Meeting Locals on a One Year Trip Around the World

9 Things Not to Miss on a Day Trip to Nikko from Tokyo

July 10, 2018|Lena
Don't miss these 10 experiences on a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo. One of Japan's World Heritage Sites. See the temples and shrines, beautiful nature and enjoy Onsen (Hot Springs) on a day trip from Tokyo. #TravelJapan #DayTrip #CulturalTravel

My first and only day trip to Nikko was 3 years ago. It was my first day trip with Taka and the first time I got out of Tokyo after arriving there 2 months earlier to work at a Japanese IT consulting company. The trip has been a fond memory ever since, and I feel it is about time we repeated it. In preparation for my repeat trip to Nikko and your first day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, I have created this post. It includes all the highlights of Nikko including food highlights, and of course all the information you might need on how to get to Nikko from Tokyo.

Let’s dive right in!

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The Shrines and Temples of Nikko are a UNESCO world heritage site and the main reason why so many tourists seek out Nikko. The Shrines and Temples mentioned above, are the Toshogu Shrine, Futurasan Jinja and the Rinnoji Temple and all buildings belonging to these three holy sites which are located closely together in central Nikko.

The founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan for more than 250 years until 1868, Tokugawa Ieyasu and his grandson Iemitsu are both entombed in Nikko, and there is a lot you can learn about the Tokugawa period during your visit. But there is even older history to be found here in the form of Futarasan Jinja and Rinnoji.

Tosho-gu

Shrine in Nikko Japan

Naturally, you would start your day trip to Nikko from Tokyo at the Toshogu Shrine. Many elements make the shrine such a fantastic visit.

The first thing you will come across when entering are some wonderfully decorated storehouses, the most famous woodcuts depict the famous ‘see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil’-monkeys. Another renowned woodcut located on the Sakashitamon is Nemurineko, the sleeping cat.

From the Sakashitamon a flight of stairs leads through the woods to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun. When he was laid to rest at Toshogu Shrine, it was still a very simple mausoleum but was enlarged to its current beauty by his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu.

Way to Tokugawa Ieyasu Mausoleum in Taishogu

 

The 5-minute walk to the mausoleum through the thick Japanese forest is a stunning one. It contrasts so sharply with the high-rise buildings and modernity of Tokyo that it seems a little bit out of this world.

Unfortunately, because of the popularity, the shrine is almost always crowded and a visit early in the morning might be a good idea if you like to avoid the crows. Another note, until the 2020s the complex is under renovation and at different times different buildings are covered up because of this work. But the main building’s repairs are already finished, and it won’t really influence your experience negatively.

Name: Nikko Tosho-gu (日光東照宮)

Opening hours: April to October 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.   November to March 8 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Address: 321-1431 Tochigi-ken, Nikkō-shi, Sannai, 2301

Google Maps

Futarasan-jinja

Futarasan-jinja in Nikko

Futarasan-jinja is much older and more laid back (read: not so pompous) compared to its neighbor Tosho-gu. The shrine was founded more than 1200 years ago by the same Buddhist monk who also founded Rinnoji Temple. Another excellent example of how Buddhism and Shintoism used to go hand in hand in Japan. Futarasan-jinja is dedicated to the deities of Nikko’s three most famous mountains (Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho, and Mount Taro).

 

Futarasan is an alternative name for Mount Nantai the most important of the three mountains. Another two Futarasan Shrines are located close to Mount Nantai itself.

Name: Nikko Futarasan-jinja (日光二荒山神社)

Opening hours: always open

Address: 321-1431 Tochigi-ken, Nikkō-shi, Sannai, 2307

Google Maps

Rinno-ji

The most important Buddhist temple of Nikko is Rinno-ji. Like I mentioned before it was founded by the same monk who also founded Futarasan-jinja. You might be asking yourself why a Buddhist monk would establish a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine, but the temple and shrine worship the same three holy spirits. The deities of Nikko’s most important three mountains. From the Buddhist standpoint, these three deities are manifested as Amida, Senju-Kannon and Bato-Kannon whos statues are located in Rinno-ji.

Name: Rinno-ji (日光山輪王寺宝物殿)

Opening hours: April to October 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.   November to March 8 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Address: 321-1431 Tochigi-ken, Nikkō-shi, Sannai, 2300

Google Maps

Taiyu-in

Taiyuin Temple in Nikko

Similar in architecture and purpose to Tosho-gu is Taiyu-in, the final resting place of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu (who as you might remember is laid to rest at Tosho-gu).

