TWO DAYS IN NIKKO
Known for its stunning scenery and year-round beauty, Nikko is a real gem to visit. Located at the entrance to the Nikko National Park, the town boasts mountainous landscapes, an almost infinite number of hiking trails, waterfalls, lakes, hot springs and even wild monkeys! Plus, it’s less than 2 hours on a direct train from downtown Tokyo (Asakusa Station). We urge you to make an escape from the big capital to experience a totally different side of Japan!
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
We provide a number of hidden and popular sites that we highly recommend for any guests visiting Nikko. For each set of activities, read the descriptions, and select 3-5 activities per day that sound especially interesting to you. Don’t try to do more than 2 activities in a morning or afternoon—you’ll be exhausted and won’t have time to truly enjoy the place you’re in. In our experience, it’s always better to thoroughly experience a few places than to sprint through many different ones.
The distance from Nikko Station to the Shinkyo Bridge is about 1.8km (1.1miles) and will take 25 mins to walk directly. You can leisurely walk to the bridge, jump in a cab at the station, or get a bus from Nikko Station to Shinkyo Bus Stop. The bus journey only takes 7 mins and the buses come regularly.
$ Convenience Store
Nikko, like many places in Japan, has its fair share of convenience stores. The three major chains, Lawson, 7-11 and Family Mart, can all be found in Nikko. In fact, you’ll pass by Family Mart and Lawson on your way from Nikko Station to your ryokan hotel.
$ Meiji Yakata Cake Shop
Address: 4-3 Matsubarachō, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1406
If you arrive at Nikko Station around 10am, stop by at Meiji Yakata Cake Shop, which is located inside Tobu-Nikko Station (right beside Nikko Station). The Cake Shop has teas, coffees, and delicious cheesecakes as well.
$$ Niemon Cafe
Address: 418-1 Ishiyamachi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1405
Heading north-west along the main street away from Nikko Station, Niemon Cafe has great coffee and breakfast. The Cafe is on route towards the day’s first stop, Shinkyo Bridge, and it’s worth popping in for a quick pit-stop before your day of sightseeing begins!
Address: Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1401
Admission: 300 Yen
Known as the Sacred Bridge, The Shinkyo Bridge forms part of the Futarasan Shrine despite being located nearly one km from the main site. Built in the 17th century, the Shinkyo Bridge is famous for being one of the most important bridges in Japan. Overlooking the Daiya River, the bright red bridge is a stunning spectacular and measures 28m long, 7.4m wide and 10.5m above the water. The bridge was only opened-up to the public in 1973 and later underwent extensive restoration work in the 1990s. The restoration work continues to this day and the small entrance fee paid to cross the bridge is used for this purpose.
There’s also a little shop called Hongu Cafe near the bridge if you want a bit of brew and a wonderful traditional setting!
KOSUGI HŌAN MUSEUM OF ART
Address: 2388-3 Sannai, Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431
Admission: 720 Yen
Only a 5min walk from Shinkyo Bridge, the Kosugi Hōan Museum of Art was opened in 1997 and houses exhibitions related to the life and works of the artist Hoan. Hoan (1881-1964) was born in Nikko to a Shinto priest family and worked mainly in watercolors and oil paints. His inspiration, which you will find in much of his work, is predominantly Japanese nature. The Museum is situated on the summit of a hill known as the Sannai and offers pleasant views of the surrounding areas.
$ Local Soba Shop
Address: 2315-1 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Very near to the Kosugi Hōan Museum of Art is a Soba Noodle Shop selling a variety of noodle dishes, rice and seafood.
Address: 2339-1 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Within the same area as the Soba Noodle shop, there’s a fantastic western-style restaurant Meiji-no-Yakata serving up beef burgers, chicken burgers, fish and steak. There’s also a smaller, side menu with soups and salads on offer.
$$ Nikko D’vine
Address: 2-32, 2 Honcho, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1434
Hours: 11am-10pm. Closed on Tues, Wed, Thurs.
Enjoy a nice meal of freshly-made foods from all over the world at this international dining spot Nikko D’vine! You’ll find a great variety of foods, from traditional Japanese to Indonesian, American, and French cuisine.
NIKKO TOSHOGU SHRINE GROUNDS
Address: 2301 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Admission: 2100 Yen (shrine and museum)
Only a short work from the Kosugi Hōan Museum of Art and the restaurants, you’ll find the Nikko Toshogu Shrine. The Toshogu is part of a spectacular complex that has existed for hundreds of years. You can easily spend the whole afternoon exploring the various shrines within the complex. The Toshogu Shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The dominating Tokugawa Shogunate united and ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine consists of more than a dozen buildings set in a beautiful forest. Stroll through the grounds, and enjoy the unique wood carvings, gold leaf decorations, and shrine architecture, featuring both Shinto and Buddhist elements.
