Toshogu was built as a shrine and mausoleum to deify Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868). The main hall of Toshogu was first built in 1617, but 20 years later it underwent a major renovation which has become the splendid group of buildings that remains today set in the forest. Toshogu is very famous for being highly colourful and intricately decorated and much of it is covered with 2.5 million sheets of gold leaf. Copper from a nearby mine was also abundantly used in the construction, particularly as material for most of the roofs.
The architecture appears to be Chinese and is a baroque version of the Muromachi period which was know for its decorative detail. The Eight buildings in the compound have been designated National Treasures. In addition, the 37 km route extending from Nikko City ot Nikko Toshogu is called “Nikko Suginamiki” because it is lined with 15,000 Japanese cypress trees planted in the 17th century. This route is designated a Natural Monument.