With the forced separation of Buddhism and Shintoism in the Meiji Era, Taiyu-in became a sub-temple of nearby Rinno-ji Temple, whereas Tosho-gu became a pure Shinto Shrine). But even today both contain elements of both Buddhism and Shintoism in their architecture. (Which you won’t really know if you aren’t an expert or aren’t told by a super helpful travel blogger, who just looked this information up on the internet).

Name: Taiyu-in (日光山輪王寺大猷院)

Opening hours: April to October 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.   November to March 8 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Address: 321-1431 Tochigi-ken, Nikkō-shi, Sannai, 2300

Google Maps

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Shinkyo Bridge

Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko

One of the three finest bridges in Japan, Shinkyo Bridge (神橋) which means holy bridge, marks the entrance to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko. It officially belongs to Futurasan-jinja. The current bridge was constructed in the 17th century and was recently renovated. For a small fee, you can even walk across.

We decided to save the money and just viewed the bridge while driving by. There are so many beautiful bridges you come across in Japan, many which are free for you to cross that I didn’t see the need to pay to cross a bridge that won’t lead you anywhere.

Name: Shinkyo (谷や)

Opening hours: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Address: 321-1401 Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko, Sannai

Google Maps

Eat Yuba

After all this walking around, exploring Japanese history and culture, you are probably getting hungry. Now is the time to have some delicious local food. For Nikko and the Tochigi prefecture, in general, the famous local food is Yuba, which is tofu skin. This very thin white substance is skimmed from soy milk, very similar to the surface on cow milk when it is heated. Yuba doesn’t really have much of a taste of its own, so it is all in the preparation.

Maruhide Shokudo

During our day trip to Nikko, our research led us to Maruhide Shokudo not far from Nikko Station. It was a very simple no-frills restaurant with a small menu. The food was good and cheap and, of course, there was Yuba on the menu. It wasn’t the best food I had ever had, but it was all right.

Name: Maruhide Shokudo (ダイニングカフェ 湯波こまち 東武日光駅前店)

Opening hours: 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Address: 321-1406 Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko, Matsubaracho, 255

Google Maps

Sun Field

Because I wasn’t too happy with my food at Maruhide Shokudo, I did some more research on delicious Yuba restaurants for this post, which leads me to believe that there would have been better options to enjoy some Yuba in Nikko. One of the restaurants that came up in my search is Sun Field. A charming looking restaurant with a variety of Yuba on the menu that you can try on your lunch menu. (They also offer delicious looking dinner)

Name: Sun Field (谷や)

Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Address: Nihonbashi Ningyocho 2-15-17, Cuoku, Tokyo 103-0013

Google Maps

Lake Chuzenji

Lake Chuzenji in Oku Nikko

After exploring central Nikko, it is time to head to Oku-Nikko another part of Nikko that should be on your day trip to Nikko itinerary. On a height of 1269 meters above sea level lies the beautiful lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) at the foot of Mount Nantai.

Chuzenjiko is an excellent place for a visit because of the little Onsen town at its eastern shore and also the beautiful nature surrounding the lake. If you have the time, you can take a small paddleboat out on the lake or just enjoy the view during a walk along the shore.

If you have a lot of time, you can even hike around the whole lake on a 25-kilometer long hiking trail through nature.

Kegon Waterfall

Kogen Waterall in Nikko Japan

The most famous waterfall in Nikko is the almost 100-meter tall Kegon Waterfall (華厳の滝) which is also located in Chuzenjiko Onsen. The impressive waterfall is the only outlet of Chuzenji Lake and can be viewed from two viewing platforms. A free one and a paid one (which has the better view).

Kegon Waterfall, as well as Lake Chuzenji, are favorite spots in October during the fall season when the leaves turn their colors.

 

Name: Kegon Waterfall (華厳の滝)

Opening hours: March to November 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
December to February 9:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1661

Google Maps

Irohazaka

Irohazaka on the way to Oku Nikko in Japan

The area around Lake Chuzenji is located more than thousand meters above sea level. To reach the lake the scenic route is to take Irohazaka. This winding road up the mountainside is extraordinarily beautiful during the fall season when the leaves turn color, but also in May when we drove up it was beautiful in lush green colors. We even saw a deer at the roadside. So be careful when you make your way up the mountain. But don’t forget to enjoy the view.

