Kunozan Toshogu is dedicated to the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the dynasty he founded, which ruled almost all of Japan from 1600 to 1868.
The shrine and tomb were built in 1617 by his son Hidetada (his third son, and the second Shogun) on Kunozan, a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Although born in Okazaki, Tokugawa Ieyasu spent much of his youth (and retirement) in various places in Shizuoka, and this mountain with sweeping views was a favorite.
Within the grounds of the shrine there are a total of thirteen buildings (there used to be more, but the years, Meiji era policies, and fires have taken their toll). All thirteen of the remaining buildings are originals, and are designated as Important Cultural Properties.
The shrine originally combined a mixture of buildings of both Buddhist and Shinto designs and purposes, which was not unusual at the time, and in keeping with Tokugawa Ieyasu’s beliefs. During the Meiji period (after the civil war of 1868-69), the new government decided to separate the two religions, and make Shinto the state religion, so the Buddhist buildings were dismantled. This happened pretty much all over the country, with very few exceptions (Jishu Shrine inside Kiyomizudera in Kyoto is a good example).
Recently restored, the shrine is colorful and interesting. As with much of Tokugawa era construction, the basic architectural influences were from China’s Ming Dynasty, and the famous Toshogu at Nikko (Ibaraki Prefecture) and Takisan (Aichi) along with about 100 others throughout Japan reflect the design of Kunozan.
It is said that as you climb up the 1159 steps from sea level, you are purified by the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu. For those not in need of purification, there is a cable car from the parking area on the other side. We sometimes include the steps as part of the Mount Fuji Climb, or as preparation for it.
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