Nikko
Nikko_UpperLevel


The pinnacle of Japanese shrine architecture, Nikko’s construction employed
4.5 million artists and craftsmen for 17 months and cost the equivalent of 40 billion yen.
It enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun and one of Japan’s three great unifiers.

As the Nikko Section contains over 100 highly-detailed images, I have split
the section into three pages. This first page covers the entrance area and the
Lower Level. The second page covers the Yomeimon Gate and the Tozai Kairo
including the Tozai Kairo’s ornate exterior nature panels. The third page covers the
Upper Level, including the Honsha (central shrine) and Okusha (inner shrine).
I have provided a hyperlinked index to the entire three-page section on
each page, so you can navigate to any part of Nikko if you want to.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.
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Nikko Section Index

— Links are grouped by pages —

The Entrance
The Tale of the Three Monkeys
The Lower Level


 

The Yomeimon Gate
Tozai Kairo (Colonnade)
Tozai Kairo exterior panels

The Upper Level
Honsha (central shrine)
Okusha (innermost shrine)
 

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Nikko Toshogu Shrine is in the following Galleries (Direct Link) —

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Lower Level

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Honsha and Okusha

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Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Two hours northeast of Tokyo by train, in the Cryptomeria forests around Mt. Nantai, lies Nikko, the site
of the premiere Toshogu Shrine and Ieyasu Tokugawa’s tomb.  This magnificent architecture blends
with the forest to create a visual and spiritual impression that is awe-inspiring and truly memorable.
Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine represents the pinnacle of Japanese Shrine architecture. Below you will
find a very comprehensive set of images of the Toshogu Shrine. I’ve tried to cover it completely.

 

There’s a saying in Japan:

 

“See Nikko before you die”.

 

It cost the equivalent of 40 billion yen in today’s currency to build... that’s a $333 million shrine. ( ! )
4.5 million people worked on the shrine for 17 months to complete the construction. The very finest
of Japan’s artists and sculptors (especially sculptors), and the best craftsmen were on the project.

 

Nikko is an amazing place.
I tried to cover it completely.
The most extensive section
of the Japan portfolio, I have
used more wide thumbnails
than usual. The buildings and
decorations are very detailed
and quite ornate, extensively
sculpted and painted, and the
location in a forest adds detail
due to the fine needles. This is
an unbelievably detailed place.

 

Because of all the needles
and detailed sculpturing of
the buildings, file sizes can
grow larger. I used more of
the wide thumbnails so that
enough detail is exhibited in
display images and to allow
easier decisions on which of
the larger images to open.  I
guarantee you’ll find it worth
the time to open many of the
 large versions of these shots.

 


The Upper Level
Shinyosha, Mikoshi, Kaguraden, Kitouden, Honsha, Okusha

Nikko_Shinyosha_Kairo_8597


Nikko Shinyosha Kairo 8597

On the left, a part of the interior of the Kairo which
houses stacked barrels of sake donated to the
Toshogu shrine. On the right is the Shinyosha,
just to the left of the Yomeimon as you enter.

Nikko_Shinyosha_8621


Nikko Shinyosha 8621

The Shinyosha houses the Mikoshi palanquins
(also called portable shrines), which are used
to carry the deities in the Togyosai Festival.

Nikko_ShinyoshaMikoshi_8187


Nikko Shinyosha Mikoshi 8187

Nikko_ShinyoshaMikoshi_8190


Nikko Shinyosha Mikoshi 8190

The kanji for Mikoshi is also read Shinyo, which is the origin of the name Shinyosha.

These are the Mikoshi, sacred palanquins (or portable shrines) used to carry the deities to
the Futarasan shrine during the Togyosai Festival which reenacts the ceremony during which
the deified spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu was moved from the initial place of enshrinement at Mt. Kuno
to the Nikko Toshogu shrine in 1617. The 1000-person procession takes place every May 17-18.

The central and right Mikoshis have a Hou-ou (Phoenix) mounted on the roof.

The central Mikoshi carries the deified spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu,
the right carries the spirit of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the left carries the
 spirit of Minamoto no Yoritomo. Minamoto no Yoritomo was the founder and
first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate (1192-1333), ruling Japan from 1192-99.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi completed Oda Nobunaga’s quest to end the Sengoku
(Warring States) period and unify Japan in 1590 (see the Castles page).

