Nikko Travel Guide
Easily in the top ten of must see places in Japan, the locals of Nikko insist that if you haven’t seen their town then you have not yet seen beauty. This exemplified in their phrase: “Nikko wo minakereba "kekkō" to iu na”, which means just that.
Nikko is a relatively small city with a population of only 90,000 (this includes all surrounding townships. Nikko proper has a much lower population). It sits hidden away in a mountain valley in Tochigi Prefecture. The weather is similar to that of Hokkaido, with harsh winters and brief warm/cool summers. This climate helped Nikko become a favored summer resort and earned the nickname ‘natural refrigerator’, on account of the continuous cool weather.
As you would expect, being nestled in the mountains Nikko has a number of breath-taking vistas, including waterfalls, mountains (Mt. Nantai), and Lake Chuzenji. To top it off (literally) there is the Kirifuri Highlands, which after you have ascended it you will have a birds eye view of the entire Kanto region.
Being only a two hour train ride from Tokyo (which in Japan is considered not a long trip) Nikko gains a terrific amount of traffic from tourists visiting Tokyo, as it is the idea day trip from the hustle and bustle from the city.
Nikko Restaurants & Food [view all]
Experience Local dining
Come one come all and sample some of Nikko’s local fare at Yubatei Masudaya (but people just call it Masuda). Traditional dishes include ‘yuba’ or ‘tofu skin’ (a thin film which forms on the top of soy milk during the tofu making process. This film is then dried and re-hydrated to create a delicate and slightly rubber wrapper which can wrap fruits, veggies or others. Yuba is also deep fried.
As for some more background of this dish one restaurant in Nikko explains:
“Yuba is processed food of a soybean. Rinnou Temple the leading role in discipline of Buddhist priest. Many Buddhist priest crowded in Nikko. They could not eat meat and fish. They were a vegetarian. They used soybean instead of meat and fish. Yuba is local food in Nikko”
Another popular dish includes at Masudaya include ‘masu no shioyaki’, grilled trout seasoned with salt.
10 min. walk from Tobu Nikko Station
Continuing with the traditional dish of Yuba we have the variation of ‘yuba-soba’. For around $13 (not cheap!) you can score yourself a bowl of yuba soba, which resembles ramen. What makes it different are the large pieces of rolled yuba floating in the yummy broth goodness.
593 Gokou-machi, Nikko-shi
Recommended delights are the “banana and chocolate cup”, cheese cake or the mousse. In addition to these there is a wide assortment of traditional cakes that require your sampling.
Located right next to Tobu Nikko Station
Join the millions and get some yakitori and ramen and the world famous Hippari Dako. Menu items are rather affordable, coming in at around 500 yen.
1011 Kami-Hatsuishi-machi, Nikko
If you’d like something in a slightly more refined setting then head on over to the steak house. The establishment prides itself on its home grown black cows which have a rather unique taste and could be compared with Kobe Beef.
Nikko Sightseeing & Attractions [view all]
Our top picks of things to see and do
Before you set off and visit all the sites in Nikko it is highly recommended that you purchase a combination ticket for 1000 yen which will give you access to Toshogu, Rinnoji, and Futarasan. Otherwise you will have to pay 1000 yen for each one!
Rinnoji Temple is in fact a complex of 15 different temples which go back as far as the year 766, making them some of the oldest in Japan. The complex has much to see, including a garden, pagoda, granite torii, and more. Just north of the Rinnoji is the Toshogu Shrine.
Surprisingly there is a 350 yen fee for those who want to step foot on the bridge. The Shinkyo bridge is the link to the Rinnoji Temple and the Toshogu Shrine which lies just ahead of the temple.
The Shinkyo Bridge is the most photographed and is unsurprisingly the quintessential image of Nikko, its bright red color contrasting behind the green of the trees behind it.
After you’ve inspected the Rinnoji Temple you’ll proceed north and run directly into the Toshogu Shrine and its complex. (In fact its hard to tell where they begin and end, as they are all essentially in the same complex).
Like the Rinnoji Temple, the Toshogu has over a dozen buildings and points to see. In fact the Toshogu complex took a year and a half to build back in 1636, with the help of 4 and a half million workers.
Among the luxurious gates, towers and halls the site is also home to the famous monkey statue of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’.
After exploring all the temples and sites you can kick back and relax at the Yumoto Onsen, which is connected by bus from the Tobu train station. Not only is it an excellent onsen but the environs feature three gorgeous waterfalls: Yudaki Waterfall, Ryuzu Waterfall and the Kegon Waterfall.
Kinugawa Okashi no Shiro
Snack and coffee shop
790-2 Karakura, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-2524 , Japan
Watanabe Sahei Shop
Crafts, traditional Japanese goods
450 Imaichi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1261, Japan
There is no direct line via shinkansen to Nikko. You can however take the Tohoku Shinakansen to Utsunomiya and then transfer to the JR Nikko line and take that to Nikko station. However that is more expensive than taking the train route below and takes around the same time.
There are no plane options to Nikko. The best option is by train.
Go to the Tobu-Asakusa Station in Tokyo and get a ‘world heritage pass’ (this pass will give you a round trip from Tokyo to Nikko and is valid for 2 days. It costs only $40 USD), and take the limited express straight to Nikko station. The trip is two hours and if you take advantage of the World Heritage Pass it will only cost you $40 USD.
Nikko Hotels & Accommodations [view all]
Cheapest and best places to stay
Nikko Park Lodge Tobu Station
You won’t find much frill or polish in this hotel, it is rather stark. But what it lacks in style it makes up for convenience and location. The hotel is a five minute walk from the Tobu Nikko train station.
A double room comes in at $100, and a bunk bed in a mixed dormitory room comes in at a very affordable $30.
The has its own restaurant, bike rentals and free wifi.
321-1406 Tochigi, Nikko, Matsubara 11-6
Annex Turtle Hotori-An
While not much to look at this modest hotel is affordable, clean, convenient and charming. The rooms are in the traditional Japanese style, with bamboo floors (tatami) and sliding doors.
Rooms with a single occupant are a very affordable $83.00 USD, while a room with two occupants comes to $158.00 USD.
321-1433 Tochigi, Nikko, Takumi-cho 8-28
Nikko Station Hotel Classic
Rooms are equipped with large flat screen TVs and free wired internet. And to make you feel right at home the beds are large and have very comfortable mattresses.
It is not a surprise that this is one of the most expensive hotels in the area, (taking into consideration all the above) It is also one of the largest and in demand, with a total of 72 rooms. The most inexpensive room you’ll find is a double occupant room for $205.00 USD.
321-1413 Tochigi, Nikko, Aioicho 3-1