Nikko, gateway to Nikko National Park. The town is home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Under his leadership, Japan was finally united as a country and brought a peace that would last nearly three hundred years.

Places to visit in Nikko

Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan Shrine owes its founding to a Buddhist monk, who built the shrine for the three mountain deities that are said to reside in the area. Though the original shrine was built atop the peak of the mountain, the ascent could be quite difficult, so the Futarasan shrine was constructed so ley persons might find it easier to worship the mountain deities.


Rinoji Temple, the most important Buddhist temple of Nikko, Rinnoji began in the 8th century and has continued in some form or another since then. The temples main attraction, Sanbutsudo, houses some impressive, gold-lacquered statues of Amida, fashioned into statues based upon regional mountain deities that are enshrined nearby at Futarasan.

*Note that the Sanbutsudo is now undergoing renovation and is covered by scaffolding, but it is still possible to enter the building and observe the statues.

Toshogu Shrine

The Toshogu Shrine, where Tokugawa is buried, is famed for its decoration and carvings, unusual for Japanese religious architecture, which is usually muted and austere. Among the famous depictions here are the “Hear no Evil” monkeys, an unusual elephant, and a cat looking down from the rafters.

Kegon Waterfall and Chuzenjiko

Chuzenjiko, a large lake formed after the nearby volcano, Nantaisan, erupted and blocked the valley. A famous spot in the valley is the Kegon waterfall, one of Japan’s three famous waterfalls.