People on the Island of Zipangu have tremendous quantities of
gold. The King’s palace is roofed with pure gold, and his floors
are paved in gold two fingers thick.’
The future is the past again, entered through another gate. Most of both our experiences in Japan began through one. This one appeared on the rise of a pine path. The granite had come from 1200 kilometers away, and the thirty-foot high spaces between the Ishidorii pillars had come from Emperor Gomizunoo in 1618. The crossbars of the Divine designation of Ieyasu Tokugawa slipped apart widely in an earthquake in 1949, only to shift back into their original places in the aftershock.
The stone stairway on the approach was deceiving. Deliberately, for the width of each step got narrower and the height became shorter as it ascended, looking higher and further than it really was. The top Terifuri-ishi step, the tenth, was a forecasting barometer; the brown and blue color of the contrast intensifies before the weather worsens.
The Nikkō Tōshōgū Shrine was built by Ieyasu’s grandson, Iemetsu, the third Tokugawa shogun, as an act of devotion. His commitment was extravagant, and no expense was spared. For the modern equivalent of $400,000,000, Iemetsu recruited 4,540,000 workers for two years, including 15,000 artists and craftspeople brought to Nikkō from all over Japan, to construct a group of 35 buildings, using 140,000 wooden materials, that would remain the most richly-colored and elaborately-carved shrine on the archipelago. Iemetsu created a wonderland maze, with 2.4 million sheets of gold leaf covering an area of 6 gilded acres, and some 5173 sculptures. Robyn and I paused to ponder the perplexity of the labyrinth depicted on our ukiyo-e crimson map.