This is day 10 and 11 of my Travel Chronicles: Summer 2023 series, working in Japan as a teen travel counselor during the first 14 days (out of 53 days) in Asia. We spent 2 days in Nikko and we were able to see most of the major sightseeing attractions during our time there. These locations are places that I personally went during my 2 day trip in Nikko and perfect for people who are debating on What to do in Nikko.
Nikko is located in Tochigi Prefecture and traveling from Tokyo to Nikko is quite accessible with options that take about two hours, the Tobu Line or JR East’s Tohoku Shinkansen, or the bus that can take 4 hours. This makes Nikko a great place for a day trip or a weekend trip away from the busy city of Tokyo. I went during the summer, but Nikko is especially popular during the fall for the fall foliage, but is beautiful in all 4 seasons since the scenary changes according to the season.
Plaza area (in front of the Tōbu-nikkō Station)
One of the first places that you will see in Nikko might be the plaza area in front of the Tōbu-nikkō Station near the JR Nikko station. This is also a hotspot for buses which is an important transportation method to get around Nikko. where all the local buses stop. This area has many survivor shops, restaurants and cafes which makes it a fun area to explore and try local cuisine.
Shinkyo Bridge is a red bridge that can be crossed for 300 yen. I personally don’t think it’s worth it going across, and just looking at it with the river and nature behind it was very beautiful. It is a great spot for people who visit Nikko before they go up to enjoy the rest of the attractions since it is on the way.
The Nikko Toshogun is one of the most important shrines in Nikko since the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined here. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, which ruled from 1603 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The Nikko Toshogun consists of the main shrine, stone room, and worship hall, and does many seasonal festivals, including annual festivals. The buildings are beautiful with wood carvings and gold leafs being used. The woods around also give it a very peaceful ambiance as well.
Enjoy nature and hike at a plateau between Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen. The hiking trail offers excellent views of the marshland and surrounding mountains, and it takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to complete.
Yudaki Falls is a beautiful waterfall on the northern outskirts of Nikko and is a hidden treasure. You can reach it at the end of the hike of Senjogahara Marshland, and makes the hike worth it. You can see the fall from the bottom and the top. There are also small snack shops and stalls that sell delicious mochi and fish here as well!
A lovely lake at the top of Yudaki Falls. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains that often give the lake a dreamy look. This is the deepest part and the furthest place from Nikko station. Ride the Tobu Bus for about an hour and 20 minutes from the base of the lake to get back to Nikko station.
Lake Chūzenji is a beautiful and quiet scenic lake in Nikkō National Park. It was created 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai erupted and blocked the river. Around the lake, there are many shops including cafes, restaurants, and hotels. You can also have a nice view at the observatory or open deck ferry dock and even take a short cruise trip around the lake.
Kegon Falls is said to be one of the best waterfalls in Japan! The view was really amazing and if you are debating on what to do in Nikko, this is the one place you must visit. There is a public view for free, but I recommend taking the elevator down for 570 yen to look at the waterfall from a lower angle. Be sure to visit the gift shop down there as well!
Be sure to try Nikko’s specialty food Yuba. Yuba is tofu skin, a delicate and nutritious soy-based dish that can be enjoyed in various forms, such as yuba sashimi and yuba rolls. My favorite Nikko specialty is age (fried) yuba manju is unique to this area and is only made at one shop by the Nikko station plaza, Sakae-ya. It is a warm sweet red bean paste with a deep-fried tofu skin (yuba) as the outer layer. It combines sweet and salty and is a delicious take on Nikko’s specialty. Be sure to try different street food, as well as Gyoza Croquettes that can only be found in a food stall in front of Kegon Falls.
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