Nikko - Day Trip, Tokyo
On the way to National Park Nikko to see Rin-No-Ji Temples we stop for a moment to take photos of the vermillion lacquered bridge. The sacred Shinkyo Bridge looks down over the clear water of the Daiya River. The bridge is the gateway to the shrines and temples. It was built in 1636 during Shogun Tokugawa era, he ruled Japan for three centuries.
According to ancient legend, Shodo- shonin crossed this bridge in the Nara period protected by the virtues of Jinjyao. In feudal times, the sacred bridge could be used only by the emperor.
The bridge is a member of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
Sanbutsu-do is the largest temple in Nikko; it was built by Jikaku-daishi by order of Emperor Ninmei. The building architecture is representing the Tendai sect.
Inside there are three wooden statues, Thousand handed Kwannon, Amidha Buddha and Horse headed Kwannon. The three are the objects of worship at Sanbutsu-do.
Sorinto Pillar was built in 1643 by Jigen-daishi at the request of Shogun Iyemitsu.
The fifteen metres high bronze pillar kept the evil spirits away, and also the symbol of world peace which purifies the back demons gate of Toshogu Shrine.
Gojunoto Five Storied Pagoda, this pagoda originally had Five Wisdom Buddha enshrined and was donated by feudal lord Tadakatsu Sakai in 1650. The pagoda was destroyed in 1815 and rebuilt by his family in 1819. It is thirty four meters high and painted Indian red lacquered.
Three Monkeys are very important as they represent seeing no evil, speaking no evil and hearing no evil. There are parts of carvings on the lintels of the sacred table and they are derived from the three major principles of the Tendai sect.
The Niomon Gate is the entrance to Taiyuin-byo Shrine. The two statues on the side of the gate are the guardians of the temples, Misshaku Kongo and Naraen Kongo.
The photo shows on of the guardians of the temple mouth is close and one is open. The one who has its mouth open, representing the beginning of the universe. The other has its mouth closed, representing the end of the universe.
The purpose of Syoro Bell is to announce time. Every hour a person in a blue outfit hit the bell by swinging a long wooden pole. The people who pull the thick rope to make the wooden pole swing in pendulum motion need to be strong. (see photo)
There are three Sacred Warehouses (Kamijinko, Shimojinko and Nakajinko).
At Kamijinko warehouse you will see two imagery elephants on the gable. Tanya Kano the chief painter had never seen an elephant, he imagine the whole things.
I am not sure what they stored at the sacred warehouse, maybe war equipments like Samurai fighting gear, archery equipment, and rice?
The cedar forest of Nikko is not only renowned for its natural beauty, but also for its historical significance. The cedar trees were planted here more than 350 years ago and they line both sides of what is called the Cryptomeria Avenue, that leads from the vermillion painted Sacred (Shin-kyo) Bridge, just outside Nikko Town to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine Complex.
Amazingly, more than 13,000 of the orginal cedar trees which were planted in the early days of Nikko's beginnings, are still standing till this day. At midmorning, when the tops of the cedar trees catch the sunlight, the view is remarkably beautiful and picturesque. During cold winters, they take on a different look when snow falls on the cedar branches.
One of the sights NOT TO BE MISSED if you can spare a day out of Tokyo.
If you read the history of Japan, the name Tokugawa Ieyasu will crop up again and again. He was a great military strategist who unified Japan and begin what would become the most powerful shogunate, the Tokugawa Shogunate, that ruled for over 250 years.
Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined at the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko in 1616. The shrine was built by the third Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu's grandson, and completed in 1636.
Designated in 1999 as a World Heritage Site, it is among the national treasures of Japan.
After some extensive research on how to get to Nikko, I decided to book a day tour. I used a company called JTB Sunrise Tours which I booked through the internet. While we would have undoubtedly spent less money if we had taken the local trains, I was not confident of finding the right connections and the journey would have been longer (apart from the bullet trains, but those are rather expensive)
No regrets! The tour company arranged a pick up service from our hotel at Shinjuku according to the stated schedule, which dropped us off at the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal near the World Trade Center.
Thereafter, the coach ride to Nikko was around 2.5 hours (inclusive of the toilet break). This being a popular tour, the coach was full!
The tour guide was very helpful, and explained the history and culture well, and she also took the time to explain about the food being served for lunch. I was impressed!
Besides the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko, the tour also included the Irohazaka zigzag driveway up the mountains, lunch at the Lake Chuzen area (tip & pics below) and the Kegon Waterfalls.
If you want to know more about this lovely place, please have a look at my Nikko pages.
The picture shows a Middle Eastern family at the car park area of the Toshogu Shrine.
The tour that we were on had a stop here for lunch. The area around the lake is really beautiful.
It was very cold the day that we were there, but I enjoyed the cold weather! I felt so lucky, because due to cold weather (colder than Tokyo city) the lake side was awash in colours of light pink and white, with late cherry blossoms still out in bloom.
There were indeed many photo taking opportunities that are found only in Japan. I have put in more photos in my Nikko Travellogue.
Nearby to this lake is the famous Kegon Waterfall. There is also a museum and swan paddle boat rides.
Nikko is one of the destinations in Japan that in any case should not be missed. It belongs to the World heritage and besides Kyoto and Nara it is the grandest accumulation of temples and shrines in Japan. The most important Shrine is Tôshôgu because of its magnificently carved gate Yomeimon and the world's most famous carving of the 3 apes that don't perceive any bad thing. But there is also the the Rinnoji Temple, the Futarasan Shrine and Saiyuinbyo that I can recommend. Especially the Daiyuinbyo is great and lots of tourist and Japanese forget about it.
But Nikko offers lots more. For example, the Chûzenji Lake area with its many waterfalls that is especially beautiful during autumn. Outstanding are the Kegon Falls, number 2 in Japan.
And try hard to get to see the manny wild apes that inhabit the mountains and who stroll around the towns, steal from the shops and are anything else than shy.
Tobu Railways offers various rail passes for visiting Nikko from Tokyo. It is a 2-hour trip. All of them include a round trip to Nikko, unlimited travel in a given "free area" and discounts at selected tourist facilities and souvenir shops:
For foreigners only:
The World Heritage Pass includes the round trip from Tokyo, admission to Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine and Rinnoji Temple, and unlimited travel on buses in central Nikko and on trains between Nikko and the Kinugawa hot spring area. The pass is valid on two consecutive days.
The All Nikko Pass includes the round trip from Tokyo and unlimited travel on buses from central Nikko to Okunikko and on trains to the Kinugawa hot spring area. The pass is valid on four consecutive days.
Also there are 1-day organized bus tours. I used this one and despite the fact that it poured rain all day, had a marvelous trip! They even provided large umbrellas :)
The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko was built for Tokugawa Ieyasu after his death. It contains the mausoleum of Ieyasu who is one of the most important figures in Japanese history, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that lasted for over 250 years until 1867. The Toshogu Shrine is very famous for its colorful and sumptuously decorated buildings rather untypical for Shinto shrines.