Region
Kanto
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Utsunomiya
Population
2,004,787

Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Nikko's star attraction.

This elaborate shrine complex reached full completion in 1636 and is the final resting place of the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. You can visit the legendary leader’s remains here, but it’s really the ornate, colorful buildings set against a deep-green forested backdrop that steal the Japan-is-incredibly-gorgeous show.

The shrine’s precinct consists of 55 buildings set in a poetic mist-laden forest. Grown from a single mausoleum, the complex is estimated to have cost the modern equivalent of 40 billion yen and required the manpower of over 400,000 carpenters, over the course of 17 months.

Nikko, Tochigi, Japan - May 05, 2009: Three Wise Monkeys (Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil). Famous wooden carving above the gate to the sacred stables at the Toshogu sanctuary in Nikko.

The Three Wise Monkeys are Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru, and can be found at the top of one of the storehouses in front of the entrance.

One of the stunning features of this shrine are the decorative wood carvings, once lavishly embellished with gold leaf, that adorn the gates and exterior walls of countless buildings.

What do the monkeys mean?

Decorative motifs include the alluring Sozonozo elephants – “imagined elephants” that were intricately carved by an artist who never laid eyes on these gentle giants, as well as the famous trio of monkeys: see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.

The two-story Yomeimon Gate, a designated national treasure otherwise known as Sunlight Gate, exhibits an astonishing collection of 500 wood carvings. Once you pass through this symbolic gate of Toshogu, another famous animal ornamentation awaits; that of the Sleeping Cat curled at the top of Sakashita-mon Gate.

Keep your eyes peeled, as these wooden sculptures are as beautiful as they are small.

Nikko, Japan - November 11, 2012: Shinto priests ascend stairs at Toshogu shrine. The shrine holds the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

The Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan for over 250 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Once you’re at the foot of Sakashita-mon Gate, get ready to climb a flight of 207 stone steps within the tranquil forest backdrop until you reach the tomb of Ieyasu. While the climb may seem daunting, Nikko’s stunning natural surroundings make the trek to the tomb more than worth it.

Trivia

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

The story represents the cycle of human experience

More

Things To Know

Hours and fees

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 4 p.m. November – March); ¥1,300

Toshogu Shrine Renovations

From 2007 to 2024, some of the buildings in the Toshogu Shrine complex are undergoing renovation.

How To Get There

Address

2301 Sannai, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431, Japan

By train

Tobu Railways provides a direct route to Nikko from Tokyo (from Asakusa Station it takes about 2 hours). Upon arrival at Tobu-Nikko Station, you can choose to walk to Toshogu Shrine (approx. 25 minutes) or take a bus from the Bus Depot located in front of the station (approx. 10 minutes). Get off at “Shinkyo” bus stop.

Where To Stay

Hotel Seikoen
  • Sannai 2350 Nikko-Shi, Tochigi 321-1431
  • 8.5/10
  • 0.4 km
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Nikko Tokanso
  • Sannai 2335 Nikko-Shi, Tochigi 321-1431
  • 7.9/10
  • 0.4 km
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Hotel Harumoto
  • Yasukawa 5-13 Nikko-Shi, Tochigi 321-1432
  • 7.4/10
  • 0.5 km
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Nikko Senhime Monogatari
  • Yasukawa-cho 6-48 Nikko-Shi, Tochigi 321-1432
  • 9/10
  • 0.6 km
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