To the north of Tokyo, the small town of Nikko (90,000 inhabitants) is popular with tourists for its beautiful landscapes, temples and shrines, some of which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Its lovely mountainous area makes it a popular trip out of the capital. Also, for those who are seeking it, it is easy to see snow here.
The journey from Tokyo is not very long and if you organise it properly, it is possible to visit several of its main points of interest in a single day. It is also possible to spend a night there to enjoy its many onsen (natural hot springs).
As you leave the station, the easiest way to start is by heading to the Shinkyo bridge and walking for a quarter of an hour. From there, go into the National Park to visit the five major temples and shrines: Toshogu, Rinno-ji (Taiyuin and Sanbutsudo) Kan-mangafuchi and Futarasan.
Going over the plateau, you come to the Okunikko area around Lake Chuzenji, another one of the region’s must-see tourist destinations.
How to get to Nikko
By JR train: Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno (respectively 49 or 45 minutes), change for a local train from Utsunomiya (45 minutes).
By Tobu train: direct from Asakusa (2:10 hours - ¥1,350 / ~US$ 12.30 without seat reservation), stop in front of the Matsuya.
Both stations are located a few dozen meters from each other.
For non-owners of JR Pass, some interesting pass (offering free transportation on Tobu trains from Tokyo and local buses) are available for sale:
- "2 Day Nikko Pass": ¥2,670 (~US$ 24.20) for 2 days
- "All Nikko Pass": ¥4,520 (~US$ 41.00) for 4 days
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 279)
Warning: the ¥1,000 combined ticket valid for several temples ("World Heritage Pass") is no longer for sale since July 2013 on grounds of incompatibility between the different temples.
How long / when to visit
Visit feasible on a good day from Tokyo
Pleasant in all periods. Less snow in warmer seasons
日光 (literally "sunlight")
Accomodation in Nikko
Rinno-ji temple in a sarcophagus from 2007 to March 2021
Toshogu shrine renovation in stages between 2007 and March 2019
Both stay open during construction work