NIKKO IS JAPAN
Perhaps someone remembers an old Japanese Railway advertising poster. Unlike conventional advertising, the slogan here was much more powerful than an attractive picture. Three simple words: Nikko is Nippon (Japan). They tapped the rhythm in the heads of many people as they walked along the station and hurried off somewhere. Nikko is Japan. So what does this mean?
The country we call Japan today has changed many faces over the years. Khm, or even centuries. Many important people and places in its history have several names, which makes it difficult to remember them than to understand the many different ways of reading kanji (borrowed Chinese characters used in written language). Speaking of them, there are two ways to read the name of the country: Nihon and Nippon. The second is considered more formal and is also often used for patriotic purposes in order to arouse Japanese pride in all the national treasures that continue to shine years later. Nihon and Nippon are like yin and yang. So what in Nikko embodies this intangible image, this essence?
In a word: everything. The archipelago, which we call Japan, would have looked very different today if there had not been a series of aggressive attempts to unite on its territory under the leadership of three people, the last of whom would be posthumously known as Ieyasu Tokugawa. At the same time, of course, the archipelago itself would have looked exactly the same, but what we know today by the word “Japan” would not consist of the 6,000+ islands that it is now. A similar attempt at unification had a completely different result, when the kingdom of Silla recruited the Tang dynasty for military service and gave half of its northern land to China as compensation, which seriously underestimated the territory of Korea. However, this sparked the fire that would later lead to the division of the country into north and south that is relevant to our day.
In the case of Japan, unification led to more multiplication of the territories than to their reduction, which indirectly facilitated the accession of the tropical islands of Okinawa and the northern island of Hokkaido. However, we will not be distracted from the main thing. During its history, Japan constantly experienced unexpected, severe, inevitable changes, and the Edo period that broke in without warning was no exception. The warmest of all people met the long-awaited peace that this era gave them. The introduced and reinforced isolation policy allowed Japanese culture to flourish regardless of the sudden geopolitical tides and ebbs that neighboring countries were subject to at that time. However, everything quickly came to an end with the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, and then it turned out to be subject to further changes in the Showa era. As a reminder, we still have wonderful landscapes, buildings and monuments against which it is necessary to rethink modern cultural identity – a consequence of turbulent eras.
The main shogun of the last shogunate was buried in Tosogu. In accordance with his posthumous wishes, he was buried with divine honors. Unlike the restrained aesthetics of other temples, the palace buildings of Tosegu are richly bound with gold, decorated with intricate carvings and drawings. A short but strict ascent of the multistage stone stairs leading through the forest will lead you to the bronze tomb, which really contains the dust of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This is the man who moved the capital from Kyoto to a place that later became modern Tokyo; strategically used the merits of the former conquerors – Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Oda Nobunaga; became more powerful than the Emperor and forged the nation, which will fascinate the world for centuries long after his death. Such a pitiful privilege as the opportunity to look at his resting place, like admiring the stars, makes us feel insignificant, tiny.
Shinkyo, or Nikko’s sacred bridge, symbolizes the entrance to the territory of local Buddhist and Shinto temples, which are on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage sites. It is considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Japan, and also belongs to Futarasan-jinja, a Shinto shrine adjacent to Tosego and dedicated to the gods of the three most holy mountains Nikko. The most prominent of these is Mount Nantai, which is also often called Futarasan; the temple owes its name to it, and the amazing Lake Chuzenji to existence. Approximately 20,000 years ago, an abundant eruption formed this lake, and now Kegon Falls, one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Japan, is a natural outlet for its waters. The lake also became the source of the Daya River, through which the Shinkyo Bridge was transferred. She almost closes in a circle like a snake eating its tail.
Speaking of snakes: according to legend, the Shinkyo bridge was erected by the founder of Futarasan-jinja, Shodo Shonin, when he went to conquer Mount Nantai. He and his followers could not overcome the roaring streams of the Daya, so they began to pray.