Road trips have become my favorite after our previous short trip to Enoshima. This time our destination was on-my-bucket-list-since-forever Nikko To-shogu, a shrine dedicated to one of the most famous military leaders of Japan – Tokugawa Ieyasu.
The shrine is a town of Nikko, in Tochigi Prefecture somewhere in the center of the main island of Honshu. You can reach it by car from Tokyo, same as we did, only it took us much more than usual since we were trying to avoid highway to save up some cash.
First of all, the very town of Nikko and the area surrounding the shrine are no less than like from a fairytale. The nature and the landscape are mesmerizing and deserve bringing two cameras, not one. I highly recommend going there during spring (and on a weekday) because of the mountain region, where cherry blossoms take a bit longer to bloom and come later than those in Tokyo.
Before you reach the entrance to the temple, which you’re going to be charged around ¥1300 to enter, you’ll find a museum which has been reconstructed recently. We didn’t go inside this time, but I guess it is amazing considering the amount of people going in and out.
If you find this landscape unreal, wait for until you see the inside of the shrine complex and lavish decorations and architectural miracle of the shrines.
Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grave is hidden at the very top, to which long and steep stairway leads, far away from the crowd and tourists.
On your way up you will pass under a beam on which a cat is seem to be sleeping. It is the most famous decoration of the entire complex, mostly because the cat doesn’t seem to be sleeping when you look at it from a slightly different angle.
You can get the talismans with the kitten at the top, and these are exclusive for Nikko, as well as the keychains and small souvenirs with the same illustration.
The view from the top is also mesmerizing, but it’s not just the landscape that makes this shrine worth visiting. I saved the best part of the story for the end. For most people who love Japanese history, Tokugawa Ieyasu marked the beginning of a period where everything we love about Japan flourished – manga, ukiyo-e and arts, but there is also a part of the story left completely out of books meant for foreigners but widely known to Japanese as the story was featured as a part of a TV program. It is about a legend behind Nikko and Tokugawa Ieyasu’s enormous hidden treasure. For Japanese speakers, I will leave the links below.
It’s one of the most famous legends about this area so it definitely worth reading.
And lastly, I’ve created a video in which I’ve tried to capture the beauty of Nikko To-shogu as I remember it, which I’ll attach below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Till next time.