For regular travelers to Japan, have you visited Nikkō (日光市)? The Japanese saying “Never say kekkou until you’ve seen Nikko”—kekko meaning beautiful, magnificent or “I am satisfied”—is a reflection of the beauty and sites in Nikko.
Nikko is a small city located in Tochigi prefecture in the northern Kanto region of Japan. The area has a population of around 80,000 people and is a popular tourist destination for both Japanese and international tourists. Attractions include the mausoleum of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and that of his grandson Iemitsu; and the Futarasan Shrine, which dates to the year 767. There are also many famous hot springs (onsen) in the area. The area is on a highland, with elevations range from 200 to 2,000 metres.
Getting there is easy via Tobu Railway which connects Asakusa in Tokyo to Nikko. There are many cabin options available for the train ride, ranging from regular seats to the luxurious Tobu Limited Edition Spacia train.
Tobu Railway information counter
More information is available on the official website or via the official Facebook page. For a little more, it’s faster than the regular Tobu line train and you get your own spacious cabin for 4 pax! Traveling from Asakusa station to Nikko takes just around 110 minutes.
The Tobu group owns and operates not just Tobu Railway, but also several hotels, tourist attractions and even shopping malls, including the iconic Tokyo Skytree Tower, the tallest structure in the heart of Tokyo. There is free WiFi provided by Tobu at all these Tobu owned venues – be sure to register for an account to enjoy it, including on the Tobu spacia train!
In fact, you can travel and stay in Tokyo and Nikko, just relying on the trusty Tobu branded hotels, transportation and attractions.
Tobu Information Center at Asakusa
At Asakusa, after visiting the popular Sensoji Buddhist temple, you can head down to the Tokyo Skytree to get a fantastic bird’s eye view of one of the world’s most famous city.
View from atop the Tokyo Skytree Tower
The building is a broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower with a full height of 634 metres, making it the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa. The tower is the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kanto region; the older Tokyo Tower no longer gives complete digital terrestrial television broadcasting coverage because it is surrounded by high-rise buildings.
Trains stops at the adjacent Tokyo Skytree Station and nearby Oshiage Station, making it convenient to visit. The view is really fantastic and even taking the lifts up the tower is an experience itself, with the lift designs themed around Japanese fireworks, sakura blossoms and many other beautiful motifs.
The tower is connected to the Tokyo Solamachi shopping mall, all part of the Tokyo Skytree Town, housing over 300 shops and restaurants, an aquarium, planetarium, and museum. Some recommended shops to visit include the Pokemon retail store and a television character shop whereby you can find all sorts of souvenirs, including Piko Taro (of PPAP song fame) gift items.
In Tokyo, you can stay at the Tobu Levant Hotel, located just one stop away from the Tokyo Skytree Tower, offering one of the best views of the tower from a suitable distance. The sky bar and restaurant on the top floor is the best place for viewing.
Tobu Levant Hotel
View of Tokyo Skytree from hotel room
View from the rooftop bar and restaurant
Sunrise view from the hotel room
From Tokyo to Nikko, traveling by Tobu Railway is easy, with a dedicated Tobu ticket counter for enquiries and tickets booking.
Kinugawa-onsen station (Nikko)
Upon arrival in Nikko, one of the key attractions to visit is the Tobu World Square whereby you get to travel the world and visit all the top iconic sites within a day – the miniature versions that is. The architectural museum houses skilful reproductions of 102 world-famous buildings on the 1/25 scale, including 45 World Heritage Sites.
Tobu World Square
Another must visit site is the Kegon Falls (華厳滝), located at Lake Chuzenji in Nikko National Park. The falls were formed when the Daiya River was rerouted by lava flows. The main falls had a height of approximately 97 metres and about twelve smaller waterfalls are situated behind and to the sides of Kegon Falls, leaking through the many cracks between the mountain and the lava flows.
In 1927, the Kegon Falls was recognised as one of the “Eight Views” which best showed Japan and its culture in the Showa period.It is also listed as one of the “Japan’s Top 100 Waterfalls”, in a listing published by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in 1990.
When visiting Nikko, the top visited site has to be the UNESCO World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples of Nikko, encompassing 103 buildings or structures and the natural setting around them. The buildings belong to two Shinto shrines (Futarasan Shrine and Tosho-gu) and one Buddhist temple (Rinno-ji). Nine of the structures are designated National Treasures of Japan while the remaining 94 are Important Cultural Properties. UNESCO listed the site as World Heritage in 1999.
The mausoleum of the two most important shoguns in Japanese history, Tokugawa Ieyasu and that of his grandson Iemitsu, are found in the vicinity too and are must visit sites.
The shogun,Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb
For accommodation in Nikko, there are two interesting heritage hotels to stay at – Hotel Chuzenji Kanaya and Nikko Kanaya Hotel. The former is the one of the first western-style hotel in Japan, with a history dating back to 1871, while the latter was first opened in 1873. Both hotels offer stunning views of the natural beauty of Nikko and are by themselves, tourist attractions because of their rich history.
Hotel Chuzenji Kanaya:
Nikko Kanaya Hotel:
If you like French cuisine, the hotel restaurant at Nikko Kanaya Hotel serves a popular Japanese-style 5-courses French set menu:
Just a few minutes walk from the hotel, you will find the iconic Shinkyo Bridge (神橋). It is easily identifiable by it’s bright red hue and is ranked as one of Japan’s three finest bridges. The current Shinkyo was constructed in 1636, but a bridge of some kind had marked the same spot for much longer, although its exact origins are unclear. Until 1973, Shinkyo was off limit to the general public. It underwent extensive renovation works in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and visitors can now walk across the bridge and back for an entrance fee.
Last but not least, sure to visit the onsens in Nikko, soaking in to relieve yourself of stress and weariness, before taking the train bound for Tokyo, back to the urban zone!