Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Kunozan Toshogu Shrine

Kunozan Toshogu is a Shinto Shrine located in Shizuoka city's Suruga ward. It is located on the peak of Mt Kuno, known in Japanese as Kunozan.

The Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is one of the many Toshogu shrines in Japan. Tosho-Daingongen was the posthumous name of the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu and all shrines dedicated to him go by the name of Toshogu shrine. Nikko's Toshogu shrine is the main Toshogu shrine, while the Kunozan Shrine is second only to it. It however is the oldest of the Toshogu shrines. Interestingly, Kunozan shrine was the original resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his body lay buried here till it was moved before his first death anniversary to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine where it rests. 

The shrine is located at the site of the old Kuno castle built in 1568 by Takeda Shingen, a powerful warlord. The area came to be occupied by Tokugawa Ieyasu after overthrowing Takeda family. Before the Kuno fort was built, an ancient Buddhist temple known as Kuno-ji stood in its place. 

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate and was the person considered to have successfully united Japan. He established the Shogunate in 1603 and thus began a period known as Edo period till it ended in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration. 

After moving the capital from Kyoto to Edo in 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu handed over the title of Shogun to his son Tokugawa Hidetada and moved to Sunpu Castle, in current day Shizuoka city to retire. He considered the Kuno castle as an important turning point in his life and it was his last wish to be buried there upon his death. His wish was honoured upon his death in 1616. His son and successor, Tokugawa Hidetada, the new shogun had the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine built to enshrine his father in 1617. His son, Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun in turn had the grand Toshogu shrine in Nikko built in honour of his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu.   

While the primary 'kami' of the Toshogu shrine is Tokugawa Ieyasu, it also enshrines Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Odu Nobunaga the other two powerful warlords of the time. The secondary 'kami' were enshrined subsequent to the Meiji Restoration.  

The Kunozan Toshogu shrine was maintained by the Tokugawa Shogunate till the shogunate was overthrown following the Meiji Restoration. Subsequently, the Shrine lost most of its revenue and upkeep and as such many of the buildings suffered considerable loss. 

The shrine comprises of a bright red and black coloured buildings adorned with beautiful carvings, gold accents and colorful paintings.
The entrance to the shrine is through the Romon Gate. A path leads past a stable, a drum tower and a copper lantern to the main shrine buildings- the Honden and the Heiden halls. 
The Honden and Heiden were part of the original buildings constructed in 1617. 

These impressive buildings have black lacquer exteriors with extravagant wood carvings and gold leaf and colorful paintings. 

The Main prayer hall

A path behind the main building leads to the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, where his body originally rested. Some of his personal belongings such as handwritten scrolls, swords, armors, clothing, eye glasses and clock are all exhibited in the Museum outside the shrine. 

While the scale of the shrine is much smaller compared to Nikko's Toshogu shrine, the Kunozan Toshogu shrine was the inspiration for Nikko's shrine. 

Most of the structures are designated important cultural properties and the mountain is designated a National Historic site. 
The shrine is accessible by about 1000 stone steps up the mountainside from the south. 
These steps offer an impressive view of the Suruga Bay, but certain stretch of the climb can  be tiring. 
The uphill climb takes about 25 minutes while it takes about 12 minutes to descend the steps. 
The shrine can also be accessed by rope way from the north from the Nihondaira plateau. The plateau is popular for the impressive views over Suruga Bay, Shimizu port, the tea gardens of Shizuoka and most of all the Mount Fuji on clear days. 

The shrine cannot be reached by road directly. Visitors need to park cars at the Nihondaira rope way station parking lot or by the parking lots at the foot of the mountain.We parked our car at the parking lot near the Nihondaira rope way station and took the rope way. My family returned by the rope way, while I decided to check out the steps downhill. 

Descending the steps was quick and the view was good. 

The annual festival of the shrine is held on April 17th while the spring festival is held on February 17-18. 

Address: Shizuoka Prefecture 422-8011, Shizuoka city, Suruga ward, Negoya 390

Phone: 0542-37-2438

Closing days: Open all year round

Time: 9:00-17:00 ( May to October; Closes at 16:00 hrs from November to April) 

Admission: 500 yen (Shrine); 400 yen (museum only); 800 yen(shrine and museum)

Rope way: 550 yen (one way); 1000 yen (round trip)
Combination ticket: 1650 yen (round trip by rope way and admission to the shrine and 

Parking: Available at Nihondaira Ropeway station.


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