2020 NO.29


Strolling JapanStrolling Japan


Where people, history, and nature are tied into one

Known for its World Heritage shrines and temples, scenic Nikko is blessed with lush natural surroundings.
Take in the sounds of gushing clear streams as you stroll through the mountainous townscape.

Yomeimon gate at Nikko Toshogu Shrine, an icon of Nikko

The white dragon sculptures over Yomeimon gate

Located in north-western Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko City welcomes over 10 million domestic and international visitors yearly.
Altitude variation is extreme in Nikko, ranging from 200–500 meters in the central area to 2,578 meters on Mt. Shirane, the highest peak of the Nikko mountains. Because of this, cherry blossoms bloom and autumn trees change color at a staggered pace allowing long flower- and autumn foliage-viewing seasons enjoyable at different locations throughout Nikko.

Cedar Avenue of Nikko

Despite being in the central area, visitors can revel in the sense of traveling to the distant past on the Cedar Avenue of Nikko. Its three roads (Nikko Road, Reiheishi Road, Aizu-Nishi Road) combined are approximately 37 kilometers long and lined with about 12,000 giant cedar trees on both sides. This is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest avenue of trees. Even across a gulf of 400 years, when these trees were first planted, the three roads give us insight into the pulse of the travelers of those ancient days, leading to Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the virtual symbol of Nikko.

The Shrines and Temples of Nikko comprise the 103 religious buildings of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Nikko Futarasan-jinja Shrine, and Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple,and the surrounding remains (cultural landscapes). These were created by integrating the sentiments of people toward nature, with the shrine buildings constructed with the vast fortune and power of the Tokugawa Shogun family (the nucleus of the Edo Shogunate that was founded in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu and continued until 1868).
Yomeimon gate, with its resplendent and vividly- colored ornamentation, is especially eye-catching at Nikko Toshogu Shrine. This was built in 1636 and is representative of the skills of the top metal and lacquer craftsmen at the time. One enjoyable part of Nikko Toshogu Shrine is in the discovering of its many carvings and paintings of creatures. There are more than 500 highly refined carvings alone of persons and animals.

The Three Wise Monkeys are a Japanese pictorial maxim, embodying the proverbial principle “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.”

The Nemurineko (sleeping cat) at the Sakashita-mon gate symbolizes the prayer for peace, allowing it to doze in nikko, which literally means sunlight.

Near the entrance to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko, visitors can immerse themselves in a retro- modern mood amidst the scenery of several historical buildings—including a historical hotel founded in 1873 as one of the first resort hotels in Japan, and souvenir shops, offering the traditional handicrafts of Nikko and also local specialties.

The “Hundred Years Rice Curry” recreates the traditional taste of a secret recipe.

The history of the renowned Nikko Kanaya Hotel can be gleaned from the ambience of the front desk.