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In the 8th century, the Buddhist priest Shōdō Shōnin founded the first temple at Nikko, the temple of Rinnō-ji, on his way to Mount Nantai. The village became a renowned Buddhist-Shinto religious centre, leading the renowned warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu to choose it as the site for his mausoleum. His grandson, Togugawa Iemitsu, had his shrine-mausoleum, Tosho-gu built in 1634, ensuring it would impress on any rivals the might of the Tokugawa clan. Iemitsu's own mausoleum, Taiyun-byo, is also located in Nikko, in a sublime setting of Japanese cedars. These shrines and temples make it a popular destination for travellers.
To get access to the main sights in Nikko's temple area, the most sensible option is to buy the combination ticket (¥1,000), which covers most of sights at the Tosho-gu and Taiyun-byo shrines and the Rinno-ji temple.
A guide can be hired for two hours for ¥5,500 for groups of up to 20 people.
The Tosho-gu Shrine is the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the dynasty that ruled Japan for 250 years. The shrine is a dazzling display, created by his grandson Tokugawa Iemitsu. Some 15,000 artisans worked on the shrine for 2 years, decorating almost anything that could be decorated.
Open: 8am-4:30pm daily (3:30pm Nov-Mar). Ph: (0288) 54-0560
© All Rights Reserved Peter
The Taiyun-byo Shrine, completed in 1653, is Tokugawa Iemitsu's mausoleum. Several ornate gates ascend to the sanctuary (Haiden) and inner sanctuary (Honden). The shogun's ashes are beyond the final, sixth gate.
Open: 8am-4:30pm daily (3:30pm Nov-Mar). Ph: (0288) 53-1567.
The train is the most convenient way to access Nikko. The cheapest, most direct connection is on the Tōbu Nikkō Line (東武日光線) from Tokyo's Tobu-Asakusa station. The total journey should take about 1 hour and 50 minutes.
If you have a JR Rail pass, you can take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya and then connect to the JR Nikko line. The total trip will can take from 1 hour and 40 minutes to over 2 hours, depending on the connection in Utsunomiya. Be sure to stop and admire the JR Nikko Station building itself, which was designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Check the Japan Railways website for more information about schedules and prices.
Several bus routes run through Nikko. Tobu Railway offers two passes covering rail transport from Asakusa to Nikko (see above) and unlimited hop-on-hop-off bus services around Nikko.
The All Nikko Pass is valid for four days and includes buses to Chuzenji-ko, Yumoto-Onsen and other regional destinations. The World Heritage Pass (Sekai-isan Meguri Pass, valid for two days) includes buses to the World Heritage sights, plus admission to Toshogu, Rinno-ji and Futarasan Jinja. Purchase these passes at the Tōbu Sightseeing Service Center in Tokyo-Asakusa station.
If you’ve already got your rail ticket (railway pass for example), two-day bus-only passes allow unlimited rides between Nikko and Yumoto Onsen or Nikko and Chuzenji Onsen, including the World Heritage sites. Alternatively, the Sekai-isan-meguri (World Heritage Bus Pass) covers the area between the stations and shrine precincts. Buy these at Tobu Nikko station.
Most of the main sites in Nikko can easily be reached on foot, although the landscape is hilly, so you can expect to get somewhat worn out.
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Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.
A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.
Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).
The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.
The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.
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