世界遺産 『日光東照宮』World Heritage “Nikko Toshogu” in Japan


I haven’t been there since I became a corona, but when I went to Nikko in the past, it was just the time when the autumn leaves were beautiful. Looking back on the photos at that time, I would like to write an article about the world heritage site “Nikko Toshogu”.

創設の歴史 History of establishment

天下人 徳川家康公 Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa



“Nikko Toshogu” is a shrine that was founded in 1617 and celebrated with Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu as a deity.

Speaking of shoguns, Ieyasu Tokugawa is the most famous in Japan. Although an extant person, he is still worshiped as a god after his death.


In fact, Nikko is not the place where Ieyasu died.




Ieyasu died at the age of 75 in what is now Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, where Ieyasu is buried as a god.

It was Ieyasu’s will to establish “Nikko Toshogu” in the land of Nikko one year after his death, with Ieyasu as the deity.

If you connect Kunozan, the place where you died, with Nikko with a straight line, you will find Mt. Fuji on that straight line, and Nikko is just north of Edo.



Ieyasu not only developed the country while he was alive, but even after he died, he watched over the country as a god and thought carefully about how to continue living.

Nikko is a place where you can feel the extraordinary feelings of praying for the peace of Ieyasu’s country.

日光でなくてはならない理由 Why Nikko Must Be



There are three mountains in Nikko: Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyoho, and Mt. Taro.

These three mountains are collectively called Nikko Mountain.


It seems that Ieyasu is already encouraged just because he is a god, but it is said that there are other reasons besides Mt. Fuji mentioned above as the place where Ieyasu wants to make himself a god.

(※は下に詳細を記載してあります。)(* Is detailed below.)

  • 平安時代から行われた日本独自の※修験道の関東屈指の霊場(修行の場)
  • 霊山である「男体山」と「女岬山」から流れる霊気が交わる場所→陰陽のバランスが良い
  • 家康の側近 南光坊天海が探し出した「※龍穴の地」
  • ※北極星が見える場所
  • Unique to Japan since the Heian period * One of the best sacred sites in the Kanto region for Shugendo (a place for training)
  • A place where the spirits flowing from the sacred mountains “Mt. Nantai” and “Mt.→Good balance of yin and yang
  • Ieyasu’s aide “* The land of the dragon hole” found by Nankobo Tenkai
  • A place where you can see the North Star

* Shugendo: A practical religion that aims to save sentient beings by gaining the "power" that is a sign of merit by conducting rigorous training in the sacred mountains of various parts of Japan. It is said that it was actively carried out in connection with the mountain worship that worships Japanese mountains as a god.
The sacred mountain, which is the place of training, has been regarded as a sacred place since ancient times.

* Dragon hole: A place where the spirit of the natural earth blows up on Feng Shui. A place where the energy flowing through the mountains is concentrated.
Most of the old Japanese shrines are built in the land of the dragon hole, which is expected to be a prosperous land and a place free from natural disasters. Famous places are Ise Jingu and Toshodaiji Temple.

* A place where you can see the North Star
It is said that the North Star can be seen from directly above the Yomei Gate of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which is located just north of Edo.
In other words, when you worship, you will worship the North Star, the highest god of the universe.
It is said that Nikko Toshogu is also used to pull the power of the North Star to Edo.


Ieyasu, who was also famous as a student, thought that he chose the place of Nikko after carefully examining various things and calculating back carefully. It is said that his aide, a monk and a feng shui master, Tenkai, thoroughly investigated the geological features at the order of Ieyasu at that time. You can feel the greatness of Ieyasu, who cherishes the meaning of all small things, has the ability to make decisions, gives accurate instructions to move people, and always thinks about national peace.



Even so, I think that the thought circuit of a great man who unifies the world extends not only to his own country and the world but also to the universe, which is common even if the times change.

As of now, the people who move the world are looking at the world on a space scale. I need the ability to think, but recently I feel that I can’t do big things without such a wide field of view.

