Nikko, Japan isn’t quite as popular as some of the other bigger cities in Japan, but don’t let that dissuade you. Nikko is full of rich Japanese culture, and you’ll find that it’s much less crowded and not as touristy as some of the other big cities, making it the perfect place to get a first hand encounter with Japanese culture. It’s also a great day trip from Tokyo, so you don’t even have to go out of your way to get there. If you’ve got the time, here are some suggestions for things to do in Nikko, Japan.
Things to Know Before You Go to Nikko
Many of the historic structures in Japan often undergo construction in order to make sure they remain intact and prevent them from rotting. Sometimes these structures are open to the public, during construction, and sometimes they are closed completely. I ran into this problem a lot when I was visiting Nikko. When looking for things to do in Nikko, make sure to do some quick research to ensure that the various attractions will be open when you go. Japan Guide currently keeps a list of sightseeing spots that are currently under construction.
Shinkyo Bridge is a magnificent, bright red bridge that crosses over the Daiya river, and is often considered one of the most beautiful structures in Japan. Personally, I love Asian architecture and gardens, so when I continuously saw pictures of Shinkyo Bridge on posters and billboards advertising Japan tourism, I just knew I had to see it in person. Even if you aren’t really excited by charming structures, Shinkyo Bridge is on the way to most other attractions in Nikko, so you can still see it and then move onto your next destination.
Rinnoji Temple and Shoyoen Garden
Rinnoji Temple is considered the most important temple in Nikko, and has been designated an Important Cultural Property. It is also one of the shrines that make up the Shrines and Temples of Nikkō Unesco World Heritage Site. Unfortunately when I was there, the main hall was undergoing construction. It’s currently surrounded by scaffolding, so the main hall can’t really be seen, but a picture of the temple has been put on the scaffolding so visitors can get an idea of what it looks like.
Even though the main hall was undergoing construction, Shoyoen Garden behind the treasure house was still open to the public. Like many Japanese gardens, the garden had a small pond as the focal point with beautiful green foliage surrounding it. Scattered throughout were also several stone lanterns. In comparison to other Japanese garden found throughout the country, its quite small, but has a very serene feel to it.
Toshogu shrine is another one of the shrines that make up the Shrines and Temples of Nikkō Unesco World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, this too was undergoing construction when I was there, but only a small part of it.
Even with the construction, everything looked absolutely spectacular. The white pillars with dragons and the black roof with gold plating make for a truly stunning sight. The surrounding structures are also made of black, gold, and red. Inside the Honjido Hall is a painting of a white dragon on the ceiling. It’s known as the “crying dragon.” This is because, when you clap two pieces of wood together, there is a loud ringing sound, but only when you stand directly under the dragon’s face. If you try it anywhere else, the sound doesn’t echo the same way.
Taiyuinbyo is actualy a mausoleum for the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. Similar to Toshogu shrine, many of the gates leading up to the mausoleum are made of red, black, and gold. Inside the main hall and praying hall you can see beautiful gold decorations. Outside the prayer hall, a small pathway leads to the actual mausoleum.
And that’s it for Nikko! What do you think of my recommendations? Anything you would recommend that wasn’t included here? What were your experiences visiting some of these places? Let me know in the comments below!
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22 thoughts on “A Day Trip from Tokyo: Top Things to Do in Nikko, Japan”
Looks cool. Definitely another side trip I need to take next time I’m in Tokyo.
I would definitely love to visit again, especially once all the reconstruction on the various temples is done!
That photo of the Shinkyo Bridge over the Daiya river is so pretty! Nikko definitely seems like a worthwhile stop in Japan.
It’s a pretty famous place in Japan. You’ll often see pictures of it in train stations and such. It’s actually what inspired me to visit Nikko in the first place!
Your second photo in the Taiyuinbio section is actually from the Toshogu shrine. I’ve been to NIkko twice and have a detailed post on my site also.
Looks like my photos got out of order. Thanks for pointing it out. It’s been fixed!
This is a great guide! Were heading to Tokyo in April, so im going to save this for our planning! The temples and shrines look amazing!
The shrines and temples are some of my favorite parts of Japan (in Nikko and the rest of Japan). Have fun on your trip to Tokyo!
I am always looking for more things to do in Japan. Haven’t had a chance to check out Nikko yet. Thanks for sharing this!
I know Nikko usually doesn’t make the top of the list when people are planning their trips to Japan, but I’m glad you’ll consider it for the next to you go! It’s definitely an amazing place!
Japan has so much to see outside of its main towns, saving this for the next time i head up there 🙂
I know I definitely didn’t appreciate some of the smaller suburbs when I first arrived in Japan, but once I did, I found they were absolutely amazing. I hope you get to check this one out!
Beautiful pictures! I actually did consider doing a day trip to Nikko when I was in Japan but didn’t end up doing it. Now, wishing I would have. Hopefully I get to go back to Japan!
You should definitely go if you get the chance!
Lovely pictures. Japan is on my bucket list. This makes for a great day trip from Tokyo. Bookmarked it for a later time 🙂
I think it’s a place a lot of people overlook when planning their trip to Tokyo. I hope you’ll get to visit soon!
This is such a lovely place!! And your photographs are amazing, you definitely have an eye for this stuff <3
So glad you like it!
These are very lovely pictures! I’m planning a trip to Japan in the following months and willdefinitely be adding Nikko to the schedule. I’m a sucker for historical places.
Glad you like the pictures and I hope you enjoy your trip to Japan!
This just makes me want to go to Tokyo, ASAP!
Whoa! I went to Japan as a kid, I remember being completely fascinated by it. This just makes me want to buy a plane ticket right now~