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Shrines and Temples of Nikko

Shrines and Temples of Nikko

The shrines and temples of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, have for centuries been a sacred site known for its architectural and decorative masterpieces. They are closely associated with the history of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

Sanctuaires et temples de Nikko

Les sanctuaires et temples de Nikko, ainsi que le cadre naturel qui les entoure, constituent depuis des siècles un lieu sacré où se sont élevés des chefs-d'œuvre d'architecture et de décoration artistique. Ils sont étroitement liés à l'histoire des shoguns Tokugawa.

مزارات ومعابد نيكو

تُُُُُُعتبر مزارات ومعابد نيكو، بالاضافة إلى المناظر الطبيعيّة التي تُحيط بها، مَكانًا مقدّسًا منذ عدة قرون حيث ارتفعت تحف الهندسة المعماريّة والزخرفة الفنيّة. وهي مرتبطة ارتباطًا وثيقًا بتاريخ رجال توكوغاوا المعروفين بالشوغانس.  

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Святилища и храмы Никко

Святилища и храмы Никко, вместе с окружающей природой в течение столетий были священным местом, известным своими архитектурными и декоративными шедеврами. Святилища тесно связаны с историей сегунов Токугава.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Santuarios y templos de Nikko

Estrechamente vinculados a la historia de los sogunes Tokugawa, los santuarios y templos de Nikko, así como el paisaje natural circundante, forman desde hace siglos un sitio sagrado en el que se pueden admirar obras maestras de la arquitectura y la ornamentación artística.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Heiligdommen en tempels van Nikko

Nikko is een perfecte illustratie van de architectonische stijl van de Edo periode, zoals toegepast op shinto heiligdommen en boeddhistische tempels. De heiligdommen en tempels van Nikko, samen met hun natuurlijke omgeving, zijn een uitstekend voorbeeld van een traditioneel Japans religieus centrum, gerelateerd aan de shinto opvattingen over de relatie van de mens met de natuur. In deze – nog steeds actuele – religieuze praktijken hebben bergen en bossen een heilige betekenis en zijn het objecten van verering. Nikko is al eeuwenlang een heilige plaats, bekend om zijn architecturale en decoratieve meesterwerken die nauw verbonden zijn met de geschiedenis van de Tokugawa Shoguns.

Source: unesco.nl

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Shrines and Temples of Nikko © CRA-terre
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

The Shrines and Temples of Nikko form a single complex composed of one hundred three religious buildings within two Shinto shrines (The Tôshôgû and The Futarasan-jinja) and one Buddhist temple (The Rinnô-ji) located in an outstanding natural setting. The inscribed property is located in Tochigi Prefecture, in the northern part of Japan’s Kanto region. The religious buildings, many of which were constructed in the 17th century, are arranged on the mountain slopes so as to create different visual effects. The first buildings were constructed on the slopes of the sacred Nikko mountains by a Buddhist monk in the 8th century. Today, they testify to a centuries-old tradition of conservation and restoration as well as the preservation of religious practices linked to a site considered to be sacred. They are also closely associated with prominent chapters of Japanese history, especially those relating to the symbolic figure of the great Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616).

The unusual character of the property is the result of a combination of very important long-standing values: the 50.8-hectare property provides evidence of a long tradition of worship, a very high level of artistic achievement, and a striking alliance between architecture and the surrounding natural setting, and it serves as a repository of national memories.


Criterion (i): The Nikko shrines and temples are a reflection of architectural and artistic genius; this aspect is reinforced by the harmonious integration of the buildings in a forest and a natural site laid out by people.


Criterion (iv): The Nikko shrines and temples is a perfect illustration of the architectural style of the Edo period as applied to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The Gongen-zukuristyle of the two mausoleums, the Tôshôgû and the Taiyû-in Reibyô, reached the peak of its expression in the Nikko shrines and temples, and was later to exert a decisive influence. The ingenuity and creativity of its architects and decorators are revealed in an outstanding and distinguished manner.


Criterion (vi): The Nikko shrines and temples, together with their environment, are an outstanding example of a traditional Japanese religious centre, associated with the Shinto perception of the relationship of man with nature, in which mountains and forests have a sacred meaning and are objects of veneration, in a religious practice that is still very much alive today.



The property area is composed of the three elements: (i) the twenty-three buildings of Futarasan-jinja shrine, (ii) the forty-two buildings of Tôshôgû shrine, and (iii) the thirty-eight buildings of Rinnô-ji temple.

The boundaries respect the historic outline of the shrine and temple grounds and include all the buildings indispensable to demonstrate the property’s history, a high level of architectural and artistic achievement, and a landscape of structures in harmony with their sacred natural settings.

The whole property area and all the one hundred three component buildings, together with an adequately sized buffer zone, are properly maintained in good condition.

Therefore, the property ensures the condition of integrity with respect to both wholeness and intactness.



The shrine and temple buildings, together with their natural surroundings, have for centuries constituted a sacred site and the home of architectural and decorative masterpieces. The site continues to function today as a place of religious rituals and other activities which maintain its traditions, both physically and spiritually. The site has suffered from natural disasters (e.g. fire, falling trees, and earthquakes) over the centuries. Each time, the damaged building was restored faithfully, following rigorously the original plans and techniques, using the original materials whenever possible with attention and care to the preservation of colouring, materials and decorative works. Detailed documents about these operations have been kept.

Most of the buildings as elements of the property remain in their original locations. The setting, with its relationship between buildings and old growth forest planted in the early 17th century, has also been maintained. The mountains and forests retain their sacred meanings, and the shrines and temples of Nikko are in active religious use.   

As described above, the property retains high level of authenticity in terms of form/design, materials/substance, traditions/techniques, location/setting, and function.


Protection and management requirements

The management of the inscribed property aims at preserving the rich harmony of the landscape which unites natural features and buildings. All the buildings which constitute the property are protected: nine under designation as National Treasures and ninety-four as Important Cultural Properties by the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The property area of 50.8 ha, which includes the buildings mentioned above, is also protected under designation as a Historic Site by the 1950 Law. Under the law, proposed alterations to the existing state of the property are restricted and any alteration must be approved by the national government.

The property area is also protected under the 1957 Natural Parks Law. This law imposes restrictions on construction of new buildings and tree felling.

An adequately sized buffer zone (373.2 ha) has been established around the property. Except for the southeast urban area, it coincides with areas protected by the Natural Parks Law and its boundaries almost entirely follow the ridges of the mountains surrounding the property. The buffer zone also partially overlaps with: (i) a Reserved Forest under the Forest Law, (ii) Scenic Zones under the City Planning Law, or (iii) a Prioritized Landscape Control Zone designated in the Nikko City Landscape Master Plan under the Nikko City Townscape Ordinance, depending on land use. This allows restriction of any acts that might adversely affect the cultural and natural environments.

The inscribed property is owned by theReligious Organizations of Futarasan-jinja, Tôshôgû, and Rinnô-ji which are responsible for the management. Necessary repair works are conducted by the Foundation for Preserving Nikko Shrines and Temples which includes qualified conservation architects and skilled engineers. As fire is the greatest risk to the property, the monuments are equipped with automatic fire alarms, fire hydrants, and lightning arresters. In addition, the property owners organize fire brigades which work in cooperation with public fire offices. Moreover, because the individual religious sites are open to the public, property owners must consider the presentation and protection of their properties for their visitors.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tochigi Prefecture, and Nikko City provide the property owners with both financial assistance and technical guidance for protection and management.