Day 9 saw us make another early start to head north of Tokyo to the town of Nikko....or in reality to the shrines of Nikko. It was a short journey on the shinkansen to Utsonomiya where we changed to a local train for the final leg of the journey to Nikko.
As you can see, this was the only day of our trip where it was raining....it was wet, but it was only water...and it added to the atmosphere as we walked towards the shrines through the forest.
Shinkyo Bridge, which stands at the entrance to the shrine complex and is considered to be one of Japan's three finest bridges, which was built in 1636. As you can see, whilst we were a few days to early for peak autumn leaves in Kyoto we were a few days too late in Nikko.
The path through the forest to the shrines of Toshugo, the Rinnoji Temple and the Futusaran Shrine. The colours were still inspiring, the leaves on the trees and the ground just shrieking out for a photograph.
We saw a girl getting being photographed for some publicity materials, dressed in a beautiful kimono.
The shrines and temples of Nikko are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are a total of 103 buildings recognised within 3 key complexes - the Toshugu Shrine, the Futurasan-jinja Shrine and the Rinno-ji Buddhist Temple. When we were there some of the buildings were covered in scaffolding so we didn't visit them all. The entire Rinno-ji Temple was covered in scaffolding as was the famous Yomeimon Gate to the Toshugu Shrine (the photo below is from my previous visit to Nikko when the shrine was uncovered just so you can see how amazing the carving is).
The Toshugu Shrine is actually a mausoleum to the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine was built by his grandson Iemitsu in the first half of the 1600s. Over 55 of the buildings in the shrine were built in the space of 18 months, including the Yomeimon Gate. According to the shrine's financial records the cost was the equivalent of 40 billion yen!!!
Just outside the gate is a beautiful 5-storey pagoda, the original built in 1650 but was destroyed in a fire and was rebuilt in 1818. Each storey represents an element - earth, wind, fire, air and void.
Just inside the gate there are many storehouses which are elaborately decorated with beautiful carvings and decorated in gold leaf. This is a panorama of the Sanjinko, three sacred storehouses, which house the harnesses and costumes used in the Procession of 1000 Samurai which is held in the spring and autumn. To the far right is the Shinkkyusha, Sacred Stable where the famous "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" monkey carvings can be found.
The Drum Tower....
Another panorama of the lower complex...
Climbing further up the stairs through the cryptomeria forest to the grave of Ieyasu.
The gate to the grave site....
This is the Karamon Gate, the third gate to the complex and providing access to the most important building, the main shrine. It is painted completely in white powder chalk featuring intricately carved Chinese sages.
The site is full of lanterns and stone pagodas. They were very atmospheric in the mist and drizzle.
After we had visited the Toshugu Shrine we wandered through the woods towards the Taiiyuan Shrine. The leaves were amazing colours...orange, yellow, flame red...
Now for some random shots from Nikko...prayers and torii gates.