jump to the content

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

日光神殿和庙宇

几个世纪以来,日光神殿和神庙与它们周围的自然环境一直被视为神圣之地,并因其杰出的建筑和装饰而闻名于世。同时该遗址与德川幕府时期的历史具有密切的关系。

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

日光の社寺

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

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
© OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
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.

 

Integrity

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.

 

Authenticity

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.

Long Description

Nikko is a perfect illustration of the architectural style of the Edo period as applied to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The ingenuity and creativity of its architects and decorators are revealed in an outstanding and distinguished. The 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.

At the end of the 8th century a Buddhist monk, Shodo, erected the first buildings on the slopes of Nikko sacred mountain, which had been worshipped since time immemorial. At the end of the 12th century, the Kamakura Shogunate established itself in the region of Kanto, enabling Nikko to strengthen its position further as a major sacred site in Kanto. However, the site was abandoned owing to the upheavals of the Muromachi period, in the 16th century. It was chosen as the site for the Tôshôgu, a sanctuary composed of several buildings erected to house the mausoleum of T Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This regime was in power for over 250 years in the history of Japan. Since this period, Nikko has played a very important role as a symbol of national sovereignty, not only in the eyes of local authorities but also those of leaders of neighbouring countries who sent their emissaries to pay tribute to Ieyasu, a deified personage.

In 1871, the Meiji government decided to divide the site and its religious buildings into three groups entrusted to three separate religious organizations: Futarasan-jinja and Tôshôgu for the Shinto cult and Rinnô-ji for Buddhism. This reorganization entailed moving and restoring certain buildings.

  • The Futarasan-jinja: devoted to the three divinities of Mount Nantai, it forms a complex of buildings. Most of them were restored or built in the 17th century, following old traditions, and they exerted a general influence in the layout of shrines throughout Japan. Among the buildings, mention should be made of the Honden and the Haiden, the heart of the shrine, the Betsugû Takino-o-jinja Honden, with a construction plan dating back to the year 825, and the Shin-yosha, the oldest example of an architectural style which was to inspire the first construction phases of the Tôshôgu. The Shinkyô is also part of the Futarasan-jinja. This sacred bridge, straddling the river Daiya, appears to belong to the Muromachi period. Its present configuration, a vermilion lacquer bridge resting on massive stone pillars, goes back to 1636.
  • The Tôshôgu: this shrine, founded in the 17th century, comprises a large number of buildings. A suite of three sacred chambers is a perfect illustration of the H-shaped architectural layout known as Gongen-zukuri. The Shômen Karamon and the Haimen Karamon, a masterpiece of craftsmanship is inspired by a foreign style, hence the common name of 'Chinese door'. The Yômeimon, erected in 1636, is probably the best-known example of the architectural style of Nikko. It is covered in a profusion and infinite variety of decoration. The Tôzai Sukibe, also dating to 1636, is a wall about 160 m long, surrounding the Honden , Ishinoma and Haiden group. The Tôzai Kairo, a corridor 220 m long, with a southern section formed of 25 sculpted panels, surrounds three sides of the same Honden , Ishinoma and Haiden group.
  • The Rinnô-ji: the origin of this Buddhist temple goes back to the 8th century, and it has always remained a place of worship. Major constructions were added at the beginning of the Edo period, especially in 1653 for the mausoleum of the third shogun, Togukawa Iemitsu. The group, in the Gongen-zukuri shape and style and composed of the Taiyû-in Reibyô Honden, Ainoma and Haiden, is listed as a National Treasure. It is a pure masterpiece of architecture and decoration.

Thanks to centuries of landscaping, the temples and shrines blend harmoniously into their natural setting. The buildings are arranged on the mountain slopes in such a way as to create different visual effects. Thousands of Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria ) were planted during the Tôshôgu construction period in the early 17th century. This forest provides an exceptional natural bower for the shrines and temples, adding considerably to the beauty and sacred character of the site.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The cultural property proposed for inscription is linked to a cult that goes back to the end of the 8th century, when a Buddhist monk, Shodo, erected the first buildings on the slopes of the Nikko, which had been worshipped as a sacred mountain since time immemorial. Certain buildings in the Futarasan-jinja and Rinnô-ji groups belong to this period.

At the end of the 12th century, the Kamakura Shogunate established itself in the region of Kanto. This enabled Nikko to strengthen its position further as a major sacred site in Kanto, not only because of its mountainous situation but also because of its religious edifices. However, the site was more or less abandoned owing to the upheavals of the Muromachi period, in the 16th century.

The temples were rehabilitated at the beginning of the 17th century. Nikko was chosen as the site for the Tôshôgu, a sanctuary composed of several buildings erected to house the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This regime was in power for over 250 years in the history of Japan. Since this period, Nikko has played a very important role as a symbol of national sovereignty, not only in the eyes of local authorities but also those of leaders of neighbouring countries who sent their emissaries to pay tribute to Ieyasu, a deified personage.

In 1871, the Meiji government decided to divide the site and its religious buildings, which came under one religious authority, into three groups entrusted to three separate religious organizations: Futarasan-jinja and Tôshôgu for the Shinto cult, and Rinnô-ji for Buddhism. This reorganization entailed moving and restoring certain buildings. The sacred and prestigious character of the site made it possible to guarantee the preservation of Nikko which was placed under legal protection as of 1897, a measure subsequently reinforced on several occasions.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation