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Toshogu Shrine (Ƌ{, Tōshōgū) is a magnificent memorial to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. Ieyasu is enshrined at Toshogu as the deity Tosho Daigongen, "Great Deity of the East Shining Light". Initially a relatively simple mausoleum, Toshogu was enlarged into the spectacular complex seen today by Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu during the first half of the 17th century.

The lavishly decorated shrine complex consists of more than a dozen buildings set in a beautiful forest. Countless wood carvings and large amounts of gold leaf were used to decorate the buildings in a way not seen elsewhere in Japan, where simplicity has been traditionally stressed in shrine architecture.

Visitors may note that Toshogu contains both Shinto and Buddhist elements. It was common for places of worship to contain elements of both religions until the Meiji Period when Shinto was deliberately separated from Buddhism. Across the country, Buddhist elements were removed from shrines and vice versa, but at Toshogu the two religions were so intermingled that the separation was not carried out completely.

Among the many buildings at Toshogu, particularly notable ones include a pretty five story pagoda in front of the main entrance gate. The main pillar of the pagoda hangs ten centimeters above ground - an interesting feature installed to combat the lengthening and shrinkage of the wood over time. The interior of the pagoda is only periodically open to visitors at a separate fee.

The paid area starts at the entrance gate. Upon entering, visitors will first come across a group of ostentatiously built storehouses. Of the many colorful and elaborate wood carvings that decorate the storehouses, the most famous ones are those of the "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil" monkeys and the Sozonozo Elephants ("imagined elephants") that were carved by an artist who had never seen elephants.

Past the storehouses stands the renowned Yomeimon Gate. It is perhaps Japan's most ornate structure, giving off a grand and imposing air with its intricate decorations and architectural features.

A path to the left of Yomeimon leads to the Honjido Hall which features the "Crying Dragon". This is a large painting of a dragon on the ceiling of the hall, which is thus named because a bright ringing sound can be heard when two pieces of wood are clapped directly under its head due to the acoustics of the hall. The clapping of the wood is frequently performed to visitors by a priest.

Beyond Yomeimon is the main shrine building, which consists of the praying hall (haiden) connected to the main hall (honden) behind. The halls are dedicated the spirits of Ieyasu and two other of Japan's most influential historical personalities, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo. Visitors are allowed to enter the richly ornamented building but photographs are not allowed.

To the right of the main shrine building is the Sakashitamon Gate, whose transom bears the famous carving of the Nemurineko (sleeping cat). Sakashitamon marks the start of a long flight of stairs that leads uphill through the woods to Tokugawa Ieyasu's mausoleum. The ascent takes about five minutes, after which visitors will meet the relatively subtle and austere, yet dignified mausoleum.

Located outside the paid shrine area, the Nikko Toshogu Museum (Homotsukan) was opened in 2015 to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Tokugawa Ieyasu's death. Inside this modern building is an impressive collection of the former shogun's personal effects from armor and swords to writing utensils and letters that he wrote.

Getting there and around

Toshogu and Nikko's other shrines and temples are located a 30-40 minute walk or 10 minute bus ride (350 yen one way, 600 yen day pass, covered by the Nikko Passes) from Tobu and JR Nikko stations.

