Daibutsu, Kamakura

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tokugawa Ieyasu and Nikko Shrine

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Ieyasu Tokugawa was born in the warring states period. He survived the chaos, defeated his rivals and unified the entire nation. Ieyasu was assigned the title Seii-taishogun (Great generalissimo) in 1603 by the Emperor and established the Tokugawa Shogunate (Bakufu) in Edo (Tokyo). In 1605, Ieyasu retired and his son Hidetada became shogun. However, Ieyasu watched the nation closely even after he retired.

Prior to his death, Ieyasu left a last instruction for after he passed. "Enshrine my dead body in Mt. Kuno (His hometown in Shizuoka prefecture) for the first year after my death. Then, build a small shrine in Nikko and enshrine me as a God. I will be the guardian of Japan."

Ieyasu was dead on April 17th, 1616, when he was 75 years old. The Shrine was constructed in Nikko and the divine designation "Tosho-Daigongen" was given to it by the Imperial court. He was enshrined in accordance with his last will.

Ieyasu aimed to be the guardian of Japan. Nikko is located north of Edo and the north was considered as a taboo direction, where demons would come from. Therefore, Ieyasu wanted to place himself in the taboo direction in order to protect Japan from the evil things. He hoped for a long life of the Tokugawa government and for eternal peace.

Although, Ieyasu wanted "a small shrine," the third shogun Iemitsu, Ieyasu's grandson, reformed the shrine into today's opulent buildings. Most of the existing buildings were built in this period of reformation. According to the Tokugawa government reports, it cost 40,000,000,000 yen in the equivalent of today's currency. It took tens of thousands of artisans approximately two years to complete construction. Thirty-five buildings were reformed in that period which ended in 1636.

Yomeimon Gate

Ieyasu's remains are enshrined in this bronze pagoda.


  1. Do you know why he chose Nikko? I mean, if he wanted to protect Japan from the north, wouldn't Aomori have been better?

  2. Not certain. However, Aomori was not in the Tokugawa held lands. Aomori was in another domain. Although the Tokugawa unified the country and were the supreme rulers, most of the country was still controlled by other feudal lords. In addition, Nikko was already a very religiously important place. The temples and shrines had been established about 800 years before Ieyasu.