豪華絢爛な社殿 Luxurious shrine building


The gorgeousness of the sculptures on the shrine of Nikko Toshogu is very famous. It is said that the construction cost equivalent to about 40 billion yen was invested in the current amount, and it was completed in a short period of 1 year and 5 months. I don’t know how many people were involved, but I think it was done by a considerable number of craftsmen.




It is said to be the crystallization of all cultures such as general art, thought, and belief in the early Edo period.

It is said that there are 55 buildings in the precincts, including 8 national treasures and 34 important cultural properties.

And all 5173 sculptures are said to be meaningful.


And the shrine has been repaired more than 20 times even with large-scale training, and the shrine has always been repaired somewhere to maintain its gorgeousness. Nikko Toshogu continues to give posterity the important task of inheriting the traditional craftsmanship of the craftsmen involved by continuing to repair and repair over time. I think that Ieyasu, who was the largest patron of arts and crafts craftsmen, founded this Nikko Toshogu after thinking so much.

象 Elephant

日光東照宮入口裏 Behind the entrance to Nikko Toshogu
上神庫に続く灯篭 Lantern leading to Kamijinko



Walk along the road from the entrance where you paid the admission fee, and you will find Kamijinko at the end of the lanterns. Kamijinko is a storehouse that holds important sacred treasures and treasures.

Kamijinko is an important cultural property of the country.


Looking up at the top, there are two elephants.



This elephant is said to be a sketch of Kano Tanyu of the Kano school who was a painter of the Edo Shogunate.

Tanyu does not know the elephant, and this elephant is supposed to have been drawn imaginatively.



The shape of the tail, ears, eyes, etc. are different from the actual elephant at the zoo, so if you look closely, you can see the process of trial and error while imagining it, which is interesting.

It is believed that the white elephant of Jakuchu’s folding screen and this elephant were drawn with reference to the books and literature obtained through the Nanban trade, because the elephant could not be seen firmly in the Edo period.


Kano Tanyu: A painter of the Kano school in the early Edo period. Son of Takanobu Kano.
He is famous as a genius-skinned painter in the Kano school. In Nikko, there is also a fusuma painting of Tanyu at Rinnoji Temple.
The existence of Tanyu's paintings is also an important factor because the shrines and temples of Nikko have been registered as a World Heritage Site.

三猿 Three wise monkeys




Three wise monkeys that every Japanese person has heard or seen at least once.

The actual sculptured monkey was smaller than I had imagined when I personally watched it on TV.

It is located opposite the elephant’s Kamijinko.




The sculpture of the three wise monkeys is located in the stable where the Shinkyusha, a horse that serves the god, is located.

It is said that Nikko Toshogu still has the “Fukutoku-go” as a Shinme, but it seems that it will not enter this stable. If you are lucky, you may be able to meet.

Horse and monkey? I thought, but it seems that monkeys have long been regarded as the guardian deity of horses, and until the Muromachi period, it was customary to keep monkeys in stables.


There are eight scenes of this monkey sculpture, and the flow of life from the baby monkey to the growth until the baby monkey becomes a parent monkey is carved. When you actually go there, you will find an explanation of the sculpture.



The famous three wise monkeys are when you can’t judge for yourself, and the lesson that the bad thing is “don’t see, don’t say, don’t listen” is expressed. This part is famous and cut out and explained, but the background was that it was part of the story of life.

It is said that he teaches humans how to live while depicting the life of a monkey.

実は三猿は日本のものだけと思いきや、世界各国に存在します。西洋では三賢猿(Three wise monkeys)としても知られています。


Actually, I think that the three wise monkeys are only Japanese, but they exist all over the world. Also known as Three wise monkeys in the West.

Ieyasu already knew that, and might have predicted that many tourists from overseas would visit in the distant future. .. .. From a broad perspective on a space scale, I think he was hoping for peace not only in Japan in the future, but also in humankind.



When you come to Nikko Toshogu, anyone, regardless of nationality, can study.

In addition, this building is the only building in the precincts of Toshogu that is made of bare wood without lacquer (the felled wood is used as it is).

神馬 Shinme



Conditions for Shinme ... Shinme has always been a male white horse.
The first Shinme is said to be the horse that Ieyasu rode in the Battle of Sekigahara.

