Archive for July 30, 2017

nikkō: rinnoji temple, shinkyo sacred bridge & yutaki falls   16 comments

Saturday, July 29:  After visiting the Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple, I retrace my steps to the temple I bypassed earlier this morning, Rinnoji Temple.  It is apparently Nikkō’s most important temple, founded by Shodo Shonin, the monk who introduced Buddhism to the area in the 8th century.  It’s now 11:00 a.m. and I’ve already visited three of the area’s shrines and temples; I’m happy to be making good time despite the rain.

On the way I pass the Sōrin-tō, a 15 meter-high bronze pillar that serves as a symbol of world peace and purifies the back demon gate of Nikkō Toshogu Shrine.  It contains 1,000 volumes of holy Buddhist sutras. Shogun Tokugawa Iyemitsu requested that Monk Jigen Daishi build the pillar in 1643.  Its design imitates the treasure tower at the temples on Mt. Hei (Heizan, Tendai sect headquarters).

The light today is just not working in my favor. 🙂

The sōrin-tō bronze pillar

I pay the fee and enter the Rinnoji temple’s main building, the Sanbutsudo, which houses fabulous gold lacquered, wooden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon (“Kannon with a thousand arms”) and Bato-Kannon (“Kannon with a horse head”). The three deities are regarded as Buddhist manifestations of Nikkō’s three mountain deities which are enshrined at Futarasan Shrine, according to Rinnoji Temple. These are amazing statues, but sadly, no photography is allowed.

The Sanbutsudo Hall is currently undergoing a major renovation, scheduled to last until March 2019. During this period, the temple hall is covered by a huge scaffolding structure with a picture of the temple on the front.

Rinnoji Temple under renovation

While standing in line, I run into Christine from Luxembourg, who I met last night when I first arrived in Nikkō. It turns out I will run into Christine quite a number of times on this trip, and surprisingly, even later on my trip to the south!  She and I walk around this temple together.  Unlike me, who woke at the crack of dawn and have already been to visit three shrines, including the largest, Toshogu, Christine has just woken up and gotten started, so she is heading to Toshogu after this.  We will have to part ways when we leave Rinnoji.

We are allowed to take one picture, shown below, but we’re not allowed to photograph the Buddha statues.

inside Rinnoji Temple

We walk up a series of stairs to see the ongoing renovation, under cover from the rain.  We are able to take some pictures of the work in progress on the roof.

Around the Rinnoji Temple are small shrines, ema, and Shoyoen, a small Japanese style garden.

After Christine and I split, I revisit the Shinkyo Sacred Bridge, which I saw last night in the dark.  I already wrote about the bridge here: travel and arrival in nikko.

Nikko World Heritage Site

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

Shinkyo Sacred Bridge

The bridge is part of Futarasan Shrine, which I visited earlier; a small part of the shrine sits here beside the river.

Futarasan Shrine

Near the bridge is a statue of Itagaki Taisuke (1817-1919), a politician of the Meiji period. When the pro-shogunate troops occupied Nikko San’nai and tried to destroy temples and shrines, he saved the temples from destruction.

Statue of Itagaki Taisuke

I stop for a lunch of yuba ramen near the Shinkyo Bridge.  It’s rather tasteless compared to my yuba monk’s meal last night.  I finish lunch about 12:30.

Yuba ramen

Near the restaurant, I hop on a bus that makes its way up a mountain for nearly an hour to Yutaki Falls.  I had no idea the bus ride would take so long, but it makes a multitude of stops along the way.  I don’t get to the falls until about 2:00. My goal is to start at Yutaki Falls and then follow the Senjo-ga-hara Hiking Course.  I had read about this popular hiking course in a blog post. The trail passes the Chuzenji Lake in the Nikko National Park. The course supposedly takes 2 1/2-3 hours and is mostly on flat ground through woods and marshland.

Yutaki Falls is one of the three famous falls in Oku-Nikko. The other two are Kegon Falls and Ryuzu Falls. The 70-meter high, 25-meter wide waterfall sits at the southern end of Lake Yunoko.

Yutaki Falls

After watching the waterfall for a while, I embark on the walking trail.  I pass a fisherman near the waterfall and then head into the forest. It’s still raining steadily.

A fisherman at Yutaki Falls

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I love this kind of forest where the trees are spaced out nicely and there is lush undergrowth. Luckily it’s not muddy because the path has a wooden walkway.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

I’m the only fool walking through the forest on this rainy day.

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

the wooded path to Senjo-ga-hara Plateau

mossy tree

It’s still raining so steadily that after a while, and after not seeing another human being, I start to regret that I embarked on this hike at this late hour of the day. I begin to worry that the walk might take me longer than 2 1/2-3 hours, and that it might get dark before I make it to the end of the hike at Shakunage-bashi bridge.

About 40 minutes after starting the hike, I see a sign for Kotaki Falls, only 5 meters high and not as famous as Yutaki Falls or Ryuzu Falls. I head to the falls.  There is still not a soul in sight.  I see from my map that there’s a parking lot at Kotaki Falls.  While I’ve been contemplating backtracking to Yutaki, instead I follow the sign to the parking lot.