The Mikoshi weigh 800kg each (the originals weighed 1120kg, but were replaced with
these when the originals were deemed too heavy for modern people). 55 people
carry each Mikoshi in the procession (each person carries 32 pounds).

Shinyosha_Tennyo_8631


Shinyosha Tennyo 8631
(2000 x 800, 408kb)

Tennyo (Heavenly Maidens, Flying Apsaras, servants of the Deva)
dancing and playing musical instruments on the ceiling of the Shinyosha.

Painting by Kano Tanyu (1620s).

Nikko_Kaguraden_Kitouden_8586


Nikko Kaguraden Kitouden 8586

On the right side of the Yomeimon gate, opposite the Shinyosha, are the Kaguraden (right)
and the Kitouden. The Kaguraden is a stage on which The Yaotome maidens perform
court dances during the Spring Festival, coming to Toshogu from Futarasan shrine.

The Kitouden is the prayer hall (called the Kamishamusho since the Meiji
government separated Buddhist temples from the Shinto shrines).
Meiji allowed the Kitouden to remain at Nikko Toshogu shrine.
Kamishamusho means upper office, a euphemistic name
used to satisfy the letter of Meiji’s law and keep the hall.

Kamishamusho_detail_8275


Kamishamusho detail 8275

Two detail shots of the Kamishamusho

The shots in the Tozai Kairo section showing
a priest performing the services were taken
through the opening between the pillars in
shot 8586, directly above. The shot to the
left shows the right side relative to the
perspective in shot 8586. The roof
detail shot below is of the right
corner of the roof facing us
in shot 8586, and the
detail crop below
is from the
rear.


It is
normally
very difficult
to shoot one of
the services in the
Kamishamusho, as they
are held just after the shrine
opens in the morning. I had to
convince the monk at the gate to
let me in early, then scoot up to the
second level (shooting some on the
way) to make it on time. I had to try to
take a few shots, because normally a
few hundred people are milling about,
and as you noticed I try to get my shots
with as few people as possible. Tricky.

Nikko is generally swarmed with people, who tend to move in herds in temples and shrines.
There is often just a second or two when you can get a clear shot of something from a distance,
and you often have to wait a while to shoot it, as the herd moseys in close for their examination of
your intended subject. The timing of each of these images at Nikko is therefore critical, and you
only get one chance. Of course, roof line shots are much easier, as unlike Chinese Kung-Fu
films, the people do very little floating around. Still, this is one reason why I was pleased
to have been successful at convincing the monk at the gate to let me in a few minutes
early the morning I took the Kamishamusho service shots. By rapidly getting shots
and moving on, I maintained my few minute lead on the herd and did not have to
wait at all to take shots, at least until after I got the Kamishamusho service, as
I was there for quite a while and the people caught up to me. It was worth it.

Kamishamusho_detail_8211


Kamishamusho detail 8211

Note the dragon above the pillar on the left.

Return to the Index at the top of this page

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Nikko Toshogu Shrine is in the following Galleries (Direct Link) —

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Lower Level

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Honsha and Okusha

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Honsha
(central shrine)

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_8591


Nikko Toshogu Honden 8591

This is the Honden (Main Hall) of the Honsha (central shrine), built in the Gongen-zukuri
style (Gongen is the divine name for Ieyasu). To the left is the Honden Karamon Gate.
The Haiden Oratory (constructed identically but reversed) is to the right out of picture.

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_8755


Nikko Toshogu Honden 8755

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_8758


Nikko Toshogu Honden 8758
Below are a series of detail shots

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_detail_8284


Nikko Toshogu Honden detail 8284

The Gongen-zukuri style has the Honden and Haiden linked in an H-shape
by a central, stone-floored chamber called the Ishinoma. This style influenced
the architectural style of mausoleums and shrine buildings that followed after the
construction of the Nikko Toshogu shrine. The Nikko Toshogu shrine is considered
the pinnacle of Japanese shrine architecture and defines the character of shrines.

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_detail_0013


Nikko Toshogu Honden detail 0013

This is the Karamon Gate to the Honden, details of which will be shown further below.

Nikko_ToshoguHonden_detail_0016


Nikko Toshogu Honden detail 0016

Detail of the Chidori Hafu (dormer gable) on the Honden.

