Top 14 Things to Do in Nikko

gate of toshogu shrine in nikko japan

On the hunt for incredible things to do in Nikko?

Buckle up, you’re in for a treat! Our traveler’s checklist peels back the layers of this Japanese gem.

From sacred shrines to lush landscapes, get ready for an adventure you’ll never forget.

Getting to Nikko

a train station in nikko japan

The Journey to Nikko

Getting to Nikko from Japan’s major cities is part of the adventure. Whether you’re on the bullet train from Tokyo or catching a bus from Kanazawa, the journey offers glimpses of Japan’s beautiful countryside. While there are many ways to get to Nikko, each path uniquely weaves into the story of your visit.

Local Transportation in Nikko

Once in Nikko, the city’s well-organized local transportation system will be your best ally. From buses that shuttle you to the most iconic sites, to charming bike rental spots for a more intimate exploration – Nikko has it all.

When to Visit Nikko

Wondering about the best time to visit Nikko? Well, any season brings its own charm. Cherry blossoms in spring, vibrant green landscapes in summer, fiery hues in autumn, and a snowy wonderland in winter. However, for the most comfortable sightseeing, aim for spring or autumn.

Historic Sites

1. Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

futarasan shrine unesco world heritage site in nikko japan

At the heart of Nikko are the sacred shrines and temples that form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Drenched in history, these structures tell tales of emperors and monks, ancient beliefs, and artistic prowess.

2. Toshogu Shrine

tosho-gu shinto shrine in nikko

The star of the show is undoubtedly the Toshogu Shrine. A tribute to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, it’s a stunning masterpiece adorned with intricate carvings and gold leaf.

3. Rinno-ji Temple

Jonathan Ang - rinnoji temple
Source: Jonathan Ang

A stone’s throw away is Rinno-ji Temple, established by Shodo Shonin, the monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko. The grand Sanbutsudo hall, housing three massive golden Buddhas, is a sight to behold.

4. Futarasan Shrine

Futarasan Shrine

Don’t miss the Futarasan Shrine, dedicated to the deities of Nikko’s three holy mountains. The sacred atmosphere here is palpable, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a traditional Shinto wedding taking place!

Natural Attractions

5. Nikko National Park

Nikko National Park

For nature lovers, Nikko National Park is a paradise. Teeming with hiking trails and beautiful sights, it’s a reminder of why we should always make time for nature. And with trails suited for beginners to experienced hikers, everyone can enjoy the scenic vistas!

6. Lake Chuzenji

Lake Chuzenji

Next up is Lake Chuzenji, a large lake at the foot of Mount Nantai. Here, you can enjoy a leisurely boat ride, go fishing, or just relax by the lakeside, basking in the stunning beauty that surrounds you.

7. Kegon Falls and Ryuzu Waterfall

Nearby, the thunderous Kegon Falls and whimsically named Ryuzu (Dragon Head) Waterfall are worth a visit. Pro-tip: visit in autumn for a mesmerizing view of the falls framed by colorful foliage.

8. Yumoto Onsen

Yumoto Onsen

End your day at Yumoto Onsen, soaking in hot springs as you gaze at the snow-capped peaks or verdant summer hills. Staying overnight at a ryokan here is an experience straight out of a Japanese fairy tale.

Cultural Experiences

Goma-dofu

9. Local Cuisine in Nikko

Hungry yet? Good. Because Nikko’s local cuisine is as varied and tantalizing as its landmarks. Warm up with a bowl of Yuba ramen, a local take on the classic Japanese noodle soup, or snack on Nikko Goma-dofu, a savory sesame tofu.

10. Traditional Japanese Art Experiences

If you want to immerse yourself in traditional Japanese arts, Nikko will not disappoint. You can try your hand at Yuzen dyeing, creating colorful, patterned fabrics that will make a memorable souvenir. Or perhaps you’d like to learn Japanese calligraphy, a practice as calming as it is artistic.

11. Festivals and Events in Nikko

To truly connect with Nikko’s vibrant culture, plan your visit around a local festival. The grand Toshogu Shrine Spring and Autumn Festivals are remarkable events, with parades of samurai and horseback archery demonstrations.

Day Trips from Nikko

Kinugawa Onsen

12. Kinugawa Onsen

Feeling adventurous? Take a day trip to Kinugawa Onsen, a famous hot spring town. After a relaxing dip, you can explore the charming town dotted with shops and traditional inns.

13. Edo Wonderland

For a fun-filled family day, head to Edo Wonderland, a theme park that takes you back to the Edo period with samurais, ninjas, and geishas.

14. Tobu World Square

Or marvel at miniature replicas of world-famous buildings at Tobu World Square. It’s a round-the-world trip without leaving Nikko!

Practical Tips for Visiting Nikko

Local Customs and Etiquette

As a place steeped in tradition, respect for local customs is paramount. A polite bow, removing your shoes before entering certain spaces, and speaking softly in religious sites are just a few ways to show respect.

Navigating Language Barriers

While English isn’t widely spoken, you’ll find that people here communicate with a universal language of kindness. Carry a phrasebook or translation app for convenience.

Budgeting Tips

Exploring Nikko doesn’t have to break the bank. Take advantage of combo tickets for major sites, and don’t miss out on the mouthwatering street food for budget-friendly meals.

Conclusion

There you have it – the magic of Nikko in a nutshell, brimming with cultural riches, stunning landscapes, and culinary delights. Nikko warmly invites you to write your own chapter in its enduring story. So, are you ready to embark on your unforgettable journey to Nikko?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Best Time to Visit Nikko?

Nikko is beautiful all year round, but spring (April-May) and autumn (October-November) are particularly stunning due to cherry blossoms and autumn colors, respectively. These seasons offer the most comfortable weather for sightseeing as well.

How Do I Get to Nikko from Tokyo?

The most convenient way to get to Nikko from Tokyo is by train. Take the Tobu Nikko Line from Asakusa Station in Tokyo directly to Nikko. The journey usually takes about 2 hours.

Are There English Guides Available in Nikko?

Yes, there are English-speaking guides available at major tourist sites. However, not all locals are fluent in English. Having a translation app or a phrasebook can be beneficial for easier communication.

What is Special About Nikko’s Cuisine?

Nikko’s cuisine reflects its natural surroundings, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Specialty dishes include Yuba (tofu skin) dishes and Nikko Goma-dofu (sesame tofu). The city’s soba noodles are also quite popular.

Are there Onsens in Nikko?

Absolutely! Nikko is known for its fantastic onsens (hot springs). Yumoto Onsen, near Lake Yunoko, is a particularly popular spot with both locals and tourists for its soothing hot springs.


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For more travel inspiration, don’t forget to check out our comprehensive guide on the best “places to visit in Japan,” extending beyond the charm of Nikko.

About Ronaldo Stewart

Wantigo was born out of a deep passion for exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. With a keen sense of adventure and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I’ve traveled far and wide, immersing myself in the beauty and wonder of the world.

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