In stark contrast to Nikkō’s temples and shrines is the Zen-like simplicity of the beautifully restored Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa (日光田母沢御用邸記念公園). A ten-minute walk west of the Shin-kyō bridge along the main road, this 106-room residence, surrounded by manicured gardens (including a 400-year-old weeping cherry tree), combines buildings of widely different heritage, some parts dating back to 1632. Three emperors have lived in it, including Akihito, who was evacuated here during World War II. As you stroll the corridors, take time to appreciate the intricate details and the gorgeous screen paintings.

Another tranquil escape is close at hand. From the villa, take the road heading south down to the Daiya-gawa; five minutes’ walk west along the river is the Ganman-bashi, a small bridge across from which begins the riverside pathway through the Ganman-ga-fuchi abyss (含満ヶ淵). Part of this walk, along the attractive and rocky river valley, is lined by the Narabi-jizō, some fifty decaying stone statues of Jizō, the Buddhist saint of travellers and children.

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