Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Greatest Shogun

You may have heard of the name Shogun. The Shogun was a military ruler of Japan and they came into existence approximately over 800 years ago. The last Shogun to rule was in 1868 when the Emperor regained power. Essentially the Emperor of Japan has always been the leader of the nation but for practically all of the 800 years, it was the Shogun that had the actual power. The title Shogun was conferred by the Emperor but of course the Emperor had little choice to grant this to whoever was the pre-eminent military ruler of the nation at that time.

Probably the greatest, and certainly the most famous Shogun was Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu became the supreme ruler of Japan after his victory in the famous battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In 1603 he took the title of Shogun and this began the longest period of peace in Japanese history. The Shogun's of the Tokugawa family ruled Japan for over 260 years, from 1603 until 1868 and the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji Restoration returned the power to the Emperor, Emperor Meiji.

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture has been an important religious area since the 700's with the establishment of the first temples and shrines. But it was in the early 1600's that Nikko gained its highest level of prominence when the Toshogu Shrines were constructed there.

The Toshogu is the shrine and mausoleum that was built for Tokugawa Ieyasu. It was built in 1617 by Ieyasu's son, Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and enlarged by the third Shogun, Ieyasu's grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu. It was Iemitsu who had the shrines and temples constructed in the grand and opulant style we see today, a style that is not very common of temples and shrines in Japan. This is one reason that the shrines and temples of Nikko are so unique and interesting and why I recommend to anyone visiting Japan should go and see.

Here is the Urn that contains the ashes of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The Tokugawa Shogun's carried out annual processions to Nikko to honor Ieyasu. These processions are recreated today in the spring and fall and are called the Procession of a Thousand Samurai. I attended the Spring Thousand Samurai festival several years ago and it was a great experience. You can read about my attending this event here.

Photo I took at the Thousand Samurai Procession

Nikko is one of my favorite places to visit in Japan. Both for its natural beauty and for its history and amazing temples and shrines.

Yomeimon Gate, Toshogu



  1. Anonymous4:04 PM

    This looks like a great place to visit, like you said for its beauty and history. Thanks for the info. I found a new travel site, baraaza.com. I think you might like it.


  2. Thank you. I will check that site out.

  3. Have you ever gone to an onsen in Nikko? I've heard they're nice and that it's common to see monkeys around there.

  4. I have not yet been to an onsen anywhere in Japan. Someday I will. I have seen a monkey just outside of Nikko but I have yet to see any in town or near the shrines.

  5. I would love to one day have the chance to go to the 1000 Samurai Festival.
    One day, hopefully

  6. I think you would enjoy it.

  7. very informative post. Thank you for sharing.

  8. You're welcome. I like to know the history behind some of the famous places and aspects of Japan and I will try and share them.