3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

by Yoshihisa - Japan Licensed Guide
(13) Reviews

Nikko is a virtual wonderland with so many secrets and mysteries.

Here are 3 top mysteries of Nikko's landmark shrine of Toshogu Shrine.

1. Why there is a 5 stories pagoda in a shinto shrine?

 3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

 Toshogu is a shinto shrine.  And 5 stories pagodas is a simbol of buddhist temple. Originaly, it was a place to house the ashes of Buddha. But why there is a 5 stories pagoda in a shinto shrine of Toshogu?

Until Meiji restauration in 1868, shintoism and buddhism co-existed and occasionally there were not clear distinctions of the buildings built in the sanctuary zone. Same way here in Nikko, Rin-no-ji temple, a buddhist temple, and Toshogu-shrine, a shinto shrine co-existed and they were considered to be a same devine zone.

But after the Meiji Restauration, the new government took a policy of separating these two religions. The idea was that the new government  wanted shintoism to be the backbone religion to lead the country, by making emperor as the leader and devine of the shintoism. By this policy, many buildings and statues of each two religions were separated to respective ones, however, in some cases where separations were not easy because of its geographical location, some were allowed to remain to co-exist. That is why we see  a 5 stories pagoda at a Shinto shrine of Toshogu.

2. Why the family crest of Tokugawa Shogunate family is upside down at the rotating lantern given by the Duch?

The family crest of Tokugawa Shogunate family is three leaves of Asarum Caulescens. It is often seen in many buildings and monuments in Toshogu shrine.

3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

There are also some in the 16 century rotating lantern donated by Duch East Indian Company, made in Amsterdam. But, here the family crest is put upside down. Why is it?

3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

Though the reason is uncertain yet, but it is said to be most likely that it was a simple error. Most probably, because of its significance brought all the way from Holland to Edo, the Shogunate government took it for granted though it is upside down. Had it been the case for other party, such as subordinating samurai clans, the consequence would have been very much different such as penalty by Harakiri.

3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

3. Why the one corner on the roof of Cyozu-ya, or a purification basin is cut round?

Chozu-ya is a common place for temples and shrines as a place to purify before prayer. 

3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

Here in Toshogu, one of the four corners of the roof is cut round. Why is the case?

3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

It is said to be the motto of Ieyasu Tokugawa, founder of Tokugawa Shogunate family and the diety of Toshogu, was that something perfect will lose its shape at one point and does not last long. So, at times things were made to be inperfect or lack a part for purpose.

It is also believed that in Yin Yan Thought of ancient China, north eastern corner is the direction where evils penetrate. So, preparing for the evils, people cut the edge to show that they are ready to confront. Such is often seen in daimyo castles such as the one in Himeji.

If you are interested to learn more about the secrets and mysteries of Toshogu shrine or Nikko, please refer to my tour Incredible Nikko Customized One Day Tour.


Did you like my article?

You can send me a message to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience. Let's explore Japan Together.

I'll be waiting for you, so please check my profile and get your trip plan now


Licensed Guide
(13) Reviews

Related Blogs

Why the donjons of Japanse castles are empty?

People frequently ask why the donjons of Japanese castles are empty. People may imagin that buildings at the castle are filled with items s...

Top 3 soul foods in Tokyo

Wasyoku or Japanese cuisine is classified as UNESCOs world heritage. You may think that those cuisines are expensive and need to wear a for...

Top 5 menus at Izakaya

Izakaya is a bar, bistro in Japanese style. In Japan, men and women, young and old, even children at times go to Izakaya. Salary men (Japane...

Where do you eat Sushi, at the counter or at the table?

Where do you eat sushi, at the counter or at the table? It is hard to tell. In fact, there is no good or bad. But there are pros and cons. ...

5 most popular pasteries in Japan

Washoku, or Japanese cuisine is classified as UNESCOs world heritage, and pasteries form at times an integral part of it. Here are 5 most p...

