The next trip was to Nikko and Mashiko. My youngest son and girlfriend had also arrived in Japan. The next day we left right away because for the Japanese this is a big holiday time too. A lot of places are closed and you have to check everything well before you go somewhere.
Over 1200 years ago, the Buddhist priest Shodo Shonin founded the first temple at Nikko in 766. In the 17th century it was renamed Rinno-ji.
Behind it is the Shoyo-en, a lovely Edo-style stroll garden carefully landscaped for interest in all seasons. Its path meanders around a large pond, over stone bridges, and past mossy stone lanterns.
Centuries later, Nikko was a renowned Buddhist-Shinto religious center, and the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu chose it for the site of his mausoleum.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) was a strategist and master politician who founded the dynasty that would rule Japan for over 250 years. He built his capital at the swampy village of Edo (now Tokyo) and his rule saw the start of the flowering of Edo culture.
When his grandson Iemitsu had Ieyasu’s shrine-mausoleum Tosho-gu built in 1634, he wanted to impress upon any rivals the wealth and might of the Tokugawa clan. Since then, Nikko, written with characters that mean sunlight, has become a Japanese byword for splendor. So, for two years some 15,000 artisans from all over Japan worked, building, carving, gilding, painting and lacquering, to create this flowery, gorgeous Momoyama-style complex.
Donated by a feudal lord in 1650, this five-story pagoda was rebuilt in 1818 after a fire. Each story represents an element: earth, water, fire, wind, and heaven, in ascending order.
One of the three sacred storehouses which are built according to a traditional design surrounded by stone lanterns.
The Yomei-mon gate and the Bell tower to the right on the shrine’s grounds.
The three Ligtenberg “Wise” Monkeys.
The stable of the shrine’s sacred horses bears a carving of the three wise monkeys, who hear, speak and see no evil, a traditional symbol in Chinese and Japanese culture.
The concept of the three monkeys originated from a word play. The saying in Japanese is “mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru“, and saru meaning monkey. Today “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is commonly used to describe someone who doesn’t want to be involved in a situation, or someone willfully turning a blind eye to the immorality of an act in which they are involved.
The elaborated decorated carved and painted wall around the sanctuary.
The Yomei-mon Gate to the inner sanctuary has one of its 12 colums carved uoside-down, a deliberate imperfection to avoid angering jealous spirits. It was a cloudy day and it had snowed, so, the colors don’t come out that much. It is beautiful and splendid.
Finally, after another flight of long, steep stone stairs, you arrive at the upper sanctuary, where Ieyasu’s treasure tower contains his ashes.