Nikko Trip – A Day with Shrines and Temple @ Japan

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Japan Nikko

On a trip to Nikko, the top attraction to visit would be the Nikko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with elaborate shrines and temple including Nikko Toshogu Shrine (東照宮), Taiyuyin Shrine (大猷院),  Futarasan Shrine (二荒山神社) and Rinnoji Temple (輪王寺).   The buildings played an important role in architecture during early Edo Period. 

Day Trip Nikko

All the shrines and temple are close to each other and can be reached on foot.  The picturesque red bridge or “shinkyo” awaits you at the entrance to the national park.

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There’s a bit of a small climb at the entrance of the Nikko Park.

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Once you reach the top, ta-da! Nikko Toshogu Shrine!

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The 5 story pagoda is one of the first architecture you will see.

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Nikko Toshogu enshrines Ieyasu Tokugawa, a shogun during the Edo Period.  The shrines were originally not as extravagant as they are today.  Ieyasu’s descendants renovated the shrines as a way of paying homage to his ancestor, taking 20 years of time.  Today the shrines are as impressive as they are.

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The “Yomeimon” in Toshogu Shrine is considered the most beautiful gate in Japan.  The Japanese also call it “Sunset Gate” meaning that one could look at it for the whole day from morning till sunset.  The gleaming details are indeed the most intricate and opulent at Toshogu Shrine.

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This wooden building may look plain from afar, but it’s the sacred sable that used to house the imperial horse.

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Monkeys are thought to be guardians of horses and hence you see a lot of monkey carvings on the upper facade of the building, in the form of see no evil, say no evil and hear no evil.

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More vibrant wood carvings on the walls of the shrine.  There’s also a wooden carving of a sleeping cat that’s famous in the Toshogu shrine, but somehow I didn’t spot it.   Nikko Toshogu Official Website here.  Entrance Fee 1300 Yen for adults, 450 Yen for children.  Opening Hours: Daily 8am – 5pm (until 4pm from Nov – March).  **If you are looking to visit a few shrines and temples, you should get the combination pass that allows you to visit all at 1000 yen.  The pass is available at all counters.**

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The Futarasn Shrine (二荒山神社) houses three deities, originally founded by a priest called Shodo.  It is modest looking compared to Toshogu Shrine, but the long pathway leading to the shrine is breathtaking, with rows of trees, stone lanterns and stone walls with a splash of red.

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The simple shrine.

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Huge sake barrels that make a nice decorative wall.

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Little water fountain.

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The Shinkyo bridge is also part of the Futarasn Shrine and it’s one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan.  Would have been even more spectacular if we visited in the fall with the foliage.  Legends have it that when Shodo first came to the area, he was unable to cross the river.  He prayed to god and his prayer was heard.  God appeared and threw in two snakes into the river, transforming themselves into the bridge, helping Shodo to cross the river.  Futarasan Shrine Official Website here.  Entrance Fee 200 Yen.  Opening Hours: Daily 8am – 5pm (until 4pm from Nov – March). **If you are looking to visit a few shrines and temples, you should get the combination pass that allows you to visit all at 1000 yen.  The pass is available at all counters.**

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Taiyuin enshrines Ieyasu Tokugawa’s grandson, Iemitsu Tokugawa.  Iemitsu was very fond of his grandfather and wished to be by his side after death.

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He had instructed the construction of his mausoleum based on a similar layout as Toshogu Shrine, but he did not want to surpass his grandfather’s shrine and chose a subtle color like black.   Taiyuin Website here.  Entrance Fee 500 Yen.  Opening Hours: Daily 8am – 5pm (until 4pm from Nov – March).  **If you are looking to visit a few shrines and temples, you should get the combination pass that allows you to visit all at 1000 yen.  The pass is available at all counters.**

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The Rinnoji Temple has an unpretentious look from the outside but within the temple, it is as magnificent and solemn with three golden majestic statues of Buddhist gods, each at 8.5 meters tall.  No photography allowed so you only get to see the main entrance into the temple in my post.   Rinnoji Temple Official Website Here.  Entrance Fee: 400 Yen for adults, 200 yen for children.  Opening Hours:  Daily 8am – 5pm (until 4pm from Nov – March). **If you are looking to visit a few shrines and temples, you should get the combination pass that allows you to visit all at 1000 yen.  The pass is available at all the ticket counters. **

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To end our day, we took a leisure down hill walk from the shrines back to Tobu Station. Check out some souvenirs and grab a bite after a long day !  Enjoy more photos below 🙂

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