Travel Guide for Nikko Toshogu Shrine: Five structures at Toshogu are categorised as National Treasures of Japan, and three more as Important Cultural Properties.
Most of the shrines and temples were built between 1617 to 1636 within 20 years after the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Toshogu Shrine not only enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu, his grave was also moved here.
The shrine is in harmony with the surrounding nature and there are many historic structures. Roads and stone steps, walls and towers are carefully designed and their placement required great care. Many shrines and structures, like the great gates, have detailed and intricate carvings with bright colours. Besides being great works of art, they also have show a great expression of historical, religious and spiritual consciousness.
Stone gate - Built in 1618 by Kuroda Nagamasa. All the stones were hand carted from Kyushu.
Goju no To (五重塔)
Five storied pagoda - Built in 1648 by Sakai Tadakatsu, and reconstructed in 1818.
Omote Mon (表門)
Entrance gate - it is also called Nio mon gate because of the two Nio statues at either side.
Three sacred storehouses - here are stored many weapons, important religious accessories, art works, and clothes for the festival of this Toshogu in Spring and Autumn.
Shinkyusha and Sanzaru (神厩舎・三猿)
Sacred stables and the famous Three Wise Monkeys (san'en) - here is stored a sacred cart for the matsuri (festival). On the wall are the carvings representing the Three Wise Monkeys which are famous the world over. Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru - "don't see evil, don't hear evil, don't speak evil" which comes from the teachings of Buddhism and refers to the correct thoughts, speech and actions of man.
Ritual hand washing place - built in 1618 by Nabeshima Katsushige.
Yomei mon (陽明門)
Main gate - National Treasure of Japan also known as Higurashi no mon or the Sunset gate, because people spend an entire day watching this great art work. There are over 500 carvings. It was named after the main gate of the Imperial palace in Kyoto.
The walls of Yomeimon - National Treasures of Japan. There are many carving including the biggest phoenix carving in Japan. All of the carvings were carved on one single plate of wood which required high carving technique called "sukashi bori."
The gate of the main shrine - National Treasure of Japan. It is all painted white, and has many colourfully painted carvings.
Main shrine - National Treasure of Japan. The most important place in Nikko Toshogu. There is a sacred room, stone room, and worship room. Many important religious ceremonies are held in here.
Omikoshi storage - there are three Omikoshi for the Shinto matsuri (festivals). One for Minamoto no Yoritomo, one for Toyotomin Hideyoshi and one for Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Ritual shrine - weddings and Miyamairi (the traditional Shinto rite of passage for new-borns) take place here.
Nemuri neko (眠り猫)
Sleeping cat - National Treasure of Japan. Carved by Hidari Jingoro. It is a detailed and realistic carving of a cat sleeping under the sun. Nikko's kanji literary means "sun" and "light." So, this cat has become the symbol of Nikko.
Hidden or secret shrine - this is the inner most shrine for paying one's respects to Tokugawa Ieyasu. There is the Inuki mon gate and tower. The area holds the reliquary of Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the Edo period (1603 to 1868), only Shogun were allowed to worship at this shrine.