Monday, August 25, 2008

Yomei-mon(Sun Blaze Gate)

On Sunday I went to the town of Nikko which is situated a 129km north of Tokyo. Nikko is a World Heritage shrine complex set amid some extremely beautiful scenery with mountains, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs.

It is most famous for the Tosho-gu Shrine which is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled for over 250 years until 1868 and the shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo.

The Tosho-gu Shrine contains many Shinto and Buddhist elements and is extremely beautiful with its ornate carvings and lavishley decorated architecture covered in gold leaf. Originally the decoration was a lot simpler, but it was turned into the lavish complex that we see today by Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu, during the first half of the 17th century.

Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru

The shrine is also famous for the carvings of the three wise monkeys. In Japanese the proverb 'see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil' translates as 'mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru'.

The word for monkey in Japanese is 'saru' which sounds like the verb ending 'zaru', a play on words, which may account for the origin of the monkeys.

Another explanation of the monkeys' origin is that they may have been introduced into Japan from China by a Buddhist monk of the Tendai Sect, probably during the eighth century. The monkeys were originally associated with the blue-faced god called Vadjra. Part of the Vadjra cult's teaching was that if we do not hear, see or talk evil we would be spared all evil, so the gestures of the monkeys represent the command of the god.

You can see all of the photos