March 23, 2018


I was chitchatting with my Japanese colleagues about my weekend plan when they suggested me to visit Nikko. According to them, Nikko is well known for its beautiful autumn colors, and just about 2 hours by train from Tokyo.

I was busy with work so I didn't really take note on what to see and do in Nikko, I just googled on how to get there. I thought day trip is enough to cover the city.

Big mistake!

Went to Asakusa Station to get my train ticket and the staff at the Tourist Information Center explained to me the varieties of passes available. Only then I realized that there's so much to see and one day is definitely not enough. Should've stayed overnight!

Anyway, it's already late to change my plan, plus it's peak autumn season so I just bought Tobu Nikko Free Pass (Nikko City Area Pass) to visit the main attractions.

Nikko Train Station

Shinkyo Bridge

The vermillion colored Shinkyo Bridge marks the entrance to Nikko's World Heritage listed area of shrines and temples.

The bridge was built in 1636, but has been renovated a few times since then, and is now ranked as one of Japan's three finest bridges. In feudal times, the Shinkyo Bridge could only be crossed by the emperor. Today, its use is also limited, where you have to pay entrance fee to walk across the bridge and back.

Access: 20-30 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by bus (stop at Shinkyo bus stop) from JR/Tobu Nikko Station
Operating hours: 8am ~ 5pm (Apr to Sept), 8am ~ 4pm (Oct to mid Nov), 9am ~ 4pm (mid Nov to Mar)
Entrance fee: 300 yen

Toshogu Shrine

If you only have time to visit one shrine in Nikko, it's gotta be Toshogu. It is Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine, decked out in gold-leaf accents and countless wood carvings, and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868.

five storey pagoda in front of main entrance gate

Toshogu Shrine is currently being renovated in stages until 2020 but it's still worth a visit. 

Of the many colorful and elaborate wood carvings that decorate the shrines, the most famous ones are those of the Three Wise Monkeys, "see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil" and the Sozonozo Elephants ("imagined elephants") that were carved by an artist who had never seen elephants. 

Another highlight is the "Sleeping Cat" at the top of Sakashita gate.

Access: 30-40 minutes walk or 10 minutes bus ride from Tobu/JR Nikko Station (the bus is covered by the free passes)
Opening hours: Opens everyday 8am ~ 5pm (until 4pm from Nov to Mar)
Entrance fee: 1300 yen (shrine), 1000 yen (museum), 2100 yen (shrine and museum)

Done with the two must see attractions in Nikko, I decided to visit Kinugawa Onsen, a popular hot spring resort town along the Kinugawa River. It's also covered by the Nikko City Area Pass that I bought.

Take the ropeway and enjoy the mountain view. There's an observation deck overlooking the town of Kinugawa and a small shrine up there.

Operating hours: 9am ~ 5pm
Fees: Roundtrip 1100 yen (adults), 550 yen (child)

To end the trip, a visit to an onsen is a must! hehe..

So many things to see and do but so little time. Definitely will repeat to come here and visit the other attractions such as Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Waterfall.

Getting to Nikko from Tokyo:
* If you have a Japan Rail pass, take the Tohoku shinkansen to Utsunomiya, then transfer to JR train to Nikko station.
* Take Tobu Railways from Asakusa Station.


Diana Diane Teo said...

I just went both Nikko and Kinugawa last week. It's indeed a lovely and wonderful place to visit.

rara said...

@DT: must be wonderful with snow. will be waiting for ur blogpost :)

m.u.l.a.n said...

Thanks for sharing.. Awesome trip..

rara said...

@m.u.l.a.n.: glad to share :)