The town of Nikko is nestled under the protection of Mount Nantai and a lush canopy of regal old cedar trees. The UNESCO World Heritage temples and shrines of Nikko make the place a famous destination among visitors from Tokyo and all over the world.
Below are the top reasons why you need to visit Nikko to see the best of Japan:
A monk named Shodo introduced Nikko to Buddhism. In 792 AD, Shodo founded a temple now known as Futarasan Shrine that attracts visitors across the globe.
Nikko is divided into two parts. The first one is Nikko and the Nikko National Park, and the second one is Okunikko, or Inner Nikko, located further to the west in the mountainous region.
Okunikko is acclaimed as one of the best places to be in Japan if you want to see the gorgeous foliage of the fall season. It also serves as one of the most majestic waterfalls in the country.
The popular Kegon Falls in particular is one of the best reasons to hop on a bus that will take you to Okunikko. These falls rank third among Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls!
Kaizando is another great place to visit for tourists who have more time to spend in the area. Large crowds often flock to Nikko, particularly during the autumn. Trekking the trails that will lead you up the mountain at the back of Toshogu Shrine is a rewarding experience you shouldn’t miss. The trail is called Takino’s Kodo and is quite popular among Buddhists.
During your trek, you won’t only pass by Kaizando, where the renowned Buddhist monk Shodo Shonin is laid to rest. You will also see a little Inari shrine at the summit and a small artificial waterfall. But more than the sights alone, the entire trail itself is a beauty to behold with the ancient cedar trees lining it. This is truly a nature shrine worthy of a visit and exploration.
Lake Chuzenji is the best place to be if you want to fully appreciate and experience the gorgeous fall foliage. However, strolling along the shores is not just a beautiful experience in mid-October.
Chuzenjiko Onsen is a town that has long been a favorite retreat in the summer for many foreign embassies, thanks to the wonderfully cooler temperatures than those in Tokyo.
Nikko’s oldest and most significant Buddhist temple is none other than Rinnoji. The original temple was constructed as early as 766 AD, quickly establishing the remote town of Nikko as an important religious site.
Ryuzu no Taki
Nikko might have always been recognized for its religious burial sites and smaller temples, but the equally wonderful nature in the area makes it even more interesting. Ryuzu no Taki, or Ryuzu Falls, is one of the grandest twin waterfalls you might ever see in your life. Its location may be further east on Lake Chuzenzji, but it is still worth visiting.
The Japanese have always been known for their artistry, and one solid proof of this is how they managed to transform a bridge building into an amazing artwork. Right at the heart of Nikko, you will find the Shinkyo Bridge, the prime example of the traditional temple bridges of Japan. Although you can enter Shinkyo Bridge for a small fee, most visitors claim that it is a sight best seen and admired from afar.
One Tokugawa mausoleum you can find in Nikko is the Taiyuinbyo. Its golden splendor enshrines the grandson of Ieyasu and later Shogun Iemitsu. It is a peaceful and more refined shrine that is a great place to visit if you are looking for a quieter place to reflect. This is an intentional feature because Iemitsu didn’t want to exceed the founder, his grandfather. Don’t miss the chance to spend time on the ground and say a little prayer inside the Honden or the main hall.
Tomozawa Imperial Villa
Both the aristocracy and the shogunate, or rich merchants, have always favored Nikko and considered it a special place. This is why it is not surprising that you can also find an imperial villa in the area.
The Tomozawa Imperial Villa is among the biggest traditional wooden buildings that remain standing tall and proud in Japan. This is where you can get a unique chance to get an exceptional glimpse of imperial everyday life.
The villa is located along what is known as the Kanman Path, which loosely follows the Daiya River. You can even try following the path to its end if you have some time to spare. You can get a glimpse of several landmarks and smaller prayer sites along the winding path. Urami no Taki, a small waterfall, awaits you at the very far end.
Toshogu Shrine, one of Japan’s most popular temples, is located in Nikko, giving even more reason to visit the place. The shrine serves as the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1600, which ruled over a united Japan for as long as 268 years.
The world-renowned Toshogu Shrine boasts colorful exteriors and intricate wood carvings. Every nook and cranny is also adorned with impressive lacquer work. But the best thing of them all is that this UNESCO World Heritage Site has undergone a recent renovation that restored it to its pristine shape.
Of course, while you are there, don’t miss the chance to drop by the Three Wise Monkeys. Yes, you might be using these famous monkey emojis every day, but would you believe that the adage “See no evil, speak no evil, and hear no evil” all started at Toshogu Shrine?
These are just some of the many reasons why you need to visit Nikko to see the best of Japan. This is one of the most beautiful places, rich in history and culture that date back many centuries. So the next time you book a trip to Japan, don’t forget to include Nikko in your itinerary!