Nikko_ToshoguHaiden_8626


Nikko Toshogu Haiden 8626

This is the Haiden (the Oratory, used for worship of the enshrined deity).
The Honden and Haiden are connected by the Ishinoma (stone floored chamber)
at the rear and between the two buildings. The roofed walls with lattice windows and
openwork reliefs enclosing the Honden and Haiden are called the Tozai Sukibe.

Nikko_ToshoguHaiden_8195c


Nikko Toshogu Haiden 8195c

This oblique shows the Haiden Karamon gate with the imaginary ”lion”
above the main Kara Hafu, and the dragon over the side Kara Hafu.
(Kara Hafu are Chinese-style arched gables). Detail of the Karamon
gate and the imaginary beasts are shown two images below (8177).

NikkoHonden_TozaiSukibe_8284


Honden Tozai Sukibe 8284

Detail crop showing the transom openwork reliefs and lattice
windows of the Tozai Sukibe to the right of the Honden Main Hall.

NikkoHaiden_KaramonGate_detail_8177


Honden Karamon Gate detail 8177

A frontal shot (telephoto, from distance) shows the upper detail of the Honden Karamon
gate reliefs and a head-on view of the ”lion”, along with a profile of the right dragon.

Nikko_KaramonGate_8609


Nikko Karamon Gate 8609

A frontal view of the Honden Karamon gate, with a Miko (Shrine Maiden) sweeping up.

Nikko_KaramonGate_detail_8604


Nikko Karamon Gate detail 8604

Detail of the Karamon Gate, a National Treasure. Painted in white powder, the 27
sculptures of people depict a Chinese legend “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove”.
Below is a 2203 x 650 detail crop of the sculptures illustrating the tale of the Seven Sages.

Nikko_KaramonGate_detail_8641


Nikko Karamon Gate detail 8641

A 2203 x 650 detail crop of the relief showing “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove”.

Return to the Index at the top of this page

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Nikko Toshogu Shrine is in the following Galleries (Direct Link) —

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Lower Level

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Honsha and Okusha

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Okusha
(innermost shrine, with the tomb of Ieyasu)

Nikko_NemuriNeko_8216


Nikko Nemuri Neko 8216

Carved by Hidari Jingoro, this is the famous Nemuri Neko (Sleeping Cat).

Nemuri Neko is above the Kugurimon (pass-through), the last beam of the Higashi-Kairo
(east corridor), just before you reach the Sakashitamon, the gate to the Okusha (inner shrine).

Below is his carving of the sparrows. As long as the cat sleeps, the two can coexist.
The cat symbolizes the feudal warriors and sleep symbolizes peace. It refers to the fact
that the nationwide chaos of the Sengoku (Warring States) period was finally ended
by the efforts of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokogawa Ieyasu.
As long as the feudal warriors “sleep”, a peaceful society can flourish.

Nikko_OkushaSparrows_8223


Nikko Sparrow 8223

Hidari Jingoro’s sparrows on the reverse (inner) side
of the Kugurimon beam at the end of the Higashi-Kairo.

Sakashitamon_rear_8749


Sakashitamon rear 8749

This is the Sakashitamon, shot from the steps above it
that lead up to the Okusha. You can see just on the other
side of the Sakashitamon, on the left, is a vermilion pillar.
That pillar supports the Kugurimon (pass-through) beam.
On that beam are the Nemuri Neko and the Sparrows.

Sakashitamon_rear_8749c


Sakashitamon rear 8749c

1350 x 1080 detail crop (master image resized to 90%).

Nikko_StoneSteps_Okusha_8702


Nikko Stone Steps Okusha 8702

Just beyond the Sakashitamon begins the long, steep trek to the Okusha.
The steps are monolithic granite, and there are quite a lot of them.

Nikko_StoneSteps_Okusha_8706


Nikko Stone Steps Okusha 8706

The steps and concrete path ascend through the Cryptomeria forest to the inner shrine.

Nikko_StoneSteps_Okusha_8708


Nikko Stone Steps Okusha 8708

Just two more flights of stairs now...

Nikko_StoneSteps_Okusha_8711


Nikko Stone Steps Okusha 8711

This is the last leg of the ascent.

