Nikkō, literally “sunlight” or “sunshine”, is a city in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. A popular destination for Japanese and international tourists. The Japanese saying “Never say ‘kekko‘ until you’ve seen Nikko“, kekko meaning beautiful, magnificent.
Attractions include the mausoleum of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (Nikkō Tōshō-gū) and that of his grandson Iemitsu (Iemitsu-byō Taiyū-in), and the Futarasan Shrine, which dates to the year 767.
There are also many famous hot springs (onsen) in the area. Elevations range from 200 to 2,000 m. The mountains west of the main city are part of Nikkō National Park and contain some of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls and scenic trails.
The first temple in Nikko was founded more than 1,200 years ago along the shores of the Daiya River. However, in 1616, the dying Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made it known that his final wish was for his successors to “Build a small shrine in Nikko and enshrine me as the God. I will be the guardian of peacekeeping in Japan.”
As a result, Nikko became home of the mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, the buildings here are extremely gaudy and ornate, with multicoloured carvings and plenty of gold leaf, and show heavy Chinese influence. Some sense of dignity is restored by a magnificent forest of over 13,000 cedar trees, covering the entire area.
However, for all of the grandeur the shoguns could muster, they’re now over-shadowed in the eyes of many visitors by a trio of small wooden carvings on a stable wall: the famous three wise monkeys.
Nikko is a real gem in the mountains, for great escapes outdoors.