Moss strewn and mysterious

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikkō includes 103 buildings and the stunning natural setting around them.

The buildings belong to two Shinto shrines (Futarasan Shrine and Tōshō-gū) and one Buddhist temple (Rinnō-ji)

Above is Ishidorii, the imposing stone Tori gate at the entrance to the temple complex.

Torii literally means Bird Perch and shrines always have Torii gates  to demarcate the sacred area inside the shrine.

Once inside the temple complex, one of the first things we find is Gojūnotō a colourful, ornate five storied pagoda. It’s a beautiful gilded spectacle with layer upon layer of decoration.

The brightly painted red Outer Gate (Omotemon) is complete with huge statues of the guardian gods.

These two huge Niō or Kongōrikishi statues are two wrath-filled and muscular guardians of the Buddha and can be found at the entrance of many temples in the form of huge wrestler-like statues.

Here’s another view of the Outer Gate and its gigantic guardians.  On one side are Niō statues and on the other side are Chinese Lions (Karajishi).

One of the most striking sights for me in Nikko is the veritable army of lanterns or tōrō that are to be found dotted around the site.

Whether wrought iron or weathered stone covered in moss, they are a sight to behold.

Below are the famous Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil Monkeys carved into the Shinkyū – the Stable for sacred horses.


Below are details from Kami-jinko, an ornate storehouse in the Toshogu Shrine, other beautifully decorated storehouses include Shimojinko and Nakajinko.

The colourful details are intriguing, especially the interesting interpretations of elephants!

As usual there is a plethora of colourful wooden Ema wishes to be found swaying in the breeze.

Below is  the temple’s Kyōzō – in Japanese Buddhist architecture this is a repository for sūtras (scriptures) and chronicles of the temple history.

You can also see more examples of tōrō – the lantern, in particular the type known as dai-dōrō (platform lantern) which are used along the approach of a shrine or temple.

Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that in its complete, original form, like the pagoda, the dai-dōrō represents the five elements of Buddhist cosmology.


The bottom-most piece, touching the ground, represents chi, the earth; the next section represents sui, or water; ka or fire, is represented by the section encasing the lantern’s light or flame, while fū (air) and kū (void or spirit) are represented by the last two sections, top-most and pointing towards the sky.

The segments express the idea that after death our physical bodies will go back to their original, elemental form.

So much more to see! This might take a few posts . . .

Published by Derbyshire Gal

World traveller, proud auntie, bit of a liability.

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