World Heritage / Shrines and Temples of Nikko

Criteria: (i) (iv) (vi) | Date of Inscription: 1999 | Location: Tochigi Prefecture | Justification for Inscription



Protected by the mountain gods, Toshogu Shrine will last forever as the land around Nikko remains at one with the glory of the Tokugawas and their prayer for eternal peace.

Shuri Castle
Mt. Nantai and Chuzenji Lake
Shuri Castle Festival
The Carvings
The primary "shrines and temples of Nikko" are the structures of Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine, and Rinnoji Temple on and around Mt. Nikko. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999, they are known as "two shrines and a temple at Mt. Nikko," and this is due in part to their splendid buildings blending in perfect harmony with Nikko's three most sacred of mountains, Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyoho and Mt. Taro. Between them they contain 9 national treasures and 94 important cultural properties. It is said that Nikko worship originated in 766 when a priest named Shoto succeeded in reaching the top of Mt. Nantai where he built Shihonryuji Temple. Based on Japan's previous theological concept of the harmonization of Shinto Shrines with Buddhist Temples, the three mountains of Nikko grew as sacred places both in Shintoism and in Buddhism. During the 12th century the shrines and temples of Nikko grew more and more important thanks to the support of the reigning Minamoto Yoritomo and his famed Genji family. The historical milestone in Nikko's history however, was the 1617 construction of Toshogu Shrine which was built to enshrine Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In 1636, the Tokugawa government implemented a large-scale reconstruction of the shrine and completed the current buildings of Toshogu Shrine as they are seen today. The Tokugawa Shogunate made large contributions to Rinnoji Temple and Futarasan Shrine over time and they soon were regarded as the guardians of Toshogu Shrine. At the same time, the surrounding area developed rapidly until some 250 years later the collapse of the Tokugawa form of government led to calls to separate Shintoism and Buddhism, forcing the shrines and temples of Nikko to reassess their position in society at the time. Temples were driven to the brink of financial destruction but a movement to revive the Buddhist aspects of Japan's culture to that point finally won through, one result of which is that the Nikko of today still retains the appearance and atmosphere of the now long past Edo era (1603-1867). Combining the modern day remnants of unique Japanese aspects of religion, including mountain worship and a mixture of Shintoism and Buddhism, Nikko also offers Tokugawa family' history aplenty and should not be ignored when discussing or considering the culture and history of Japan.
Nikko's three mountains are regarded as a family
Nikko's three mountains have long been regarded as the place the local gods reside. Also considered a single family due to their sizes and shapes, Mt. Nantai the father, Mt. Nyoho the mother and Mt. Taro the child, these mountains should not be missed on a visit to the area.
The Carvings at Toshogu Shrines
Toshogu Shrine's buildings often attract people for their decorative carvings as well as the outstanding form of their construction. Various sculptures including human figures, plants, animals, and mythical beasts are to be found everywhere with as many as 5173 said to be in existence.

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