Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled over Japan for almost 270 years from 1600 onwards, is widely regarded as one of the paragons of samurai culture. As a thanks for unifying the country and ending the bloody feudal warfare which had dominated past centuries, the Japanese people dedicated a shrine to him, named Nikko Tosho-gu. This posthumously turned Ieyasu into a god, which should be a pretty solid indication of how well he’s regarded.
But if that weren’t enough, the beauty of the temple surely would be, a revered part of the Nikko City UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the must-see shrines for anyone interested in Japanese spirituality. You’ll find a five-tiered pagoda near the entrance after walking through one of the most intricately carved gates you’re ever likely to see: the Yomeimon Gate.
This famously over-the-top structure is a true masterpiece, with over 500 individual carvings across its surfaces. The stables also have their own series of carvings, featuring the famous “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys, who have become something of a symbol of the city.
Of course, the tomb of the man himself is also here. Although not quite as decorative as the other buildings, it does offer a nice view over the complex. If you’re visiting in fall or spring, this might be a nice spot to watch the Shuki Taisai Grand Festival, during which 1000 re-enactors dress as Edo era warriors to act out the arrival of Ieyasu’s remains.
It takes a lot of fame to have a thousand strangers re-enact your funeral twice a year, four centuries after your death!