To the northeast of Nikko Toshogu is the Nikko Toshogu Art Museum. The museum houses hundreds of Japanese paintings and is worth a detour if you feel like soaking up more of Nikko’s art scene.
RINNO-JI TEMPLE AND TREASURE HOUSE
Address: 2300 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Admission: 400 Yen
Rinno-ji Temple and the Rinno-ji Treasure House are only a 5 min walk from Nikko Toshugu. The temple is known as Nikko’s most important temple. It was founded by Shodo Shonin who was the monk who introduced Buddism to Nikko in the 8th century. Rinno-ji’s main structure is called the Sanbutsudo (Three Buddha Hall). It includes the “Three Divine Manifestations of Nikko”: the Horse-headed Buddha, the Amida Buddha, and the Thousand-headed Buddha. Located just in front of the Sanbutsudo is the Treasure House, which has both a museum and an Edo-era landscape garden.
NIKKOSANRINNOJI TAIYUIN (IEMITSU MAUSOLEUM)
Address: 2300 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431
Admission: 550 Yen
The Iemitsu Mausoleum holds the tomb of Iemitsu, who was the grandson of Ieyasu. Iemitsu’s mausoleum complex resembles the Toshugu Shrine in its layout but is deliberately more subdued. This is because Iemitsu greatly respected his grandfather and did not want to outshine him. There’s so much to see and explore around this complex. Make sure you pick up a map of the site to fully explore all of the tombs, shrines, gardens and gates that the complex has to offer.
Today, explore nature just surrounding Nikko by heading east towards Lake Chuzenji. The journey takes about 1 hour on the bus and the views when you arrive make the trip totally worth it. There’s so much to see and do around the lake and in the surrounding mountains.
Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
From Nikko Station, take the bus towards Okunikko Yumoto Onsen. The stop you get off at is Ryutonotaki Bus Stop. From here, we’re only a short walk from Ryuzu Falls.
Ryuzu means “dragon head” in Japanese. The name comes from the unique shape of the falls, which resemble the head of a dragon. The waterfall is located on Yukawa River and is surrounded by many trees that turn a stunning red colour in the autumn. You get a great view of the waterfall from a small observation deck in the back of a rest house. This house also contains a souvenir shop and a restaurant.
LAKE CRUISE BOAT TERMINAL
Address: 2478-21 Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
Hours: Tours depart regularly between 9:00am-5:00pm
From Ryuzu falls, either hop on the bus or walk to the Lake Cruise Boat Terminal by foot. The bus takes 10 mins from Ryutonotaki Bus Stop to Funenoekichuzenji Bus Stop. Alternatively, you can walk down the road towards the Lake Cruise Boat Terminal. The road is simple to navigate. As long as you keep the lake on your righthand side, you can’t go wrong! The total walking time to the Lake Cruise Boat Terminal is 1 hour.
What better way to enjoy the staggering mountain scenery than by boat? The Lake Cruise Boat has regular tours of differing lengths. It all depends how long you want to be on the water for and where you want to go. You can go from one end of the lake to the other, or just cruise around and soak in the surrounding nature of this caldera lake.
Check out tours, routes and fares on the Chuzenji-ko Cruise Website.
$$ Aizuya Shokudo
Address: 2480 Chūgūshi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
Aizuya Shokudo is a Teishoku restaurant and local gathering place that offers soba, udon, tempura, and hearty sets for a great price. Enjoy the homeliness of this showa-era style shop. We recommend trying out their buckwheat soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms.
Address: 2482 Chūgūshi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
After a morning full of exploration, it’s time to sit down for a good meal! For anyone craving a meaty lunch, check out Maple. They have smoked fish from the lake, as well as locally-sourced wild deer and local Wagyu Beef.
LAKE CHUZENJI HIKING TRAIL
Route: Nikko Yumoto
Lake Chuzenji is a beautiful part of the world. Although favoured by many hikers in the autumn months (due to the stunning fall colours), it’s also a great place to hike in summer too. The lake is located 1269 meters above sea level, which keeps the area pleasantly cool even in the hottest months of the year.
It is possible to hike around the entire 25km circumference of Lake Chuzenji via lakeside walking trails. However, the suggested route (see link for map) is closer to 13km and takes roughly 4-5hours to complete. So get your boots on, pack some Conbini snacks and go and explore what the beautiful Nikko countryside has to offer!