We exit the Shoyoen Gardens and follow the path passed the temple being restored and into the Nikkō Tōshō-gū area. This place has a number of buildings considered to be National Treasures in Japan (yes, like Nicholas Cage but historically way better). Originally built in 1617, during the Edo period, Tōshō-gū is dedicated to the Tokugawa shogunate founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose remains are enshrined on the premises. So… this should be good.
Fun fact, it’s also the same elevation as the Tokyo Skytree that we were upper-decking just the other day.
Ok the temples and buildings are immediately impressive. Super ornate and colorful, they are in fantastic condition. We walk passed some tourist building with trinkets, up through a massive gate to this great 5-story pagoda on our left
And from there it just keeps hitting. This place is crazy. The detail and the rich history are all here. There is a lane of old historic buildings with copper lanterns on the left and right. A walkway keeps you off of the loose gravel in front of the buildings. The number of visitors starts to densify the further we get in. Must be another entrance on the other side of this stuff.
We come up to some famous stables and there is a large group of people getting pictures. The stable has detailed carvings of monkeys around the roof lining. This is where the ‘Three Wise Monkeys” originally comes from. There are eight panels along the stable and on the second one are the famous monkeys depicting “Hear no evil, Say no evil, See no evil”
There are some signs explaining each of the monkey panels. I snap a couple.
A couple girls are beyond evils though and have no qualms stepping passed the bounds and getting in everyone’s pictures. Maybe they’re ‘somebody’. You’re allowed to be inconsiderate if you’re ‘somebody’, right? Maybe they’re in Akiba 48. I like their maple leaf props.
Whoa! Just passed this is a spectacular gate called Yōmeimon. The carvings and details are extraordinary. This must have recently been renovated, it’s incredible! Super lavish with lots of ornate statues and animal protectors.
Inside the Yōmeimon is a display with an interesting little write up about one of my favorite party animals: Kirin!
There is also a wall of Sake barrels
This place is bonkers. Ok what’s this.. another Nicholas Cage? It’s a sleeping cat? So just before the steps that walk up to the enshrined remains of Ieyasu there is a tiny sleeping cat above an entrance way.
Did I miss it? Where’s the cat? Hmmmm i think I missed it. I’ll have to see it after paying my respects to the shogunate. Oh there it is. This mini little cat is a national treasure? I guess this was the first carving to capture in perfect detail a sleepy lil kitty. It is now a symbol of peace.
They close the cat gate behind Queenie and I as we go through towards the mausoleum. Is it getting that late? The path to Ieyasu’s resting place leads up some steps and through the woods, across a bridge and then up hundreds more steps. It’s a beautiful and peaceful walk and being the last ones in means I get to snap pics like we’re the only ones here.
We walk around Tokugawa Ieyasu’s shrine and it is serene.
Not sure what the scoop is with the tree shrine beside the burial place.
Back down the hundreds of steps, through the woods and across the bridge, some folks open the cat gate to let us back into the Yōmeimon area. There is a temple on the right. Might as well. We ditch our shoes and take a gander. I chuckle at my shark fin socks. Again, the detail in this place is nuts.
We re-shoe and exit the Yōmeimon area. There is another path leading away from where we originally came in. Must be another area, hopefully we have time to take a looksy. It leads through the woods to another shrine with a statue guard, another cool statue, another gate and out into a whole other area. Looks like this may be where people get bused to if they don’t want to hike up the way we did.
Damn, it is getting to be closing time. There are more temples and whatnot here but they seem to be closing up. That’s alright we were getting a little templed out anyways. We do find some great lion statues though. There are places where the statue has been rubbed smooth and shiny. Apparently you can only rub the statue once. Rub its feet for good walking, head for clear thinking, and stomach for good eats (or something… I might have made all of that up). We have the same hair so I rub the head.
Also in the main plaza of this area is a round woven ring with some foliage on it. We read the little sign in front of it. If you hold hands with your partner and walk through the ring three times in the pattern depicted you’re relationship will be strengthened by the GODS!!!
We hold hands and make a circle left through the ring, then back and circle around the right, then straight through. Suddenly we feel an unseen force propel us from behind and we’re rocketed forward and whisked up high above the treeline. The mystic winds suspend us above the shrines and mausoleums of Nikkō Tōshō-gū. We consult with the shimmering spirits of the shogunate about their ancient relationship experiences (seems relationships have evolved dramatically over the centuries so I’m not sure how useful this actually was). The conversation quickly devolves into raunchy sex stories, the Seri Rambai, and mostly laughter. Having learned all we need, we give them a round of spectral high fives and they gently guide us back to the ring. We shake it off.
We take some steps down to another area that leads through a large gate. On the path down is a little shrine where kittens can pray to their antlered overlords.
Down in this area is another awesome looking… whaaaaa there’s another whole shogun mausoleum here? This one looks to be for Taiyuin, the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. He is the grandson of Ieyasu whose resting place we just visited. Damn, it’s closed. That would have been a good capper for the already magnificent places we’ve seen.
Even though it’s clearly marked with a closed sign, I ask a nearby worker bee if we can get in anyways because it looks so bomb. No dice. But Shrine Girl does bring out a map and quickly underlines our surroundings and then sketches us a route to something called the Kanmangafuchi Abyss. She says if we hurry we can get there before sundown.
New Mission: Race to the Abyss!