Day Onsen

Many people visit Nikko not only because of the cultural highlights and beautiful nature but also because of the famous Onsen, Japanese hot springs, that can be found in the area. All around Nikko are many Onsen towns located, and even if you are not planning on spending the night in Nikko, you can enjoy the healing properties of Nikko’s Onsen.

There are multiple Onsen that open their doors to day visitors for a small fee, they usually also rent towels, so you don’t have to carry around a towel all day.

If it is your first visit to an Onsen in Japan make sure to read the Japanese Onsen Etiquette before you go. There are many things to know, and if you don’t want to make a fool of yourself it is best to read about them once. On my first visit I was quite clueless, and even though I tried to mimic the locals I still did a lot of things wrong.

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How to get to Nikko from Tokyo

Getting to Nikko from Tokyo is really easy. You have so many different options, so choose one that fits your needs and enjoy your day trip to Nikko.

By Train

There are about three different trains connecting Tokyo with Nikko and they are all a viable option for your day trip to Nikko from Tokyo.

If you are a J Rail Pass holder the cheapest and fastest way is to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station and there transfer to JR Nikko Line. Depending on the time it takes to transfer in Utsunomiya this is the fastest option at around 100 minutes.

Another option, this one is only partly covered by the Japan Rail Pass is an express train from Shinjuku Station to Nikko Station. A one way trip costs 4000 Yen and will take about 2 hours.

The cheapest option if you don’t have a Rail Pass is the use of the Tobu Line that connects Asakusa Station in Tokyo with Nikko Station. The limited express is more expensive at 2800 Yen, which takes 2 hours. The normal trains are cheaper at 1360 Yen, but takes at least 2 and a half hours.

By Car

Drive on your day trip to Nikko

Having a car is the most flexible way to explore Nikko. For a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, you can rent a car in Tokyo and drive up to Nikko in 2 hours. A one-day car rental in Japan will cost you roughly 16000 Yen calculating in gas money any toll roads. This might be a cheaper option if you are traveling as a couple, family or any other group and you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass.

But if you are traveling alone, using public transport might come cheaper, and especially if you own a J Rail Pass I recommend you go by train.

There is ample parking space close to the shrines and temples, which are the main attraction of Nikko. Getting to Okunikko where Chuzenji Lake and Kegon Waterfall are located is also easiest by car. From Nikko, you will get to enjoy the Irohazaka.

We go almost everywhere by car when we travel around Japan and Nikko was actually our first-day trip together, before we were going out, so Nikko holds a special meaning in my heart.

By Tour

There are multiple day tours to Nikko from Tokyo, all with a slightly different program but they in general cover the highlights of Nikko very well. I had a look at Get your Guide and also KLOOK, and these are the day tours to Nikko that I would recommend for your day trip to Nikko from Tokyo:

In Conclusion

Our day trip to Nikko from Tokyo was already 3 years ago, in May of 2015. I had arrived in Japan only 2 months earlier, and it was my first opportunity to get outside of Tokyo. Of course, I took it eagerly to explore other destinations in Japan. I can’t believe how time flies, and writing this post I realized it is high time we went back to Nikko and explored some more. There is much more to experience in Nikko than just a day trip worth and if you have the time I recommend you spend the night at one of the lovely Ryokan in one of the Onsen towns of Nikko.

Booking.com

Nikko is actually one of the destinations on my 2 weeks in Japan itinerary post. It is not an itinerary I have done myself in 2 weeks but rather something I have put together from my years of traveling and living in Japan. If you are looking for a well balanced and unforgettable 2 weeks in Japan you should have a look at the post.

Two other day trip destinations from Tokyo that I highly recommend are Kamakura and Kawaguchiko. If you liked this things to do in Nikko post you will love my Kamakura and Kawaguchiko posts.

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Don't miss these 10 experiences on a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo. One of Japan's World Heritage Sites. See the temples and shrines, beautiful nature and enjoy Onsen (Hot Springs) on a day trip from Tokyo. #TravelJapan #DayTrip #CulturalTravel
Don't miss these 10 experiences on a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo. One of Japan's World Heritage Sites. See the temples and shrines, beautiful nature and enjoy Onsen (Hot Springs) on a day trip from Tokyo. #TravelJapan #DayTrip #CulturalTravel

Lena

Authors Note:
None of the experiences in this post are in any way sponsored and have all been payed for by myself. The opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by purchasing products through my links!

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to help bussy millennials plan an unforgettable trip around the world, through stays with locals, without wasting valuable time and money.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

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