There are still shrines that keep Shinme in Japan.
If it is a famous place, you can meet relatively at Ise Jingu.
参考:伊勢神宮神馬 Reference: Ise Jingu Shinme


It feels like you’ve come to the zoo without going to the zoo by the time you reach the Yomei Gate.

国宝 陽明門 National Treasure Yomeimon Gate


As I wrote about the power spot earlier, the power spot in Nikko Toshogu is in front of the torii gate in front of the Yomei Gate, and it is a place to worship Ieyasu as a god and the North Star.



It is said that beyond the Yomei Gate, it was not possible to enter the common people until the Meiji era.

Photography of the inside of the main shrine is prohibited, but you can now go inside.



And in 2020, Yomei Gate completed the “Heisei major repair” that cost 1.2 billion yen.

The sculptures on the Yomei Gate are really fine and you can see them all the time, but please be aware that if you look up too much, your neck will get tired. It is also known as the “Higure Gate” because the sun goes down without getting tired of looking at it all the time.


There are 508 sculptures on the gate, including spirit beasts, Chinese sacred sages, hermits, and lions.

注目すべき彫刻 Notable sculpture

  • 麒麟 Spirit beast Kirin
  • 龍 Dragon
  • 唐獅子 Karashishi
  • 龍馬(一見龍のようだけど、足が馬)Ryoma (At first glance it looks like a dragon, but its legs are horses)
  • 琴棋書画の遊:中国の故事を題材とした彫刻。君主の四芸と言われた一つ。Four arts play: A sculpture based on a Chinese story. One that was said to be the four arts of the monarch.


The sculptures on the corridors that extend to the left and right of the Yomei Gate are actually national treasures.



There are so many things to see before you reach the Yomei Gate, so it may be a place you should visit several times and take a closer look.

At the treasure museum, a video explaining this Yomei Gate is being broadcast.

眠り猫 Sleeping cat


“Sleeping cat” famous as the only cat in the sculpture of Nikko Toshogu




It’s above the entrance to Okumiya, but it’s so small that you might miss it. It is said to have been made by Hidari Jingoro, a master craftsman from the Edo period.

Hidari Jingoro was famous as a sculptor in the Edo period.

There is a story that even the existence is suspected whether it was a real person, and the truth is still unknown.


However, there are many works that are said to have been created by Hidari Jingoro.

有名どころだと。。It’s famous. ..

  • 上野東照宮 唐門「昇り龍」「降り龍」Ueno Toshogu Shrine Karamon “Rising Dragon” “Descent Dragon”,Tokyo
  • 京都・祇園祭の鯉山の鯉 Koiyama carp at Gion Matsuri, Kyoto
  • 出雲大社 八足門 蛙股の瑞獣、流水紋 Izumo Taisha Yatsuashimon, a frog crotch water beast, running water crest

上記以外にも色々と挙げられています。In addition to the above, various things are listed.

漆塗り Coat with lacquer.



In this Nikko Toshogu, all the buildings are painted with lacquer except for the shrine where the three wise monkeys were.

The coloring is wonderful, and the existence of lacquer may have been forgotten, but please do not forget it.



The work of lacquer from the groundwork stage up to coloring is very long and difficult.

Lacquer is also used as an adhesive when pressing gold leaf.


The light and luster of the coloring and gold leaf are created by lacquer. In addition, all the lacquer used for repairing Nikko Toshogu is domestic lacquer. The lacquer carefully collected by the lacquer scraper is used with the craftsman’s skill accurately and carefully so that it will last for hundreds of years in posterity.


Of course, I’m not actually doing it, so it’s a sentence after knowing the story of a craftsman who is involved in cultural properties, how to do it, the characteristics of lacquer, and how to face it.




Unlike me, who makes only small works, I think it’s a really physically demanding job.

Since the area to be painted such as pillars and walls is large, the amount of lacquer to be painted is also considerable. When a craftsman sharpens, I think that the sharpened juice may come into the eyes of the craftsman, and the same posture keeps the neck tired.