Kotaki Falls

This forest is so green and lush!  Not to mention wet.


mossy tree

close up of mossy tree

sign to the parking lot

almost there!

relief in sight 🙂

I actually end up at the same parking lot where I started the hike, so I’ve come full circle.  In a little shop, I find a man grilling shioyaki.  I don’t partake but instead buy myself a drink and go out to wait for the bus in the rain.


About halfway down the mountain, at one of the bus stops, Christine hops on the bus.  It cracks me up that we keep running into each other.  She has been to another waterfall and is on her way back down into the town. I tell her I’m stopping to have my yuba monk’s meal again, but she still doesn’t want to eat out.  No matter.  I stop again and have a beer and my delicious yuba monk’s meal.


It’s been a long rainy day, and I’ve been on the go since 7:30 a.m. Though it hasn’t been a cold rain, I still look forward to getting into the hot onsen and having an early night.  I still have more to squeeze in tomorrow before I head back home to Fuchinobe. Sadly, rain is forecast tomorrow too, but of course, I’m always hopeful the sun will win out.

Steps today: 18,648 (7.9 miles).

nikkō: futarasan shrine & rinnoji taiyuin mausoleum and temple   8 comments

Saturday, July 29: After leaving Toshogu Shrine, I trudge through the rain down a long path edged with stone lanterns. I’m heading to Futarasan Shrine, founded in 782 by Shodo Shonin, the Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikkō.  The current building dates from 1619, making it the oldest shrine in Nikkō.

walkway to Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan (“two rough mountains”) Shrine is where the surrounding mountain deities are worshiped, and though not as fabulous in appearance as Toshogu, this atmospheric temple, set in the midst of towering Cryptomeria (Japanese cedar), is Nikkō’s spiritual heart.  The revered deities are related to Nikkō’s three most sacred mountains: Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho and Mount Taro.  The Shinkyo Bridge is also part of this shrine.

torii to Futarasan Shrine

The worship of mountains is an ancient Shinto practice that was integrated into Buddhism when it entered the area in the eighth century. The mountains, considered both as frightening guardian spirits and providers of life due to their flowing rivers, have been worshiped in the islands since Neolithic times (Japan experience: Futarasan Shrine).

I’m afraid I don’t know the significance of the various figures of Futarasan Shrine, but some of them seem quite fierce.

lion at Futarasan Shrine

Haiden at Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

Below is the Daikoku-den, with an interesting figure standing outside and beautifully decorated ceilings inside. While I’m inside, I suddenly can’t take pictures because my camera card is full.  When I put a new one into my camera, I can’t get it to work and I take it in and out and turn my camera off and on, to no avail.  After sulking about a bit, I decide to remove the battery and then put it back in.  Voila, that solves the problem.  It’s so annoying and frustrating to have problems with a camera while traveling.


figure at Daikoku-den

ceiling inside Daikoku-den

Many of the cedar trees have been chopped down and the trunks are preserved at this shrine.

cedar trunk

There are smaller shrine areas within Futarasan Shrine where people solemnly worship.  One area has a pond. Another has a boulder pile topped with small white pebbles.  Yet another has a pile of wooden hearts.  I don’t know the meaning of any of these little sacred spots.

Futarasan Shrine

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

I leave Futarasan and continue walking down another long path to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple.  The mausoleum was built for Third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. Taiyuin is the posthumous name of Iemitsu.  Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum was built in the same architectural technique and style as Toshogu Shrine, but on a smaller and more modest scale.  I enjoy this shrine more than Toshogu mainly because there are so few people here. 🙂

entrance to Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

stone lanterns at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

water pavilion at Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum and Temple

After leaving the water pavilion, I climb steps to the lavishly decorated Nitenmon Gate, guarded by two heavenly kings.

Nitenmon Gate

A drum tower stands to the left of the gate, and a belfry to the right.


The Nitenmon Gate is gorgeous with its vivid colors and fanciful wood carvings.

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

details of Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

The Karamon Gate stands in front of the praying hall (Haiden).  A pair of cranes and a white dragon embellish its transom. Karamon means Chinese and the gate is gilded with pure gold. Pigeons are carved on the decorative fence.

Karamon Gate

Karamon Gate’s decorative fence

Inside the Karamon is the Haiden, or Worship Hall, the main structure of Taiyuin. It is designated as a National Treasure.  The Honden, the Inner Shrine, is connected under the same roof to the Haiden, in the shape of an H.  Prayers to Iemitsu are offered here.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next to the halls at an innermost area is Tokugawa Iemitsu’s mausoleum.  The design is influenced by Chinese Ming Dynasty architecture called Ryugu Zukuri.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Mausoleum

details of Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

It’s time for me to make my way out of this shrine to my next destination, so I retrace my steps through the various gates.

Nitenmon Gate

Nitenmon Gate

I love studying the detailed carvings on the elaborate Nitenmon Gate.


I make my way past the belfry and the drum tower.

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Rinnoji Taiyuin Temple

Next, I retrace my steps back down the hill past Futarasan Shrine and then past Toshogu Shrine to Rinnoji Temple, which appears to be going through a major renovation.


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