Shrines and Temples of Nikko, Japan - 2015
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Carvings of the Yōmeimon gate at the Nikko temple.
Nikko was born twice. For the first time in 766, when the monk Shodo Shonin founded his spiritual retreat in a magnificent pine forest. The site was then, and remained for nearly a millennium, one of the main places of Japanese Buddhism, with the sacred mountain of Koya-san. Its second birth was in 1636, when Japan, peaceful and prosperous, entered the golden age of Edo. The ruling family, the Tokugawa, had the mausoleum of Ieyasu, the great unifier of the Japanese archipelago, built there. Nikko thus became a symbol of Japanese syncretism, where Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines came together, and where the divine is all around.