A Day Trip from Tokyo: Top Things to Do in Nikko, Japan


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.

A Day Trip from Tokyo: Things to Do In Nikko, Japan | Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

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

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.

Things to do in Nikko Japan: Shinkyo Bridge | Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

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.

Things to do in Nikko Japan: Rinnoji and Shoyoen Garden | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Rinnoji and Shoyoen Garden | Footsteps of a DreamerThings to do in Nikko Japan: Rinnoji and Shoyoen Garden | Footsteps of a DreamerThings to do in Nikko Japan: Rinnoji and Shoyoen Garden | Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

Toshogu Shrine

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.

Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Toshogu Shrine | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Toshogu Shrine | Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

Taiyuinbyo

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.

Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a DreamerThings to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer Things to do in Nikko Japan: Taiyuinbyo | Footsteps of a Dreamer

 

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!

Are you ready to start planning your trip to Nikko, Japan?

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Plus, don’t forget to check and see if the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is worth it for your trip!

 

Further Reading

 


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20 Responses

  1. jcmatt says:

    Looks cool. Definitely another side trip I need to take next time I’m in Tokyo.

  2. Hanna says:

    That photo of the Shinkyo Bridge over the Daiya river is so pretty! Nikko definitely seems like a worthwhile stop in Japan.

    • Kiyoko says:

      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!

  3. Rose Palmer says:

    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.

  4. 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!

    • Kiyoko says:

      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!

  5. Viola says:

    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!

    • Kiyoko says:

      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!

  6. Jac says:

    Japan has so much to see outside of its main towns, saving this for the next time i head up there 🙂

    • Kiyoko says:

      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!

  7. Anisa says:

    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!

  8. Raksha Rao says:

    Lovely pictures. Japan is on my bucket list. This makes for a great day trip from Tokyo. Bookmarked it for a later time 🙂

    • Kiyoko says:

      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!

  9. This is such a lovely place!! And your photographs are amazing, you definitely have an eye for this stuff <3

  10. Darryl says:

    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.

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