Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Attraction 2301 Sannai Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1431 Japan Published on: 27-02-2016

1 hours 30 mins
08:00 AM - 05:00 PM
09:00 AM
10:30 AM
First-time visit
Must see
0.01 - 0.12 USD

Nikko Toshogu Shrine is good for

Good for family with kids Family with kids Good
Good for senior Senior Good
Good for couple Couple Good
Good for solo Solo Good
Good for group Group Good
  • Highly recommended by fellow travellers.
Nikko Toshogu Shrine a World Heritage site famous for the sculptures of the Three Wise Monkeys and decorative gate. Nikko Toshogu Shrine makes a great day trip from Tokyo.

Image copyrights belong to authors

Why Nikko Toshogu Shrine is special ?

The Toshogu Shrine is the main attraction of Nikko. The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the kami (spirit) of Ieyasu (d. 1616), who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military dynasty that ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867.

To create a worthy shrine for the shogun, 15,000 craftsman worked for two years, using 2.5 million sheets of gold leaf. The enshrinement of Ieyasu's spirit is reenacted twice each year in the Procession of the Thousand Warriors.

Unlike most Shinto shrines, characterized by minimalist architecture that blends into its surroundings, Toshogu is a riot of color, gold, and carvings, with birds and flowers, dancing maidens, and sages following one another around the buildings. Some visitors find the shrine awe-inspiring and beautiful; others are repelled by the gaudiness. In contrast to the exuberance of the shrine, Ieyasu's mausoleum itself is relatively simple and austere.

One of the most famous elements of Toshogu is the Sacred Stable, where a white imperial horse is kept (a gift of New Zealand). The stable's fame derives from the original carving depicting the three wise monkeys, "Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no evil." Other famous carvings at Toshogu include a sleeping cat and an odd rendering of an elephant by an artist who had apparently never seen one.


What to explore at Nikko Toshogu Shrine?

In the precincts, there are many buildings.

The most famous building is "Yomeimon" gate which is the entrance to main shrine.

It is decorated by a lot of beauriful carvings.

Not only Yomeimon but also many other buildings have many carvings.

Especially we can find the carvings of various animals. It is said that they had been made as the symbols of peace.

"Sleeping cat" is the most famous carving. In Japanese, it is called "Nemuri-neko".

It means the peace that even a cat can sleep with an easy mind.

"Three monkeys" is also famous.

It means "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". In Japanese, we say "Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru".

"Zaru" in the words is similar to "saru", so "saru" in Japanese means "monkey".

Therefore, one monkey covers his ears, one monkey covers his eyes, and one monkey covers his mouth, with their hands.


How to get to Nikko Toshogu Shrine?

On foot: About 2.5 km from Nikko station. It takes about 40 minutes.

By route bus

By route bus to Chuzenji or Yumoto-onsen, get off at Nishi-sando stop. About 6 minutes from Nikko station.

From Nishi-sando stop, about 10 minutes on foot.


Selling points

  • Must see if come to Nikko
  • The Height of Brilliance
  • Beautiful World Heritage Site
  • One of the best shrines to visit
  • A peaceful escape not far from Tokyo
2 Days 1 Night in Nikko for a Weekend Getaway

Are you planning a trip to Nikko? Check out popular trips from our experts. Copy and make it to your own plan. Customize it Now!

2.0 days
99.90 USD
Total travel distance
Number of places
10 places




2301 Sannai Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1431 Japan

Plan a trip to Nikko based on your personalized interests.

