Explore Nikko using the NIKKO ALL AREA PASS which is great value for money
Our specific recommendations would be the town area (200m/656ft above sea level), where the World Heritage Nikko Shrines and Temples are located, as well as Lake Chuzenji which is the highest in Japan at 1200m/3937ft above sea level. More adventurous travelers can visit Mt. Nantaisan (2,486m/8,156ft above sea level), and a number of other summits in the connecting mountain range which are at an elevation of around 2,200m (6,561ft). Each of the summits in this beautiful area offers a unique view.
To best enjoy the various areas of beautiful Nikko, we recommend the NIKKO ALL AREA PASS, which is available exclusively to tourists. (4,520 yen from April – November, 4,150 yen from December -March).
This pass offers visitors great value as it provides roundtrip travel between Asakusa Station in Tokyo and Nikko Station on Tobu Railways’ Nikko Line, as well as unlimited access to buses around Nikko, giving tourists the opportunity to visit the World Heritage listed Nishaichiji (two Shrines and one Temple, entry fee is not included) and Lake Chuzenji area, 20％ discount on Limited Express train fares to and from Nikko and other discounts such as fares for the Lake Chuzenji boat cruise.
The NIKKO ALL AREA PASS is available for purchase online or through the Tobu Foreign Tourist Information Center at Asakusa Tobu Railway Station.
Nikko, with its World Heritage Listed sites, is only 2 hours from Tokyo
Information via social media is accessible in real time aboard the train
The NIKKO ALL AREA PASS does not include the Limited Express fee, which is an extra 1,340-1,440 yen. However, this pass saves you a 20% on the standard Limited Express fee. Although there are various types of Express trains traveling to Nikko, the new ‘Revaty Kegon’ train, which has been operating since April 2017, is most highly recommended. Its travel time between Tobu Nikko Station and Tobu Asakusa Station is just 2 hours. All train cars are equipped with free Wi-Fi as well, so whether it’s to look up information or to livestream the breathtaking scenery, you can rest assured that you will remain well-connected on your way to Nikko.
The beautiful bridge over the river is your gateway to a land where both people and gods reside
Hop on a bus and take a 10-minute ride from Tobu Nikko Station to a place called Sannai using your NIKKO AREA PASS. There, you can pay a visit to the World Heritage Nikko Shrines and Temples. This area will give you access to a number of sites including, Rin-noji Temple, Futarasan Shrine and Toushougu Shrine.
Shinkyo bridge (or god’s bridge) is located at the entrance of Sannai, where it is suspended over the Daiya river. This river is known as the gateway to a peaceful and holy land. The brilliant scarlet color of Shinkyo bridge makes for a great photo opportunity.
Nikko’s history goes back as far as the 8th century, when a Buddhist high priest founded a temple at the peak of Mt. Nantai. Soon thereafter, Nikko began to attract many other Buddhist monks who had established their own temples in the surrounding area. This resulted in Nikko becoming a spiritual place, and it has since been carefully protected to maintain its abundant nature.
There are 103 individual buildings within Nikko Shrine that hold World Heritage status, but to visit them all on foot would prove to be quite an undertaking. Many Temples and Shrines can be found by walking along the path through the woods. Starting from the 8th century Futarasan Shrine, past the 315 lanterns that line the path, all the way to the impressive Rin-noji Temple – the history of these buildings and the traditional atmosphere of the area are sure to make you feel like you’ve slipped back in time.
The renovation of the beautifully colored Toshogu Shrine Yomeimon Gate
Another top recommendation is the Toshogu Shrine Yomeimon Gate. Its full renovation was completed in April 2017, returning it to its former glory from when it was first constructed during 17th century. The roof, eaves and pillars which had been aged by the sun and overgrown by the surrounding vegetation were carefully repaired and repainted to restore their former brilliance. The many statues of gods and various animals have also been refurbished and freshened up to the point where look as if they could come to life.
Yomeimon Gate is home to 508 statues, but no two are alike. Of the 508 statues, 194 are of the traditional animal Reijyu which literally translates to Spiritual Beast. As you can see from the picture above, there are many unusual Reijyu around the Shrine. Searching for your favorite Reijyu is an enjoyable way of exploring this fascinating site.