How to get to and around Nikko

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Hotels around Nikko

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    • B&B Izumi Nikko
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Nikko, 2.4 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine and 3.8 km from Tobu Nikko Station, B&B Izumi Nikko provides accommodation with free WiFi and a garden with a terrace and mountain views. Fitted with a balcony, the units offer air conditioning and feature a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet and free toiletries. A fridge and kettle are also featured. A ? la carte, American or Asian breakfast is available daily at the property. Popular points of interest near the bed and breakfast include Rinno-ji Temple, Futarasan Shrine and Nikko Jiunji Temple. The nearest airport is Ibaraki Airport, 121 km from B&B Izumi Nikko.
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    • Stay Nikko Guesthouse
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring free WiFi, Stay Nikko Guesthouse offers accommodation in Nikko. Nikko Station on the Tobu and JR lines can be reached within a 13-minute walk. Free private parking is available on site. Every room at this guest house is air conditioned and comes with a flat-screen TV. Views of the mountains, river or garden are featured in certain rooms. Guests will find a microwave, toaster and kettle on site. Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a 20-minute stroll from Stay Nikko Guesthouse, while Kegon Falls is a 50-minute bus ride from the property.
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    • sumica apartments
      Budget-friendly
      Sumica apartmens offers accommodation in Nikko, 900 metres from Nikko Toshogu Shrine and 9.3 km from Kegon Falls. The property features views of the city and is 18 km from Nikko Yumoto Hot Spring. The accommodation is only a 2-minute stroll to Shinkyo Bridge, known as the entrance to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The kitchenette is fitted with a microwave. Towels and bed linen are offered at sumica apartmens. Nikk?-kokuritsu-k?en is 22 km from sumica apartmens, while Rinnoji Temple is 600 metres from the property.
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    • Nikko Guesthouse Sumica
      Budget-friendly
      Just a 3-minute walk from JR Nikko Train Station, Guesthouse Sumica offers beds in dormitory rooms, as well as Japanese-style private rooms. It features a shared kitchen and free tea and coffee. Free Wi-Fi is provided in the whole building. The Sumica Guesthouse is a 5-minute drive from the Nikko Tosho-gu shrine, and a 30-minute drive from both Lake Chuzenji-ko and historical theme park village Edo Wonderland (Nikko Edomura). JR Nikko Train Station is a 3-minute walk away. Nikko Guesthouse Sumica is a completely non-smoking hotel. It offers luggage storage, and it has a curfew at 23:00.
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    • Nikko Akarinoyado Villa Revage
      Mid-range
      Homely rooms with mountain views, free Wi-Fi and a private bath await guests at Villa Revage, 350 metres from Nikko Botanical Garden. It is completely non-smoking, and free private parking is available on site. Rooms at Nikko Akarinoyado Villa Revage are heated and come with simple furnishings and art on the walls. An LCD satellite TV is included. Both a hairdryer and toiletries are provided. You can relax on the sun terrace, enjoy the garden or unwind in one of the private reservable baths. A Western breakfast is served at the dining room, which boasts a high ceiling and forest views. The hotel is 4 km from JR Nikko Train Station and Tobu Nikko Train Station. Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa is 800 metres away, and Nikko Toshogu Shrine is 2 km away.
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    • Asaya
      Luxury
      Boasting open-air natural spring baths that look out to the surrounding mountains, Asaya provides chic Japanese accommodation that displays flower arrangements throughout. A bus stop is located right in front of the property, and shuttle buses are available from Utsunomiya Train Station, an hour away, at an additional fee. Featuring a relaxing ambience, each room comes with a flat-screen TV, a telephone and a fridge. Asaya Hotelfs front desk is open 24 hours, and massages are available at an additional cost. Karaoke facilities and a gift shop are on site. Some of the hot spring baths can be reserved for private use for a fee. A tour to Edo Wonderland can be arranged upon request. The hotel is a 13-minute walk from Kinugawa Koen Train Station. Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a 40-minute drive away, and Edo Wonderland Nikko theme park is a 10-minute drive from the property. A buffet is served at one of the on-site restaurants. The dinner buffet serves about 80 various dishes ranging from Chinese, Japanese and Western meals, while the breakfast buffet provides about 60 variations, mainly Japanese and Western dishes.
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    • Turtle Inn Nikko
      Budget-friendly
      Just 1 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Turtle Inn Nikko offers value-for-money accommodation with river views. Hot spring baths are available and breakfast is offered. Nikko Turtle Inn offers easy access to the historical temples and beautiful nature of the Nikko area. Chuzenji-ko Lake and Kegon-no-taki Waterfall are a 40-minute bus ride away. The Nikko temples are less than a 15-minute walk away. The cosy rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs. Guests can fall asleep to the calming sound of the Daiya River. Staff at Nikko Inn Turtle speak English and are always happy to help with sightseeing or other requests. Breakfast are served in the dining room and require an extra fee. Breakfast includes eggs, fruit and bread.
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    • Annex Turtle Hotori-An
      Budget-friendly
      About a 20-minute walk from the Nikko shrines, Annex Turtle Hotori-An is situated next to the Daiya river and green forests. It features hot spring baths with river views. Only 1.5 km from the Toshogu and Futarasan shrines at Nikko, Hotori-An Turtle Annex Hotel also offers easy access to local hiking trails. A 40-minute drive brings guests to historical theme park Nikko Edomura. The Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven straw) floors and traditional futon beds. Each room includes a private bathroom. Turtle Annex Hotori-An features a gallery showing local Mashiko-yaki pottery. English-speaking staff are available to help with sightseeing. Breakfast features fruit, eggs and bread. Property staff can recommend nearby dinner options upon check-in.
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    • Nikko Senhime Monogatari
      Luxury
      Guests can enjoy soaking in the indoor and outdoor public hot-spring baths at Nikko Senhime Monogatari. Massages can be requested and a sauna room is available for an extra relaxation. A free shuttle is available from JR Nikko Train Station and Tobu Nikko Train Station, which is a 5-minute drive away. Free Wi-Fi is available in the public areas. The air-conditioned rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. A flat-screen TV, a fridge and an electric kettle with green tea bags are included in each. A safety deposit box is provided and the en suite bathroom comes with a hairdryer. Guests can purchase local products at the gift shop. Travel assistance is provided at the tour desk and photocopying services are available at the front desk. A traditional multi-course meal is served for dinner, and Japanese-style meal is served for breakfast. All meals are served at the dining room. Monogatari Senhime Nikko is a 10-minute walk from Nikko Toshogu Shrine and a 25-minute drive from Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji.
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    • Fairfield by Marriott Tochigi Nikko
      Mid-range
      Set in Nikko, within 1.6 km of Tobu Nikko Station and 2 km of Nikko Station, Fairfield by Marriott Tochigi Nikko offers accommodation with a terrace and as well as free private parking for guests who drive. With a shared lounge, the 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is non-smoking and is situated 2.4 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine. All guest rooms at the hotel come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a safety deposit box. Fairfield by Marriott Tochigi Nikko can conveniently provide information at the reception to help guests to get around the area. Kegon Falls is 20 km from the accommodation, while Rinno-ji Temple is 2.7 km from the property. The nearest airport is Ibaraki Airport, 119 km from Fairfield by Marriott Tochigi Nikko.
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