Known for its impressive botanical garden, intricate Iemitsu mausoleum, and ornate Toshogu Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Nikko National Park is an area of incredible natural beauty with plenty to see and do. In addition to shrines and temples, the park is home to numerous lakes, elaborate bridges, excellent hiking trails, and two stunning waterfalls—all set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain scenery.
Particularly popular among hikers, nature lovers, and those who appreciate Japanese architecture, Nikko National Park is easily accessible from Tokyo on a day trip, with most travelers visiting as part of an organized tour so as to reap the benefits of a local tour guide and the convenience of roundtrip transportation from the city. For a fully immersive journey into the history of Japanese culture, a trip to the national park can be combined with a visit to Edo Wonderland, a colorful theme park of ancient villages featuring geishas, samurais, and ninjas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Nikko is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure travelers.
- Choose a standard entrance ticket or a World Heritage Pass that includes entrance to the park's shrines and temples.
- Day trips from Tokyo often include hotel pickup and drop-off and can last upwards of 12 hours.
- Remember to wear comfortable hiking shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces.
- Bring a jacket; it's cooler in Nikko than in Tokyo.
How to Get There
While a guided tour is the most stress-free way to visit the park, independent travelers have several options for getting there on their own. The Spacia bus, the fastest way to reach the park, departs regularly from Tobu's Asakusa Station and takes just under two hours one way. Those who prefer the train can take the Tobu rapid train from Asakusa (two hours and 10 minutes) or the JR train from Shinjuku (about two hours). Be sure to board the correct car, as the trains split up along the way.
When to Get There
In autumn, the foliage of the surrounding mountains—particularly around Lake Chuzenji—turns spectacular shades of red and yellow, making it an ideal time to visit. Other times of year are less crowded. Expect cold temperatures and snow in winter and mild, wet weather in summer.
The Temples and Shrines of Nikko National Park
While many come to the national park for the nature, its cultural attractions are also worth exploring. The eighth-century Rinnoji Temple houses three 28-foot (8.4-meter) gold-leaf wooden Buddha statues, as well as a lovely landscaped Edo-era garden. More than 2.4 million sheets of gold-leaf were used in the construction of the Toshogu Shrine, the most famous structure in the Nikko area. The Futarasan Shrine, the oldest structure in the area, dates back to 1617.