Tips for you

  • You need time to walk slowly and see a gorgeous things around the shrine.
    What need to do
  • If you are fit (and you need to be to fully appreciate this site), you can see the restorers at work from viewing points.
    Things to do
  • There are also some lovely walks in the area to explore.
    Things to do
  • There is a nice gift shop just down the hill.
  • There is very little written in English, so you can hire an audio tour guide.
  • Gold leaf, bright paint, carvings of birds, fish and animals are everywhere, against a really beautiful dramatic landscape.
    What to see
  • After the shrine, if you walk through the park and out the back (or take the world heritage bus another stop or two down) you can see a nice bridge with clear water underneath and mountains in the background.
    What to see
  • If you want to take photos without any people around, you should go early in the morning.
  • There is parking space.
  • Admission fee:1,300 yen for adult, 450 yen for kids. For Treasure Museum: 1000 yen for adult, 400 yen for high school students. For Art Museum: 800 yen for adult, 600 yen for high school, 400 yen for kids.
    Ticket and Pricing
  • You have to pay an admission fee to cross the bridge
    Ticket and Pricing


TripAdvisor View more

If you go the Nikko and Toshogu with a large tourist group, this review will be of no use to you. But, if you go alone, first of all, go early in the morning, hopefully before the tour buses start to pour in. If you have the time and the interest, I highly recommend the audio guide. I can testify that the English, Japanese and Chinese audio versions are all equal and excellent. I'd go to Toshogu first, but also then go the the Daiyuen (I hope I've spelled that right), the much quieter and less visited but in some ways both easier to see and more splendidly decorated. As of April 2015 there is still major reconstruction going on, so be sure to climb the steps to the left after you get past the first two or so small shrines, or you'll miss the main Daiyuen funerary shrine. Then, after lunch, go to see the nearby (a bus ride or a medium walk up the hill) to see the Tamazawa Imperial Villa. It is not mentioned in any foreign guide book I've seen, has even few Japanese visitors (except those who know to come), and few Japanese have heard of it either. It may be better than the other "imperial villas" that are open (with much greater planning) in Kyoto. So, get to Nikko late one afternoon, you can see Toshogu, the Daiyuen and Tamozawa Imperial Villa, bed down and leave the next morning. I recommend the small (near the train station, on the left as you start up the main street) Sotto Voce for lunch, but there are other in-town dining facilities, including an interesting looking veggie place near the bridge. Visited April 2015

FourSquare View more

Absolutely lovely shrine, worth a visit! Wear slip-on shoes as you take them off a lot. The 200 steps to the inner shrine is pretty hard going and not stunning, if you have bad knees give it a miss.

Nikko is situated 140 kilometres north of Tokyo and very famous for its impressive shrines dating back to the 17th century when this place was very important to Buddhists and Schintoists alike. Already 1,200 years ago, a Buddhist priest founded the first temple in Nikko and laid the foundation of its spiritual significance long before it unfolded its maximum splendour. Take the train from Tokyo to Nikko and plan a whole day to soak it all in and make sure to visit all major shrines which are Tosho-gu, Taiyuin-byo, Futara-san and Rinno-ji. Since they are very popular with Japanese and international tourists you will need quite some time to take pictures without a million "photobombers" ;OD! You will get hundreds and thousands of opportunities to take numerous beautiful pictures. Especially Yomeimon Gate, the five-storey pagoda, the bell tower and the drum tower of Tosho-gu are so beautiful. At Taiyuin-byo you will find another pair of bell and drum towers - the drum tower represents birth and all good things, the bell tower death and other unpleasant matters. Explore each and every corner or you might miss Kokamon Gate which is nicely shaped and stunning. Most famous detail at Tosho-gu Shrine are the Three Wise Monkeys - one covering its ears, one covering its snout and one covering its eyes. Sad and funny that these monkeys have become a symbol of indifference and lack of moral responsibility in Western countries. In Buddhist traditions, they represent the concept of not seeing, not hearing and not speaking evil ... not being tempted by and not giving in to negative and evil powers. Before travelling Japan, I did not like any "replica" of the three monkeys at all, but the moment I saw the original wood carving at the Holy Stable and found out about their true meaning, I fell in love with those cute guys :O). Just one more note: as far as I remember, the Japan Rail Pass you have to purchase at home is not valid on trains to Nikko. Just be prepared to pay extra.

0 Comment

Itineraries include Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Scroll to top