Kunozan Toshogu Shrine

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  • Established: 1616
  • Japanese: 久能山東照宮 (Kunouzan Toushouguu)

Kunôzan Tôshôgû in Shizuoka prefecture was the first Shinto shrine dedicated to Tôshô-daidongen ("Great Avatar that Illuminates the East"), the deified spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu, following his death in 1616.

Ieyasu had specified that a small shrine be constructed to his memory, on Kunôzan (Mt. Kunô) near Sunpu castle. He envisioned a small ceremony headed by his retainer Sakakibara Teruhisa. However, his son Tokugawa Hidetada arranged for something larger and grander. Two days after Ieyasu's death, the Buddhist priest & shogunal advisor Bonshun officiated at a ceremony installing Ieyasu as the chief deity at a new shrine on Mt. Kunô constructed for this purpose. Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and other members of the family visited the shrine three days later. Though the shrine was originally called Tôshôsha, it was later renamed Tôshôgû.

Tenkai, another Buddhist priest and shogunal advisor, however, managed to arrange for Ieyasu's body and spirit to be relocated to Nikkô before the end of that year. Though Kunôzan Tôshôgû remains active and prominent, Nikkô Tôshôgû grew to overshadow it almost immediately.

Over the course of the Edo period, daimyô and others regularly made offerings (or gave gifts) to the shrine as an act intertwined with notions of fealty to the Tokugawa shoguns. The treasure house museum at the shrine today has a collection of some 2,000 objects, most of them closely associated with Ieyasu or his successors. These include: the Kunozan Toshogu clock (the oldest extant European-made clock in Japan, made in Belgium in 1573); eyeglasses, pencils, scissors, a drawing compass, glass medicine phials, and other stationery, medicinal, cosmetic, or other personal objects used by Ieyasu during his time in Sunpu towards the end of his life; matchlock firearms and ammunition once owned by Ieyasu himself;[1] numerous swords associated with various Tokugawa shoguns or prominent Edo period daimyô; a number of some-tsuke and Tenmoku teabowls; a large chunk of aloeswood from Southeast Asia; various hats and helmets owned by the Tokugawa shoguns, including European-style military caps;[2] and a number of paintings produced by the shoguns.


  • Plaques and gallery labels on-site at Kunôzan Tôshôgû.
  • Morgan Pitelka, Spectacular Accumulation, University of Hawaii Press (2016), 146.
  1. Including one matchlock gun (hinawajû) made by a maker named Kiyotaka 清堯 around 1612 or 1613.
  2. Including one in a French style, gifted to Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu by Napoleon III.
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