Nikko achieved its present grandeur during the seventeenth century when its forests of giant cedar and cypress trees became the site for the tombs and shrines of the Tokugawa shoguns. Grandest of them all is the wonderfully opulent Toshogu shrine which houses the mausoleum of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the shogun who first united the feudal lords and brought a long-lasting, culturally rich peace to Japan. While you walk its tranquil grounds you might be struck by the curious details carved beneath the sweeping eaves, like flying dragons and the three monkeys of the sacred stable. They express the Zen maxim see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil with wordless aplomb. However, the stable’s inhabitant is perhaps its most curious detail; the Land of the Rising Sun meets the Land of the Long White Cloud with Kotuku, meaning rare and sacred visitor, an imperial white horse gifted to the shrine by the New Zealand Government. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of allusion to the popular Lord of the Rings films, given the magic Tolkienesque vibe of Nikko, but the shrine has kept a sacred Kiwi horse since the 1964 Olympics.