Arriving in Nikko we found it wet with snow blanketing much of the area. We had been warned by the hotel receptionist that it would be much colder in Nikko than Tokyo because of the slight elevation so we dressed accordingly. Now, our next challenge would be finding the Toshogu Shrine.

Following the directions in the guide book we set out in what we thought was the right direction. We walked and walked but no shrine. We covered the downtown area and ended up on the outskirts of town before we acknowledged something was wrong and headed back to the center of town to regain our bearings again. Again, I say, what better way to get to know a new country than by walking its streets.

Japanese garden in Niko

Yomei-mon Gate
Nikko's Toshogu Shrine was built to honor the memory of Ieyasu Tokugawa, Japan's first Shogun. Tokugawa, born in 1542 during a period of great civil wars, succeeded in unifying Japan. He is honored for laying the foundation of peace and culture that would typify modern day Japan. We would learn later when we visited friends in Osaka that this shrine is a "must see" for the Japanese.

In all there are 55 main structures on the grounds at Toshogu Shrine and it covers 80,000 sq. meters. The buildings are elaborately decorated and painted with intricate carvings common throughout. Many of structures have been designated as a Japanese National Treasure or Important Cultural Property.

Statue of Ni-o carved by Hogan
Koon in the beginning of the
Tokugawa Dynasty

Belfry and Drum Tower

Karamon Gate

A 5-story pagoda

Snow dripping off the roof

Small steps, a warning of what
was to come

Anne with a lion statue

Many Japanese were making their pilgrimage to the national Shrine
Hear, speak and see no evil
The sleeping cat
The Toshogu Shrine is the home of several very famous sculptures which
have been designated as national shrines themselves

Ieyasu, Japan's first shogun, was buried on the grounds at Toshogu Shrine. To reach his tomb you had to climb a large stairway with 207 steps to reach the top of a hill.

After spending several hours within the Toshogu Shrine enjoying the many beautiful treasures there we were feeling cold and damp. We wanted desperately to find some place to sit down and warm up before continuing our journey. Passing through one of the gates we noticed several buildings, a restaurant and a gift shop. We proceeded into the restaurant where we enjoyed some hot Japanese green tea. The server prepared our tea at the table and it was quite impressive to watch the ceremony that she followed in preparing the tea. The English are known for their tea, but the Japanese are most certainly known for their ceremony in preparing tea. We enjoyed the tea and the warmth very much.

Having warmed ourselves we were now ready to brave the damp cold air for the walk back to the train station.

Anne on her way down the
stairway from the tomb

Sacred Tower where the remains of Ieyasu Tokugawa are buried

Leaving the Toshogu Shrine and heading back to the train station we came across Shinkyo, the Sacred Bridge. The bridge was built in 1636 for the exclusive use, for over three hundred years, of the Shogun and his emissaries to cross the Daiyagawa River. Even today the bridge is blocked by a barrier and is only opened on the occasion of the Toshogu Shrine Festival.

A few last pictures of Anne standing by the bridge and we were off again for the train station. This, our first day of independent touring in Japan, proved to be an adventurous day, but we made it despite the language barrier.

Now it's time to board the bullet train for our trip to Osaka and Kyoto. Join us there on the next page ...
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