3 Top Mysteries of Nikko Toshogu

by Yoshihisa - Japan Licensed Guide
(2) 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

22 Sep 2019


Licensed Guide
(2) Reviews

Related Blogs

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. ...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Tours by Guide

One-day Private Customized Tour to Mt. Fuji

(2) Reviews
For everybody in Japan, Mt.Fuji is something special, not only for its beauty but more as a spiritural thing. Especially in spring, the beauty is stunning ...
8h $ 300 up to 6 people

Walking Evening Tour in the heart of Tokyo

(2) Reviews
The charm of Tokyo does not end after the evening falls, but it becomes even more brilliant at night. Here you have a choice of visiting some of the promin...
3h $ 112 up to 5 people

Half Day private Tour of Off-the-Beaten-Paths in Tokyo

(2) Reviews
If you are a frequent traveller and love to find the secrets of the town you visit, here is your solution in Tokyo. We will visit only the places not visit...
4h $ 150 up to 6 people

Safe and Easy Transport from Narita to your Hotel

(2) Reviews
Narita airport is located 60km away from Tokyo, too costry to go by taxi (30k yen or even more), too complicated to go by public transportation system (m...
2:30h $ 94 up to 6 people

Half day Private Tour of Must-not-miss Places in Tokyo

(2) Reviews
Is this your first visit to Tokyo? If so, this is the best way to see the most iconic places in Tokyo. In four hours, you will cover most of the must-not-m...
4h $ 150 up to 6 people

Ultimate Tokyo One-day private Tour

(2) Reviews
This is a one day private tour in Tokyo featuring most of the authentic touring spots tailormade to your places of interests. You will not only visit place...
8h $ 300 up to 6 people

Incredible Nikko One Day Customized Tour

(2) Reviews
We will visit a World Heritage site Nikko in one day from Tokyo. On our way to and from Nikko, you will enjoy a beautiful scenary of country side of Japan ...
10h $ 328 up to 6 people

Transport sans souci de l'aeroport jusqu'à l'hôtel à Tokyo

(2) Reviews
L'aeroport de Narita est situé 60km de la centre ville deTokyo, trop cher pour aller avec un taxi (environ 30k yen), trop compliqué à aller avec les transp...
2:30h $ 94 up to 6 people

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

“ Great half-day bicycle ride around Tokyo ”

1 week ago Traveler: Stéphane -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

What a great experience! We contacted Yoshihisa while we were in Tokyo and told him what we had already visited on our own. We had done the Sky Hop Bus and visited quite a bit on our own using the Metro. We wanted to see Sumo and lesser known spots. He offered two options, one by e-assist bikes and one walking tour. We picked the bike tour and did not regret it even if we don’t regularly ride bic...
read more

“ Fantastic Experience! ”

3 weeks ago Traveler: Bryan -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

With only 24 hours to spend in Tokyo, we reached out to Yoshihisa for ideas around how to cover as much of Tokyo as we possibly could in such a short time frame. Yoshi recommended an electric bike tour that would hit the highlights in the 2 half days we were there and we simply could not have done it without him! Yoshi put together a great itinerary and was a joy to be around. I would highly re...
read more

Related cities