In addition to the many Temples and Shrines at Nikko, several historic and traditional Japanese style gardens still remain thanks to the patronage of the previous three Emperors (Meiji, Taisho, Showa) from 1867 until 1989. Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park (10 minutes by bus from Tobu Nikko Station) or the 360-year-old Kanaya Samurai House (Now known as Kanaya Hotel History House), are both steeped in history. You can find displays of authentic tools and furniture from the period there, which can provide a glimpse into what everyday life was like centuries ago.
The Nikko Kanaya Hotel, which features an authentic 19th century exterior, makes for a memorable place to stay. Opened in 1873, it has a long history of hosting famous guests, including Albert Einstein and Helen Keller. Due to the founder’s friendship with Toshogu Shrine, he received some of the Shrine’s statues and was able to create a similar atmosphere within the grounds of the Hotel. The Hotel’s western-style architecture, together with the surrounding Japanese garden, creates an interesting contrast between both cultures. The hotel is also well-known for their French cuisine, which is is highly rated.
Enjoy the view from the observation deck, visit the majestic waterfall, or go hiking around the lake on your second day
On the second day, take the bus from Tobu Nikko Station to Lake Chuzenji using the NIKKO ALL AREA PASS. The trip takes 30 minutes along a scenic winding road that climbs to a height of 800m (2,624ft) above sea level.
It takes around 40 minutes from Tobu Nikko station to Lake Chuzenji. However, a recommended side trip is to get off at the Akechidaira bus stop and take the ropeway (approx. 3 mins) which leads to an observation deck, 1,373m (4505ft) above sea level. It provides a stunning view of the lake. For more adventurous travelers, the deck is also accessible on foot by hiking along the lakeside trail.
From the Akechidaira observation deck, you can take in magnificent views of Lake Chuzenji and its surrounding area, as well as the 97-meter waterfall, Kegon falls, with its sheets of water tumbling down. The huge amount of water streaming from the falls combined with the surrounding nature make for an unforgettable view. The view from the Observation Deck is beautiful throughout the year, but it’s said that best times to visit are during mid to late autumn for the changing foliage, and during the spring for the fresh and vivid greenery of the surrounding trees.
After taking in the amazing view from the observation deck, travel down to the water’s edge for a cruise around the lake. To access the wharf, return to the Akechidaira bus stop and ride down the hill to Chuzenji Onsen (Hot Spring) bus stop. From there, the wharf is only a 10-minute walk. During the 1-hour cruise, many marvelous sights can be seen surrounding lakeside, such as flowering hillsides, Senjyugahama beach, Mt. Nantaisan, and if you’re there in October, the autumn leaves of the spectacular lakeside forest during the autumn leaves.
For visitors wishing to take a more relaxing cruise there are private rooms available on board for up to 8 people on the brand-new cruise ship ‘Nantai’. This ship was just launched in August of this year. The cost of a private room is an extra 4000 yen on top of the standard cruise fare.
After the cruise, it’s a 10-minute walk to Kegon Falls. The view from the Akechidaira Observation Deck is fantastic, but to experience the power and beauty of the falls from up close, is an experience not to be missed. Take the elevator down to the lower deck where the falls can be viewed through a gentle cloud of mist (the elevator fare is 550 yen). On sunny mornings between April and October, rainbows have been known to appear.
There are many other experiences to be had in and around Nikko. Before heading back to Tokyo, a quick side trip to ride on a steam-powered locomotive is one such experience. The links below contains information regarding various other trips around Nikko for each visitor to create their own individual experience.
Take a nostalgic ride on a restored steam train
Visitors to Nikko can experience riding on the restored 50-year-old steam train, Taiju. To travel on Taiju, take the Tobu Line heading for Tokyo from Tobu Nikko Station to Shimo-imaichi Station, which is 2 stops away. Then from Shimo-imaichi Station, take the Tobu Kinugawa Line for approx. 12km (7.4miles) to Kinugawa Onsen Station. Riding on the steam train Taiju takes around 35 minutes, and the entire train uses reserved seating (750 yen), but the fare is completely covered by the NIKKO ALL AREA PASS. This includes both the ride from Shimo-imaichi Station to Kinugawa Onsen Station as well as the return trip from Kinugawa Onsen Station to Tobu Asakusa Station. (There is an extra charge for passengers wishing to take the Limited Express train, though you can receive a 20% discount on this fare with the NIKKO ALL AREA PASS)