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.
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