The Tosho-gu Temple is a Shinto shrine, one of three complexes containing over 100 buildings and structures – two Shinto shrines & one Buddhist temple – that make up the Shrines and Temples of Nikko, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site set in wooded surroundings in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Five of Tosho-gus 42 buildings are classified as National Treasures of Japan, with three more designated as Important Cultural Properties.
The Shrines and Temples of Nikko were built as mausoleums for the Tokugawa Shoguns, hereditary military dictators who ruled Japan until the revolution of 1867-68. They were inspired by the vision of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He ruled until his death in 1616, just prior to which he made it known that his final wish was for his successors to “build a small shrine in Nikko and enshrine me as a God. I will be the guardian of peace keeping in Japan.” Ieyasu was buried here immediately after his death but the present complex was only built in 1634 on the order of his grandson, Iemitsu. The shrine took 15,000 workers some 2 years to complete. Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, the buildings in the Tosho-gu complex are extremely gaudy and ornate with multicoloured carvings and plenty of gold leaf. They show a heavy Chinese influence. The whole complex, granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999, is a magnificent sight, enveloped as it is in a mature forest of over 13,000 cedar trees.