Toshogu, Japan’s most lavish shrine

This is a detailed post of my 2 weeks long solo backpacking trip to Japan. Please see a preview and itinerary/index of my complete trip on this post.

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Day 11 ā€“ Nikko

Happy Birthday to me

I got a year wiser today! What an awesome way to celebrate my birthday doing a dream trip and in my own style. Cheers to life and years of travel to come. I wish my start to each new year is similar to this one šŸ˜‰

Quick getaway from Tokyo

Tokyo is my last stop in Japan. My return flight is from Tokyo. But I have time to visit few places from Tokyo. One of the best places I could find was Nikko. Nikko is famous for Toshogu, Japan’s most lavish Shrine. Nikko is also known for its natural beauty. Nikko is 150kms from Tokyo and a rapid train covers this distance in 2 hours. I bought a 2 day Nikko pass from Asakusa train station. This 2 days Nikko pass covers return ticket from Tokyo to Nikko and all local travels by bus in Nikko. The Pass costs 2670Y but it was the cheapest option for me as I did not want to visit Lake Chuzenji. Remember traveling is expensive in Japan.

I boarded a rapid train run by Tobu Railways from Asakusa station and started my journey to Nikko. Train coach was heated and quite comfortable. The entire train ride is scenic and passes through forests and farms. I could not avoid noticing the fact that roads even in far flung area were tarred and well maintained. Farmers were using heavy machinery and almost all house near farms where nicely built. This clearly indicates how well farmers in Japan are paid and how well government provides infrastructure to places far from the city.

I reached Nikko in no time and find it to be really cold. The temperature dropped considerably from Tokyo. I could even see some mountains covered in clouds. Its was amazing to see such a quaint little station just 150 km from neon lights filled Tokyo city.

Rapid train by Tobu Railways (Tokyo to Nikko)

Rapid train by Tobu Railways (Tokyo to Nikko)

Nikko Train Station

Nikko Train Station

While traveling in the train I had made a quick online booking for my night stay in a mixed dormitory in Nikko Park Lodge. I have a simple protocol for online bookings. Sort the options by price and choose the lowest available option in bookings.com. Nikko has only a few options for stay. Nikko Lodge is one of the oldest and nicely rated property in Nikko. They charged me 3490Y a night and it included breakfast and transfer from/to station. I checked into my hotel and proceeded to visit Toshogu Shrine. I later found I was the only male staying with 4 other females in the dormitory. I wanted to feel unsafe but no one tried to approach me šŸ˜‰

Nikko Lodge

Nikko Lodge

Visit to heritage of Japan, Toshogu

All shrines of Nikko can be accessed by World Heritage bus. This bus is a hop on hop off type of service. It took me 15-20 mins to reach Toshogu from Nikko bus terminal (just next to Nikko station). Toshogu is not only the most lavish Shrine of Japan but also expensive to visit. Entry fees alone is 1300Y that too only for the main hall. Anyways this is the only shrine I plan to visit. I have already decided to give Taiyuinbyo and Rinnoji a miss due to the scarcity of time and cost cutting measure. I was a bit disappointed by Toshogu shrine as the main hall is under renovation (till 2019). IĀ  would say better to avoid it if photography is your motive. Okay, my rant is over now.

Very first thing to note about this shrine is grandeur and use of exquisite designs on walls, gates, pagodas, ceilings etc. The shrine is located in a dense forest and use of wooden carving in the shrine is abundant. Another aspect that makes this shrine elegant is a large amount of gold leaf used in decoration and ornate structures. I can only imagine what this place must have looked when it was first made in first half of 1600 century. To this day intricate details of the shrine stand out. Toshogu is a world heritage site. This shrine has been a center of artistic inspiration for centuries now.

Notice exquisite details and use of golden leaf

Notice exquisite details

A five storey pagoda adjacent to main hall

A five storey pagoda adjacent to the main hall



Another lavishly decorated secondary hall

Another lavishly decorated secondary hall

Main hall of the Shrine is under construction till 2019

The main hall of the Shrine is under construction till 2019


A secondary hall

Decorated gate of main hall

Decorated gate of the main hall

Kirin Beer is demonstrated in the temple complex as Kirin (a imaginary animal) was taken from this temple. There are many references to Kirin in artwork on walls.

Kirin Beer is demonstrated in the temple complex as Kirin (an imaginary animal) was taken from this temple. There are many references to Kirin in the artwork on walls. Also, note sake (Rice wine) barrels at back.

Secondary hall

Secondary hall

My whole life has been a lie

All my life I thought Gandhiji gave us the theory of three Monkeys, “Hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil”. Unfortunately, that is not true. Theory of three monkeys originated in Toshogu temple of Japan in 1600 century. These carvings on a wooden wall in shrine depict the concept.


This old huts dates back to 1600 century

This old wooden hut (where three monkeys have been carved) dates back to 1600 century


The nemuri neko (Sleeping cat) is a National Treasure in Japan and has been of inspiration to Japanese artists and artists around the world for centuries

Sozonozo Elephants ("imagined elephants") that were carved by an artist who had never seen elephants.

Sozonozo Elephants (“imagined elephants”) that were carved by an artist who had never seen elephants.

Old posts standing tough test of time

Old posts standing tough test of time

After spending a couple of hours in the shrine I made my way to one of its kind place on Earth formed out of volcanic activity.

Next post -> Kanmangafuchi Abyss

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