Nikko_Okusha_DouTorii_8715


Nikko Okusha Dou Torii 8715

You don’t mind if I create a little drama and anticipation here, do you?

Nikko_Okusha_DouTorii_8719


Nikko Okusha Dou Torii 8719

Copper Torii gate at the top leads to the inner shrine and the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Nikko_Okusha_Haiden_8746


Nikko Okusha Haiden 8746

Nikko_OkushaHaiden_detail_8233


Nikko Okusha Haiden detail 8233

The oratory of the inner shrine, where the deity is worshiped. The exterior is covered with brass plate
and sheet copper, and painted with black lacquer. The three hollyhock kamon (family crest of the Matsudaira
and Tokugawa) are displayed all over the building’s exterior. The interior is trimmed with gold leaf and pillars
are decorated with gold foil (note the inside of the door). The Okusha Haiden was built between 1636-1641.
 

Nikko_Inukimon_Koma-inu_8727


Inukimon Gate Okusha 8727

The formal gate to the central shrine where the Okusha resides. The pillars and crossbar
were cast as a single piece. Two very elegant Koma-inu (Lion-dogs) stand in front of the
gate, and the gate is flanked by imaginary “Shin”, a spiritual dragon-like animal that eats
the spirit and exhales it as fire. The Shin can be seen above the Koma-inu. Built in 1650.

Nikko_Inukimon_Koma-inu_8230


Nikko Inukimon Koma-inu 8230

The pillars and beams were cast in a single mold, thus the name (Inukimon = Molded Gate).

Nikko_OkushaHoto_8246c


Nikko Okusha Hoto 8246c

The Hoto (or houtou) is translated as a Treasure Pagoda. It is the name for pagodas
associated with the Buddhist deity Tahou Nyorai. In the early Heian period (9th c.), the
esoteric Buddhist sects Shingon and Tendai were introduced to Japan. One of the legends
of these sects is that Shaka (Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha) was one day expounding the
Lotus Sutra when the Buddhist deity Tahou Nyorai, moved by Shaka’s show of devotion and
respect, caused a pagoda to appear in which he sat and permitted Shaka to sit with him.

The body of the hoto rests on a lotus flower. The stone foundation is sloped to drain outwards,
to keep the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu dry, and the joints of the stone blocks are sealed with
lead to block penetration of rainwater. The roof is peaked with a finial, from which emanate stems
that end in bud-like shapes. The finial is crowned with a ball-shaped sacred jewel emanating flames.
The kaen hoju (flaming sacred jewel) has the power to repel evil, cleanse corruption and grant wishes.

Nikko_OkushaHoto_8246


Nikko Okusha Hoto 8246

Most hoto are made of stone. The Okusha Hoto
 was originally a wooden building when it was first
constructed in 1622. It was rebuilt in stone in 1641.
The current Hoto is made of a bronze alloy, built in
  1683 when an earthquake destroyed the stone Hoto.
5 meters high, the Hoto stands on eight stone layers.

Nikko_OkushaHoto_8740


Okusha Hoto 8740

The Tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first
Tokugawa Shogun and one of three unifiers
of Japan. Along with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he
ended the Sengoku (Warring States) period
that lasted over 130 years, and established
a Shogunate that lasted for over 250 years.

Nikko_OkushaHoto_8250


Nikko Okusha Hoto 8250

Nikko_OkushaHoto_Offerings_8240


Nikko Okusha Hoto Offerings 8240

The vase, incense burner and candlestick in the shape of
a crane were a gift from the King of Korea to honor Ieyasu.

Nikko_OkushaHoto_8245


Nikko Okusha Hoto 8245

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) was the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate,
which began after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and lasted until the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
Ieyasu was posthumously enshrined at Nikko Toshogu Shrine and is buried in the Okusha Hoto.

Ieyasu was enshrined with the name Tosho Daigongen, thus the shrine name “Tosho-gu”.

Nikko_LowerLevel


Click banner above to go to the Nikko 1 page.

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Click banner above to go to the Nikko 2 page.

Return to the Index at the top of this page

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Japan Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


There are 21 Galleries in the Photoshelter Japan Collection
— Nikko Toshogu Shrine is in the following Galleries (Direct Link) —

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Lower Level

Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Honsha and Okusha

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Shrines

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