One of the best things in Japan is the transport. It’s efficient, clean, fast and most importantly allows for plenty of day trips and sightseeing. From Tokyo, there are an array of destinations you can choose from, however, after much deliberation my mum and I decided to do a day trip to Nikko.
If you asked me to describe Nikko in three words I would say – nature, temples and red.
Situated amongst mountains at the entrance to Nikko National Park the town Nikko is abundant in greenery and fresh air. There are a number of streaming creeks and beautiful flowers to smell along the way.
It is perhaps most known for its shrines and temples with 103 buildings comprising a UNESCO World Heritage Area. These temples make Nikko an important place with Shinto and Buddhist worship.
Getting to Nikko
Depending on the line you take, trains to Nikko aren’t regular. If you have a JR Rail Pass, you can catch the shinkansen to Utsunomiya and from there take the Nikko line. Make sure you get a good connection between Utsunomiya and Nikko, otherwise the trip could potentially take three or more hours.
On the day we left for Nikko we didn’t take this into consideration. We went on the day we were going to activate our rail pass – we arrived at the office at about 10am and we had the option to take a train at 10:12 or 10:19 to ensure a good connection. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind some people who decided to book every single train for their entire two week trip which took them about twenty minutes – meaning we missed both trains and the earliest we would arrive in Nikko was 2pm.
As we were about to cancel our trip, I found there was a faster way to get to Nikko. We could catch the Nikko Kinugawa Kinu 135 local train line from Asakusa station which only took 90 minutes. It costs about 1300 yen – so it’s relatively inexpensive.
However, this line takes you to Shimo-Imachi Station, which is about two kilometres from the centre of Nikko (4km from the temples). There is a connecting train but we didn’t know this, and unfortunately ended up paying 3000 yen for a taxi.
To put it simply, don’t make the same mistakes we did! Plan in advance and leave yourself plenty of time.
My day in Nikko
As we did not arrive in Nikko until 1:30pm, it meant we missed out on the opportunity to explore Nikko at a steady pace, we also missed out on seeing some attractions.
Our taxi dropped us off at the Rinnoji Temple – which like a lot of Japanese landmarks is currently undergoing renovations (for the 2020 olympics), and the exterior was covered. Because of the covered exterior I was curious to see what was inside so I paid the 400 yen entry fee.
The highlight of this temple were the three golden statues of Amida, Senju-Kannon and Bato-Kannon.
I’m happy that I wore good shoes – like most good temples, there are stairs and hills to reach them. However, it’s such a picturesque place that you barely notice the walk.
It was then back down the hill to the Shinkyo Bridge – which was perhaps my favourite part of Nikko. After taking many pictures of the bridge we ventured down the main street where there were an array of shops and restaurants. The shops consisted of ornamental bowls, artwork and other souvenirs.
I wish I could recommend a restaurant, but we ended up getting lunch from family mart which was okay but I much preferred the look of some of the Ramen restaurants.
Should I go to Nikko?
Yes, it’s a great day trip from Tokyo – if you plan it right! It provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the world’s most populated city and it’s really good to just get back to nature.
I regret not getting to spend more time in Nikko. If you are planning a day trip, I would definitely recommend leaving early – around 8am – to get the most out of this quaint little town.
Nikko would also be a great place to stay for a few days as there is so much to see in the national park including monkeys, hikes, waterfalls, lakes and hot springs. When I go back to Japan I plan to spend a few days exploring Nikko National Park.
If you want any more information about Nikko or would like to recommend other day trips from Tokyo please comment below – it would be great to hear from you!