When is the best season to visit Mt.Fuji?

It is frequently asked that when is the best season to visit Mt.Fuji. People may have different opinions, but for me it is definitely spring...

Tours by Guide

Plan your trip to Nikko with Yoshihisa

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Send a message

Recent Tour Reviews in Nikko

“ Tokyo in a day ”

5 months ago Traveler: Linda -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshihisa put together a tailor made itinerary which worked perfectly incorporating the highlights of Tokyo. We communicated well, exchanging ideas and information all in a very prompt and timely manner given the time difference. Yoshihisa is well travelled, charming and informative, l wouldn't hesitate to book him again or recommend.
read more

“ A tour guide and a friend. ”

6 months ago Traveler: Ronel -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

The weather is cold and its raining, but this guy never stops showing us the views of Narita. It was almost 7pm when the tour was over, we’re about to leave Japan at the departure lobby when i found out that my bag is missing and realized i forgot the bag in the restaurant where we eat ramen. Yoshihisa is the first person entered into my mind to ask for help. He answered quickly without hesitati...
read more

“ Very Helpful ”

6 months ago Traveler: Serena -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

I had Yoshihisa meet my family of 9 at the airport and get us to our accomodation in Shinagawa. He helped us get our train tickets, suica card and even hire a mobile phone. Fantastic commmunication. Highly recommend.
read more

“ Very accommodating and friendly! ”

6 months ago Traveler: Quennie -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Thanks Yoshihisa for all your help!
read more

“ Delightful e-bike tour of downtown Tokyo on Dec. 24th ”

7 months ago Traveler: Norine -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshihisa, presented the major historic sites as well as the charming modern Christmas market, and Tokyo Tower. The views were awesome from the 46th floor of a Tokyo office. E-biking was fun and easy, daughter (17 years) was pleased. It was an unforgettable tour, with his insightful description of present and past Japanese culture, politics, and trends. We finished with a satisfying dinner at a...
read more

“ very dedicated guide! ”

7 months ago Traveler: Yingyin -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

We had a great time with Yoshihisa-san! Booking communication was great - very fast and prompt replies as well as suggestions to help make the tour more efficient. Instructions, details, inclusions/exclusions were communicated clearly Tour itself - Yoshihisa-san was early, gave clear and good introductions and explanations for the sights - also brought along a file with many printed pages of ...
read more

“ Our new friend in Tokyo! ”

7 months ago Traveler: Pat -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshi is a knowledgeable guide and a caring, kind man. We felt like we were touring with a friend. He was very helpful and responsive in helping us with our arrangements before we visited Japan and during our stay. He has a great command of the English language and made our days in Tokyo very entertaining and fun. Yoshi was pending our every need and beyond, he wanted us to have a great experience...
read more

“ Very Knowledgeable and Professional, G-Cans Facility Tour ”

8 months ago Traveler: Roger -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Mr. Yoshihisa was very accommodating during my tour of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (also known as the G-Cans facility). I had short notice before the tour, but Mr. Yoshihisa was quick to respond with his availability for being a translator, since the public tour was only in Japanese. Translation was reliable during the tour. I appreciate his recognition of my inter...
read more


8 months ago Traveler: Alan -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

I am very active senior from New York & have travelled extensively with my late wife and just finished a wonderful solo trip to JAPAN. I had the pleasure of having Yoshihisa as my guide for a 1 day trip to KAMAKURA, from Tokyo. Of the 5 different guides I had in JAPAN, he was the best. Yoshi is an extremely intelligent man who was a pleasure to be with. Very informative. I can say a lot more but...
read more

“ Tokyo night tour ”

9 months ago Traveler: Tom -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Phenomenal night tour he knows exactly how to get from place to place without a wasted step. He’ll be showing you things on the way to where you are going. His English is great and I don’t think the tour could have been any better. Well worth the money, this guy is great!
read more

Related cities