27th February: Nikko – Tosho-gu


Not far from Taiyuin-byo is Tosho-gu.  This is the shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun.  It was greatly expanded from the “small shrine” he requested to the grand complex you see today by his grandson Iemitsu.  The first two images (above) are painted carvings from below the roof of one of the Sacred Store-Houses.

The original three wise monkeys, dating back to the seventeenth century.  A painted carving under the roofline of the Sacred Stable.



This is the Sacred Fountain, dating from 1618.  There is a granite basin with water for purification, covered by an ornate Chinese-style roof.

This is the Honji-do, not open at the time (or maybe just not open) so I wasn’t able to see the “crying dragon” painted on its ceiling.

The temple complex is built on the side of a hill and goes up from one level to the next.  You can see on the left a wall to another level.  Here I’ve just temporarily gone back a level for an image of one of the Sacred Storerooms.

Here we are looking back on the elaborately carved Yomeimon GateOne of the twelve columns was deliberately carved upside-down, an imperfection to avoid antagonising jealous spirits.  Looking closely at the full-sized image, I think it is the middle one to the right, though I did not know to look for this at the time.


These elegant structures and sculptures are up a long stairway above the main temple complex.  I think the tomb of Ieyasu is close by.

Roofs of temple buildings from the long stairway, on the way down.  I think these are the roofs of the main temple complex.

Here is the famous “sleeping cat” which is above the gate to the steep stairs.  There were too many people milling around to get an image on the way up, so I got one on the way down.

This is a detail from beneath a roof not far from the sleeping cat.

These, I believe, are sake barrels.  There were about 200 of them stacked in a long line.



These are some of the painted carvings on the Yomeimon Gate, that you may be able to see in context if you look closely at the previous image of that gate.



These three look as though they are nearly adjacent under a roofline.  They would be close to the Yomeimon Gate though I’m not sure exactly where.

This is a detail from the Haiden or Sanctuary.

This is on the way out and is a detail of one of the Sacred Store Houses we saw earlier.

This pagoda was originally donated by a daimyo in 1650.  What stands here, though, is a copy reconstructed in 1828 after the original caught fire.

Tokugawa Period (1600-1868)

Tokugawa Ieyasu brought an end to the long period of civil war and introduced a period of stability that lasted for several hundred years.  The early Tokugawa shoguns made a number of changes to ensure the Warring States period could not recur.  Only samurai were allowed to bear weapons and the capital was moved to Edo (now called Tokyo). Daimyo (or feudal lords) had to reside in Edo for specified periods and leave their wives behind when they were not there.    Movement around the country was also greatly restricted.  By these measures, the Tokugawa shoguns greatly reduced the possibility of regional or peasant revolts.

There had been hundreds of thousands of Japanese Christians in the early seventeenth century but these were gradually suppressed and many executed.   A long period of relative isolation then started, with contact to the outside world restricted to just a few specific locations and tightly controlled.

The samurai classes were allowed to exercise political power whereas the merchant classes were not.  Conversely, it was deemed undignified for samurai to engage in trading activities.  Consequently over time this led to many poor samurai with less effective power than they might have liked and some wealthy merchants with more power than they were supposed to have.  Social strains had been emerging before Commodore Perry steamed into Yokahama Harbour in 1854.  It is not clear whether in the absence of Western contact the society was stagnating or would have retained social dynamism of its own accord.

The Japanese Government attempted some half-hearted resistance to Perry but their military capabilities were too inferior for this to be a realistic option.  Enforced trade and opening to the West was the result.  This then set in motion the train of events that led to the great changes of the Meiji Restoration….

One comment on “27th February: Nikko – Tosho-gu

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