Nikko of Toshigi prefecture is famous for beautiful mountain landscapes and hot springs. Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine is home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. A UNESCO world heritage site, the shrine is well known for richly decorated and lavish ornate buildings within a beautiful forest and each are categorized as a National Treasure of Japan.
Toshogu Shrine charges a 1300 yen total fee for admission. Notable structures among Toshogu Shrine include the five story pagoda Gojunoto, located near the main entrance gate among a group of storehouses called Sanjinko. These buildings include wooden animal carvings considered among Japan’s best.
One National Treasure, the Toshogu Shrine main attraction, Yomeimon gate, is one of Japan’s most intricately detailed and decorated architectures consisting of over 500 carvings. The shrine gate is currently under construction until March 2019, but the shrine complex is still well worth the visit.
At Yomeimon’s left is Honjindo hall. The most prominent attraction is another National Treasure, the large ceiling painting called the “Crying Dragon”.
The right of the shrine is Sakashitamon gate, the start of a flight of stairs through the tranquil forest landscape from Toshogu Shrine to Tokogawa Ieyasu’s tomb. The tomb itself has an honorable and peaceful aura, fit for a hero.
I was lucky to witness a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony conducted at a small building among those at Toshogu Shrine. Japan is quite unique in that it retains its old, deep-rooted traditional culture during modern times.
The easiest way to reach Nikko from Tokyo is by Tobu-Railway Limited Express from Asakusa. You can also take this line for Kinugawa Onsen or Edo Wonderland. Buying the 2-day Nikko pass is highly recommended as it includes local bus services while also being a cheaper price than a round trip from Asakusa. You must buy this pass in advance before your trip. It is also recommend to go early on weekdays if it is a day trip to avoid crowds and have enough time for exploring the Nikko outside Toshogu Shrine and its every National Treasure.
2-Day Nikko Pass:
Once you arrive at JR Tobu-Nikko, you can either walk to Toshogu or take the bus. I recommend taking the “World Heritage” bus first until the last stop, then walk down about 25 minutes back to the station to explore the various shops and restaurants along the way. The bus departs from both JR Nikko and Tobu-Nikko, running frequently. Along the way you will see Nikko’s beautiful landscapes along with Nikko Bridge.[cft format=0]