Nikko Area Guide


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The “Shrines and Temples of Nikko” was registered as a world heritage in 1999. This site made up of the Toshogu Shrine, the Rinnoji Temple, and the Futasan Shrine is dotted with many national treasures and important cultural properties. One can take in the cultural spectacle that represents Japan wherein buildings are integrated with nature. More than 70% of Nikko is specified as Nikko National Park and is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty at each of the four seasons. The Japanese garden like landscape weaved with lakes, mountains, and waterfalls evokes one's delicate aesthetic sense.

Toshogu Shrine

Constructed as the mausoleum of Ieyasu Tokugawa in 1617, this shrine was later rebuilt into the present impressive shrine under the reign of the Third Shogun Iemitsu. All the buildings here have been designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Assets. In December 1999, the Toshogu Shrine and other shrines and temples in Nikko were officially designated as a World Heritage Site. One of its gates Yomeimon is also called Higurashimon (twilight gate), because viewers never get tired of admiring its beauty all day till twilight. Visitors are also overwhelmed by as many as 5,000 ornate woodcarvings, including Nemuri Neko (Sleeping Cat) and San Zaru (Three Monkeys), which are the culmination of the supreme craftsmanship in the Edo Period.

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji originated from the Shihonryuji Temple established by Priest Shodo, the founder of Nikko mountain worship. This temple prospered as a mecca of mountain worshippers coming in large numbers for religious training. Rinnoji became an important religious center following the death of Ieyasu Tokugawa and the construction of Toshogu Shrine. In December 1999, Rinnoji and other temples and shrines in Nikko, including the Toshogu and Futaarasan shrines, were registered as a World Heritage Site. This temple has many must-sees, including the main hall called the Sambutsudo (Hall of Three Buddhas), the Shoyouen garden, the Houmotsuden which stores 30,000 treasures and the Taiyuin Mausoleum dedicated to the Third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu. It is almost impossible to see all of them in one day.

Futaarasan Shrine

The origin of this shrine is believed to date back to 790, when Priest Shodo established its main shrine. Futaarasan Shrine was esteemed as the most important shrine in Shimotsuke (now called Tochigi) in ancient times. In the Kamakura Period, this shrine came to be considered to be the guardian god of the Kanto Region by the Shogunate and baronial families. The Haiden (oratory) and the Honden (sanctuary) are maintained as they were at the time of their construction in 1619. This shrine and other temples and shrines in Nikko, including the Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple, were registered as a World Heritage Site in December 1999. There are many must-sees, including the Bake-Doro (Goblin Lantern), the Futaara Reisen (Miraculous Spring) and the Daikokuden (Main Temple).

Taiyuinbyo Mausoleum

It is the resting place of the third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and was built in 1653. It was built conservatively to show respect to Toshogu where his grandfather is enshrined. However, the maturity in the architectural style for building mausoleums can be appreciated. The building faces Toshogu and one can feel the strong respect Iemitsu had for his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Lake Chuzenji

This lake located high on a plateau with an altitude of 1,250 meters is one of the most famous lakes in Japan. Lava discharged from the crater of Mt. Nantai during its past eruptions dammed the Daiyagawa River, forming Lake Chuzenji. It boasts of being one of the most transparent lakes in Japan, with the seasonal changes of the surrounding area beautifully reflected on its tranquil surface. Kegon Falls is the outflow of this lake.

Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in Nikko, has both dynamic and elegant aspects, with its falls plummeting some 97 meters, while retaining exquisite beauty created by nature. It is included in Japan’s three most renowned waterfalls together with Nachi Falls (Wakayama Prefecture) and Fukuroda Falls (Ibaraki Prefecture). Visitors can go to the bottom of the gorge by elevator. Although its view never fails to enchant visitors throughout the year, Kegon Falls is particularly dazzling when it puts on autumnal colors and when it forms huge icicles in winter.

Nikko Toshogu's 1,000 Samurai Procession & Horseback Archery Festival

At this festival, it is possible to see traditional Japanese samurai costumes. This festival recreates the procession that took place when the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu was transferred to Nikko. It takes place twice a year once in the spring(May 18th) and once in autumn (October 17th). On the day before, an event wherein skilled archers display their talents on horseback takes place.

Yayoi Festival

This traditional Futaarasan Shrine festival is said to have originate around 770. It is now held annually from April 13 to 17, heralding the arrival of spring in the mountain city Nikko. Of a variety of religions events organized during the festival, the greatest attraction is the parade of 12 flowered festival floats from the different areas of Nikko assembling from the east and the west.