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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 (320 yen one way, 500 yen day pass, covered by the Nikko Passes) from Tobu and JR Nikko Stations.

How to get to and around Nikko

Hours and Fees

Hours

9:00 to 17:00 (until 16:00 from November to March)
Admission ends 30 minutes before closing

Closed

No closing days

Admission

1300 yen (shrine), 1000 yen (museum), 2100 yen (shrine and museum)

Hotels around Nikko

Top rated in Nikko
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    • B&B Izumi Nikko
      Budget-friendly
      B&B Izumi Nikko features river views, free WiFi and free private parking, located in Nikko, 2.4 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Fitted with a balcony, the units offer air conditioning and feature a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bidet and a hairdryer. A fridge and kettle are also featured. Guests at the bed and breakfast can enjoy a ? la carte or an American breakfast. A terrace can be found at B&B Izumi Nikko, along with a garden. Kegon Falls is 18 km from the accommodation, while Rinno-ji Temple is 1.7 km away.
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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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    • Rindou No Ie
      Budget-friendly
      A 5-minute ride from Tobu Nikko Train Station on the hotelfs free shuttle, the family-run Rindou No Ie offers Japanese rooms with tatami (woven-straw) floors and futon beds. Free WiFi is available throughout. The air-conditioned rooms at Rindou No Ie Ryokan include a flat-screen TV and tea set. Bathrooms are shared. The Nikko Toshogu World Heritage Area is 2 km away. JR Nikko Train Station is 1.2 km from the hotel. Tobu Nikko Train Station is 900 metres away. On-site parking is free. A free-use internet terminal, microwave and fridge are provided in the common area. The hotelfs washer can be used free of charge, and a dryer is available for a fee.
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    • Guest House Koundo
      Budget-friendly
      Guest House Koundo offers a private accommodation in Nikko. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. All rooms have air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and a shared bathroom. For your comfort, you will find a hairdryer, slippers and towels. Free toiletries including shampoo, conditioner and body soap are provided. You will find luggage storage space at the property. There are several restaurants, cafes and convenience stores within a 5-minute walk from Guest House Koundo. Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park is a 10-minute walk from the property, while Nikko Toshogu Shrine is a 15-minute walk away. Guests can reach Kanmangafuchi Abyss in 10 minutes on foot.
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    • Midorian
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring a garden, Midorian is located within Nikko National Park. The property is around 1.5 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine, 8 km from Kegon Falls and a 16-minute walk from Futarasan Shrine. The guest house features mountain views, a terrace, and free WiFi is available throughout the property. On-site parking is available free of charge. Guest rooms in the guest house are fitted with a kettle. A shared kitchen comes with a microwave, a toaster and a fridge. At Midorian, every room comes with a shared bathroom with a hair dryer. Cycling and hiking are among the activities that guests of the accommodation can find nearby. Rinnoji Temple is 1.6 km from Midorian.
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    • Sanga Nikko
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Nikko, 2.1 km from Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Sanga Nikko provides a garden and rooms with free WiFi access. The property is set 10 km from Kegon Falls and 22 km from Nikk?-kokuritsu-k?en. Nikko Station and Tobu-Nikko Station are within a 5-minute walk from the property. On-site staff will assist guests in planning their trip. Each room is equipped with a shared bathroom. The kitchen is shared between guests. A range of activities are offered in the area, such as cycling and fishing. Rental bicycles are available for an additional fee. A supermarket is situated within a 5-minute walk from the property. This property is situated a short distance from attractions such as Rinnoji Temple and Shinkyo Bridge. Futarasan Shrine is 2.2 km from the guest house, while Chuzenji Lake is 12 km away.
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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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    • Nikkorisou Backpackers
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring free WiFi, Nikkorisou Backpackers offers accommodation in Nikko, 800 metres from Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine. Free private parking is available on site. Rooms are fitted with a shared bathroom. There is a shared kitchen at the property. The area is popular for cycling. Kegon Falls is 9 km from the property.
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