Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Kanto Nikko



Shoyoen Garden

Shoyoen Garden

© Peter

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.



Sights and Activities

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.[1]

Tosho-gu Shrine

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: 8:00am-4:30pm daily (3:30pm Nov-Mar). Ph: (0288) 54-0560

Taiyun-byo Shrine

Taiyun-byo Entrance

Taiyun-byo Entrance

© 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: 8:00am-4:30pm daily (3:30pm Nov-Mar). Ph: (0288) 53-1567.


  • The red-lacquered, wooden Shinkyo Bridge arches over the Daiya River, where, as legend would have it, Shodo Shonin crossed on the backs of two large serpents. The original bridge was built in 1636, for the exclusive use of the shoguns, but was destroyed by a flood. The current bridge was completed in 1907.
  • Rinno-ji Temple was founded by Shodo Shonin in 766 and originally called Shihonryu-ji, until it became a Tendai-sect temple in the 17th century. Behind the temple, you will find the Shoyoen, a picturesque Edo style stroll-garden, carefully landscaped to be of interest no matter what the season is. (Open daily)
  • Futura-san Shrine was dedicated to the gods of Mounts Nantai, Nyotai and Taro, their child by Shodo Shonin in the 8th century (Open daily).
  • The Nikko Botanical Gardens are home to some 3000 varieties of flowers and plants from Japan and around the world. (Open Tue-Sun from Apr 15th - Nov 30th from 9:00am- 4:00pm. Adults: ¥330. Discounted prices for over 30 year olds and students).
  • The Nikko Lacquer Museum (Nikko Urushi Hakubutsukan) showcases the lacquer arts of Nikko and Japan as well as examples from overseas. (Open Tue-Sun. Adults: ¥400. College, high school students: ¥300. Elementary school students: ¥200).



Events and Festivals

Traditional Festivals

Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.

  • Japanese New Year (January 1) - the most important holiday in Japan. Although there are lots of customs and traditions most of them are done in the private. This is mainly a family holiday and Japan can feel very empty as almost everyone goes home. Travelling in Japan in during this time is difficult because everything is shut down.
  • Seijin No Hi (2nd Monday of January) - the coming of age holiday for Japanese women which 20. Traditionally families will buy any young woman how turned 20 in the last year a kimono. On this day almost all Japanese women will ear a kimono.
  • Hin Festival (March 3) - Also known as doll festival the Hin Matsuri festival is meant for young women. In early february families with daughters put dolls in order to make the women happy and healthy later in life. On Girls Day, on March 3, the dolls are put away until next year.
  • Shichi Go San Festival (Novermber 5) - Boys who are 3 and 5, and girls 3 and 7 are taken to a shinto shrine in traditional Japanese dress. The children are brought there to pray for good luck, good health and wealth.

National Holidays

  • Golden Week - Is quite often referred to as the "Japanese Spring Break." It is a combination of many state holidays, including Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children's Day, and Constitution Memorial Day in order to give a full week off. It takes place during the first full week of May. Everyone gets this week off in Japan so it is very bad time to travel because everything is crowded, expensive and most hotels will be full. There is also a major festival in the southern city of Fukuoka this week, it is called Hakata Dontaku.

Local Festivals

  • Tosho-gu Grand Festival - May 17-18
  • Tosho-gu Fall Festival - Oct 17



Getting There

By Train

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.



Getting Around

By Public Transport

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.

By Foot

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.




  • Yuba, the 'skin' that forms on top when making tofu, seems to be everywhere in Nikko. Even if you're not a fan of tofu, it tastes pretty good, especially with soba (buckwheat noodles in a soup broth). Yuba is also one of the most typical edible omiyage from Nikko.
  • Gusto, opposite the tourist information office, has some good value meals.
  • Hippari Dako is a typical travellers' resting place, serving yakitori (chicken kebabs), noodles and a range of vegetarian options. The little old lady who runs the place is very friendly and has earned herself some very good reviews from Lonely Planet, among others, which has only served to drive more business to her restaurant. The walls are plastered with business cards and notes from previous visitors.
  • Nikko Kanaya Hotel serves up some classy, albeit pricey meals.




There is a small alcohol shop across from the station that is run by an old couple and has an interesting selection of world beers.




Nikko can be covered in a busy day trip from Tokyo, but it's also a good place to spend the night, especially in a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse. The shrines are quite atmospheric early in the morning and at dusk, when the tour buses are not around.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)



Keep Connected


  • Milky House, a coffee shop at 2-2-3 Inari-machi charges ¥500 for 30 minutes. Open 10:00am-10:00pm daily.
  • The Tourist Information Centre offers internet at ¥100/30 minutes. Located on the main street, halfway between the station and the shrines at 591 Gokomachi.

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.



  1. 1 Sourced from Nikko Tourist Association Jan '08

Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 36.78331
  • Longitude: 139.551422

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This is version 17. Last edited at 12:45 on Aug 18, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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