Since the amount of lacquer is also a considerable amount of kg or ton, it is a daily occurrence to have a rash, and since it is an outdoor work, the daily weather and the condition of lacquer face each other, which is a big difference from what I usually work at home. It’s a hard work.

日光東照宮の宝物 Treasure of Nikko Toshogu

日光東照宮宝物館 Nikko Toshogu Museum


The precious treasures of Toshogu are in the Nikko Toshogu Treasure Museum, near Toshogu and are open to the public. Admission tickets and treasure hall set tickets are on sale, so if you have time, be sure to visit the treasure hall as well. It is a beautiful facility and has a very fulfilling exhibition content, a video of Yomeimon Gate, etc. I thought it would have been better to go to the treasure house first and then see the real thing.



However, although Toshogu has a large site, the number of visitors is very large. It’s best in the morning, but it’s recommended to visit during a time when there are few people, as the number of people will increase and it will be very crowded near noon.

It was reported that the number of worshipers decreased in Corona, but since it is still a popular Toshogu shrine, I think that the number of worshipers will increase as soon as Corona calms down a little.

宝物分類 Treasure classification

現存する宝物類は大きく分類すると、以下になります↓The existing treasures can be roughly classified as follows ↓

  1. 美術工芸品類 Arts and crafts
  2. 書画類 Calligraphic works
  3. 文書類 Documents


The arts and crafts owned by Nikko Toshogu are very wide-ranging, including national treasures with historical significance during the Edo period. What kind of venerable work? .. ..

  • 朝廷よりの寄進品 Donated goods from the imperial court
  • 歴代将軍及び諸大名奉納品 Dedication of successive shoguns and daimyo
  • 南蛮貿易による舶来品 Imported goods from Nanban trade


By the way, the hawk picture folding screen, which may have been used as a reference for the “Twelve Hawks” introduced in the past post, is also in the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.


In addition, there are two national treasures in the possession of Nikko Toshogu. Both are swords.

  • 太刀助真 Tachi Sukezane
  • 太刀国宗 Tachi Kunimune


There are also many other important cultural properties and swords designated as cultural properties of the prefecture.

日光東照宮の漆芸品 Lacquerware of Nikko Toshogu




The Edo Shogunate was the largest customer of lacquer work.

Of course, all kinds of treasure arts and crafts of Nikko Toshogu are lacquered and lacquered.

In particular, Ieyasu’s treasures are not only lacquered, but almost always gold powder is sprinkled and lacquered.

  • 家康公が入られた移動用の篭 A moving basket used by Ieyasu
  • 屏風の縁 Folding screen edge
  • 巻物を入れる箱 Box for scrolls
  • 装束や付属品のためのそれぞれの箱 Each box for costumes and accessories
  • 馬に付ける鞍 Saddle attached to a horse
  • 鎧 armor
  • 兜立て Helmet stand
  • 香炉卓 Censer table
  • 茶碗卓 Teacu p table
  • 刀の鞘 Sword sheath


For your reference, the above picture is a saddle of lacquer work in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum (photographable).




All the shapes around the shogun are lacquered. Even if it is not a gorgeous lacquer work, there are many lacquer works that are difficult to shape on a curved surface.

The high level of skill of the lacquer artist at that time is also a highlight.

Of course, you cannot take pictures at the treasure hall, so if you are interested in precious treasures, please go see them.

日本全国の東照宮 Toshogu Shrine all over Japan


Toshogu is a shrine that celebrates Ieyasu Tokugawa as a deity.




In fact, it is said that there were 500 Toshogu shrines at that time because the Daimyo, who have a relative relationship with the Edo Shogunate and Ieyasu, built them all over the country.

It is said that there are still more than 100 remaining in the whole country.

This Nikko Toshogu is considered to be the head office because it boasts the largest scale of the Toshogu.



If you are Japanese, you might enter a place you want to visit once in a lifetime.

As it is said to be a power spot, it is a highly recommended place where you can feel the blessings of nature and get a lot of energy with a clear air.


参考文献 References

  • 日光東照宮社務所発行『日光東照宮の賓物』
  • ココミル『関東④ 日光 鬼怒川』.JTBパブリッシング,2018


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