A Day in and around Nikko

Leaving Asakusa Station at 9:00AM, we’ll make our way north to Nikko Toshugo Shrine and Temple including the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who unified Japan in the late 16th century.

The region around the temple complex was founded as a shrine in about the mid-700s. Founded by Shodo Shonin, a monk from Moka City, he worshipped the rivers and mountains in the area and dedicated the original shrine to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. This version of Buddhism came from China and was referred to as “Pure-Land” Buddhism. The current temple, Nikko-zan Rinno-ji, has elements of the original temple built in the 700s.

As we exit the train station in Nikko, we’ll head to the ticket office, purchase full passes for the area, and then walk the grounds of the Park. Keep in mind that today, we’ll be walking a lot, up and down paved pathways and through the giant cedars into the heart of the mountain.

As we walk along the trails, I’ll talk about the history of these places and the cultural significance of the complex and the deep connections between Japanese culture and nature. We’ll touch on ideas from both Shinto and Buddhist thought, and I’ll help you see the differences between Temple and Shrines.

As we walk through the park, you will see many small shrines and temples constructed by monks and various Buddhist sects. The area became famous mainly because of the choice of Tokugawa Ieyasu to make this area his official burial site. After unifying the country under the rule of the Shoguns in Edo, the Tokugawa decided on Nikko to be their resting place.

Chosen because it was considered true north from Edo Castle, Tokugawa Ieyasu believed that he might become a semi-divine kami that inhabited the area near the North star. Ultimately, the goal for the Tokugawa was to establish lasting peace in Japan and the founding of the temple complex by the family was their attempt at ensuring such a peaceful society.

As we wander we’ll see many sites AND we’ll focus on Toshogo Shrine, Rinno-ji Temple, and Futarasan Jinja Shrine. We’ll also walk through the Shoyo-en Garden and the Toshugo Museum.

Once we have a little lunch, we’ll walk the Daiya River toward the waterfalls that course through this small canyon. Once we’ve had our fill of waterfalls and nature, we’ll wander back to Nikko town to the train station and head back to Tokyo!

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