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Futarasan-jinja and Taiyuin-byo

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A trip around Tōshō-gū is likely to quench your appetite for sightseeing, but it’s worth pressing on to some of the other temples and shrines in the surrounding woods. On leaving the main shrine, take the path next to Tōshō-gū’s pagoda, and head west to the Futarasan-jinja (二荒山神社), whose simple red colour scheme comes as a relief to the senses. This shrine, originally established by the priest Shōdō Shōnin in 782, is the main one dedicated to the deity of Nantai-san, the volcano whose eruption created nearby Chūzenji-ko. There are some good paintings of animals and birds on votive plaques in the shrine’s main hall, while the attached garden (¥200) offers a quiet retreat, with a small teahouse serving macha green tea and sweets for ¥350. You can also inspect the bakemono tōrō, a “phantom lantern” made of bronze in 1292 and said to be possessed by demons.
Just beyond Futarasan-jinja, and bypassed by the tourist mêlée, is the charming Taiyūin-Reibyō (大猷院霊廟), which contains the mausoleum of the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, who died in 1651. This complex – part of Rinnō-ji and hidden away on a hillside, surrounded by lofty pines – was deliberately designed to be less ostentatious than Tōshō-gū. Look out for the green god of wind and the red god of thunder in the alcoves behind the Niten-mon gate, and the beautiful Kara-mon (Chinese-style gate) and fence surrounding the gold and black lacquer inner precincts.

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