The 1,000 Samurai Procession, known locally as Hyakumonozoroe Sennin Gyoretsu, is held annually at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. Designated as a World Heritage site since 1999, thousands of locals gather at Toshogu to parade in Nikko’s traditional warrior attire. The Togyosai festival usually takes place annually on May 18th, when the portable shrines move to the Otabisho through the 1 km long road at 634 meters high (the same elevation of Tokyo Skytree Tower).
The procession is held on the second day of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine Spring Grand Festival (Nikko Toshogu Shunki Reitaisai, 日光東照宮春季例大祭), preceded by a Yabusame, or horseback archery, event on the preceding day.
The samurai procession is divided into three groups such as "Three sacred horses," "Shinken-mihata," and "Three portable shrines." Each group goes forward as if they guard each other.
Be advised this is a procession and not a festival with music, food or entertainment that you might be accustomed to seeing. It is a reenactment of Divine Spirit of Ieyasu Tokugawa when it moved from Mt. Kuno to Nikko and each ceremony has a religious meaning. The festival is actually a 2-day event that begins this year at 10:00am on Saturday, May 17, when family members of Tokugawa attend the ceremony. The samurai procession follows the next day at 11:00am.
There are many things to discover while you’re at Toshogu Shrine. Constructed as the mausoleum of Ieyasu Tokugawa in 1617, this shrine was later rebuilt into the present impressive shrine under the reign of the Third Shogun Iemitsu. All the buildings here have been designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Assets. One of its gates Yomeimon is also called Higurashimon (twilight gate), because viewers never get tired of admiring its beauty all day till twilight. Visitors are also overwhelmed by as many as 5,000 ornate woodcarvings, including Nemuri Neko (Sleeping Cat) and San Zaru (Three Monkeys), which are the culmination of the supreme craftsmanship in the Edo Period.
If you have time to wander, visit the striking red Shinkyo Bridge that stands at the entrance to Nikko's shrines and temples, and technically belongs to Futarasan Shrine. It is located along the way between the railway stations and Toshogu Shrine. But easily accessed by foot as you ascend from the hills of the national treasures.
Due to the location of the procession, I highly recommend bringing water, a shade umbrella and a face mask if you are sensitive to flying dust along the dirt trail. Entrance fees vary from 200 yen to 1,300 yen for Adults.
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Originally from San Diego, California, I lived in Japan for 4-1/2 years and now I am currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. In December 2010, I arrived in Yokosuka with a new outlook on my future. Mainly, to refocus on family and let my curiosities take us to places we’ve only dreamt of. Along the way, we’d hopefully develop new friendships and simply collect memories to last a lifetime. Then, there was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. I will never forget that experience and the devastating effects it had on the entire country. I asked the community, “What can I do to help?” Collecting, sorting, and packing donations, was the least I could do. I also ended up going back to California for one month, raised a small monetary donation for Red Cross, and secured a few phone interviews to help spread the word on how others from the United States could assist. I was determined to show my family, friends, and folks across the world that it would be okay to return to Japan. After all, I wanted them to know that all of the little things that make up this beautiful country still existed. What better way than to use a platform such as JapanTravel.com to share photos and stories full of life, history, and culture. It is a pleasure to say I have contributed more than 150 articles to a database that now collectively holds more than 15,000! This journey has not only allowed me to realize my initial goals, but I’d like to think that it has somehow played a role in sparking an interest locally and across the globe for others to experience all that is published here and more. I invite you to also share your wonderful stories, offer comments, and ask questions right here on JapanTravel. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Safe travels! ٩( ๑╹ ꇴ╹)۶