – Nikko Toshogu in Japan –

By Yuko Aoki

Nikko Toshogu is located in Nikko, Tochigi which is approximately one hour and forty minutes by a train or a car north from Tokyo, Japan. Toshogu is stands in a bountiful forest which hides its presence. The history and the architecture of Toshogu are rich and still attract a lot of people from all over the world. Also it is a popular place to visit as a school trip for 6th to 8th grade students because of its historical importance for Japanese people.

The history of Nikko Toshogu started with Ieyasu Tokugawa who ended the Sengoku period, which was the period of war between the fifteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth century. The Edo period started with Ieyasu and was Japan was culturally improved during this period from 1603 to 1868. Ieyasu died when he was seventy five years old in 1616 (Wikipedia).

In Ieyasu’s will, he stated “Enshrine my dead body in Mt. Kuno (His hometown in Shizuoka prefecture) for the first year of the death. (Omission) And built a small shrine in Nikko and enshrine me as the God. I will be the guardian of Japan” (Nikko Tourist Association, 2004). However, Ieyasu had never had visited Toshogu in his life. The reason why he wanted to be buried there was because of a monk’s influence on him. Nikko is believed to be a sacred place (Okawa, 1975). Ieyasu’s last wish came true one year after his death.

The construction of the shrine was expensive. All the detail of the facade was curved and painted by hands. Most of the design has animals and each animal has a meaning. The most famous designs are “sleeping cat” and “three monkeys”. There were several reconstructions and additions to the site leading up to the year 1625, but the shrine people look upon now has changed little since that year (Okawa, 1975).

Now there are a few people who can fix damaged pieces of buildings at Toshogu. It is amazing that visitors still can see the colors and details that they could see 380 years ago.

I have been there once as a school trip. However, I was not aware of the importance of the architecture. I want to re-visit Toshogu and take hours to see all the details.
Edo Architecture:Katsura and Nikko by Naomi Okawa in 1975,_Tochigi


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