Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Pilgrimage to the Shrines of the Shoguns

Buildings at the main entrance to the Toshogu Shrine, Nikko (photo: 2016). Leonid Andronov/Alamy Stock Photo
Italians say ‘See Naples and die’; Iranians say ‘Isfahan is half the world’; Japanese say ‘Don’t say kekko (‘enough’) until you’ve seen Nikko’. This ancient temple-shrine complex – brought to its glorious present appearance in 1636 – lies due north of Tokyo, some two hours by train. Guided by no more than a compass you could walk there, leaving the shogun’s castle (now the Imperial Palace), needle pointing north, and arrive four days later. I did once walk the historic highway – not quite a straight line, of course. Throughout East Asia, north is the vector of kingship. North is also where the Pole Star is. Nikko, now a World Heritage Site, is a place to which people have always flocked in large numbers. [More]