‘Never say ‘kekkō’ /meaning ‘magnificent’/ until you’ve seen Nikkō’ – that’s how the Japanese describe this city. I can wholeheartedly confirm that it’s true: Nikko is a home to probably the most heavily decorated edifices I’ve encountered in Japan and they make this place really impressive.
The shrines and buildings of Nikko are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and actually you can see much more than I show you – probably, you’d benefit from spending a few days in Nikko National Park if you have time. Unfortunately, we didn’t and spent there only one day.
From the beginning I must note that although Nikko is located not far from Tokyo (you’ll have to take a Shinkansen train, and the trip is under two hours), please wear your most comfortable shoes as there are many walk ups and downs: the best parts of it are accessible by stairs only! So, let’s see what’s not to miss in Nikko.
The shrine Toshogu and mausoleum dedicated to the great Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Japan’s unifiers of 17 century and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. It’s really huge: there are 42 buildings in total! No doubt that in Nikko Toshogu is the place that attract visitors the most.
Don’t miss a gorgeous pagoda at the beginning of your visit, a sleeping cat and the three wise monkeys who don’t see, don’t hear and don’t say anything evil: Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru. You might have seen those monkeys everywhere now, even in emoji set, but those are the original 17th century ones. As a symbol of Nikko, they are even stamped on chocolates and other food!
I was really impressed by the detailed meticulous work of Toshogu’s buildings, and I must admit that I’ve never seen so much gold in Japan before.
Taiyuinbyo is a mausoleum of Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun, the grandson of Ieyasu. He might be not so well known to the foreigners as his grandfather but during his rule Japan acquired the policies that influenced the country centuries ahead.
It might be smaller and a bit more modest, not it’s definitely is no less worth a visit. It’s also much less crowded althoght it’s located pretty close to Toshogu shrine and looks splendid amomg the cedars on the hill.
3. Futarasan Shrine
Futarasan Shrine is a shinto shrine founded in 767 with three kami that are enshrined there: Okuninushi no Mikoto, Tagorihime no Mikoto, and Ajisukitakahikone.
The Sacred Bridge over Daiya River is probably the most notable feature of the Futarasan shrine for tourists: you can walk on it for a modest price if you wish.
Rinno-ji is a Tendai Buddhist temple established in the 8th century! Don’t miss three Buddhas hall, Sanbutsudo, the main feature of the temple, where you can see the figures representing kami mentioned above, and the museum with Buddhist treasures.
5. Studio Kousyuuya
Nikko is a home to Studio Kousyuuya, a fantastic place where you can witness and even buy a very rare form of art: hitofude ryuu, dragon made with just one stroke: if you follow me for a long time, you’ve probably seen on my instagram page how the artist from the Studio applies paint with a giant brush to create a gorgeous creature in one go and then adds some gold and black details later.
Of course, we didn’t miss this chance to acquire one too, and a gorgeous blue-and-gold dragon guards our London flat for a few years already.
You might enjoy my other blogs about Japan:
- Learn Japanese with me: p1 and p2
- Rabbit Island
- Ginza, Tokyo
- Kumagaya, Kanto
- Tokyo, Kanto
- Saitama prefecture, Kanto
- Yokohama, Kanto
- Kanagawa prefecture, Kanto
- Momiji VS Sakura
- What I adored in Japan
- Suzugami workshop (Toyama prefecture)
- Furoshiki workshop in Pantechnicon
- Japanese cocktails in Pantechnicon
- Japanese trail, Kew Gardens
Hope you liked my blog,