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Tue, Jul. 3, 2018 Nikko: Contemplating its Architectural Jewels
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Nikko, which is a leading tourist destination in Japan, has long been venerated as a sacred place of mountain worship. It is home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified Japan and founded the Tokugawa Shogunate in the beginning of the 17th century. In the mid-19th century, after a period of isolation, Japan resumed international relations. Nikko soon became one of the most sought after summer playgrounds for Westerners due to its abundant nature and cool climate. On this edition of Journeys in Japan we explore architectural jewels that quietly reveal Nikko's history, including the Nikko Toshogu Shrine where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined, former villas of foreign embassies, and a classic hotel.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Founded in 1617, the Shinto shrine is comprised of many magnificent structures including the ornate Yomeimon Gate and the Five-Story Pagoda. The entire complex is designated as a World Cultural Heritage site.
Address: 2301 Sannai, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-54-0560
Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park
Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park
Three generations of emperors and princes retreated to this villa from 1899 until after World War II. It features unique architectural styles from three eras-the Edo, Meiji and Taisho.
Address: 8-27 Honcho, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-53-6767
Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park
Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park
The Italian embassy built this retreat in 1928 and ambassadors used it until 1997. Its restoration preserved many original parts, such as wooden floors, fittings, and furniture.
Address: Nikko Natural Science Museum, 2482 Chugushi, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-55-0880 (※Japanese only)
British Embassy Villa Memorial Park
British Embassy Villa Memorial Park
British diplomat Ernest Satow built this villa in 1896 as his private summer residence. Eventually it was turned over to the British embassy. Now, current guardian Tochigi Prefecture has remodeled it back to its original glory.
Address: Nikko Natural Science Museum, 2482 Chugushi, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-55-0880 (※Japanese only)
Lake Trolling
Lake Trolling
Trolling for trout is popular with anglers on Lake Chuzenji.
Address: Boat Rental Lake Okajin, 2482 Chugushi, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-55-0046 (※Japanese only)
Kanaya Hotel History House
Kanaya Hotel History House
This historic building was the first lodging for Westerners in Nikko. Zenichiro Kanaya, who was a traditional musician belonging to the Toshogu Shrine, refurbished his private house into an inn to entertain visitors from overseas. It was called "Samurai House."
Address: 1-25 Honcho, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-50-1873 (※Japanese only)
Kanaya Hotel
Kanaya Hotel
Zenichiro Kanaya went on to establish Japan's first full-fledged hotel in 1893. With beautiful architectural elements combining both Japanese and Western aesthetics, the hotel has been attracting celebrities from around the world.
Address: 1300 Kamihatsuishi-macho, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture
Tel: +81 (0) 288-54-0001
Access
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From Tokyo to Nikko, it takes 1 hour and 50 minutes on a limited express train that departs from Asakusa Station. From Nikko Station to Lake Chuzenji is about a 50-minute ride by bus.
Travel Log

Traveler: James Lambiasi > More Info

Nationality:American

Occupation:Architect

Length of residence in Japan:25years

Reason: It is a great privilege to work as an architect in Japan, as I have been able to learn  from the highly sophisticated design sense here, as well discover the deep appreciation for craft that goes into construction.

Traveler's Archives:

> Traces of History: Exploring Around Hiroshima

As I reflect upon my exploration of so many amazing buildings and places in Nikko, I am ever more convinced of the important role of architecture. It goes beyond providing shelter for our daily lives. It is a crystallization of our culture and environment that communicates to us the aspirations of our ancestors.

For example, the Toshogu Shrine does not simply mark the final resting place of Ieyasu Tokugawa, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It shows us the remarkable results that can happen when peace and prosperity allow humans to express themselves through building and technology. In fact, the buildings themselves convey from the distant past the value of preserving peace for future mankind.

And just 100 years ago, Nikko was again a symbol of peace. The foreign ambassadors to Japan at the turn of the century were enamored with its natural beauty. The Kanaya Hotel pioneered the opening of Nikko to an international clientele that welcomed the foreign elite to enjoy the cool waters of Lake Chuzenji during the summer months. In an era unimaginable just years later in the turmoil of World War II, there was a Belle Époque in Nikko that saw British, American, Italian, German and Japanese representatives frolicking on the shores of the lake together, and competing in yacht races.

Nikko not only shows to us our history, but it reveals to us that we as humans remain unchanged in our fascination of natural beauty. Perhaps on your next journey to Nikko, you will not only understand the past, but also be a vital link to future generations to honor this natural and cultural legacy.

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