Are you looking for unusual and non-mainstream places to visit in Japan? Or are you looking for a serene place to calm your mind and relieve your stress? Then, Nikko is the answer for you. Located only 2 hours away from Tokyo, Nikko is really famous for its Instagram-worthy autumn scenery of peaceful mountain wilderness, and World Heritage Shrines and Temples, making for a perfect combination of both Japanese culture and nature at its best. Whether it is a short getaway from the busy and crowded Tokyo or a long trip to explore, Nikko is worth your time and money. Here are the best things to do in Nikko.
When you search for Nikko in Google search, the picture of Shinkyo Bridge will most likely pop up on your screen. Did you know that the bridge is regarded as one of Japan's 3 greatest bridges along with Kintaikyo Bridge (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Saruhashi Bridge (Yamanashi Prefecture). In the past, no ordinary person could cross the bridge as only important officials were able to do so. After 1973, the bridge is opened to public and now visitors can walk across the bridge with an entrance fee. The bridge is best seen during Fall in late October to early November when the bright autumn leaf colors meet with the blue water of the Daiya River and the vermilion color of the bridge, creating a nice color contrast that will certainly take your breath away.
Admission Fee: ¥ 500 / US$ 4.75 - Adult
¥ 300 / US$ 2.8 - High School
¥ 200 / US$ 1.9 - Elementary & Junior High
This shrine is the most well-known one among the World Heritage Shrines and Temples in Nikko. It is the resting place for one of the most prominent figures in Japanese history, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the first Shogun (head of military government) of the Edo period. The shrine itself is a distinct beauty decorated with lively colors, countless gold leafs, and wonderful carvings that express religious beliefs, differing from common Japanese shrines that emphasize simplicity. Inside the shrine complex you can find numerous buildings set together with a background of the serene forest. The main structures underwent major renovations in 1636 by Ieyasu's grandson, Tokugawa Iemitsu with 55 buildings reconstructed in just 1 year and 5 months. The cost is equivalent to ¥40 billion (US$ 380 million) in today’s money. One of the most notable buildings you can find is the Five Story Pagoda / Gojunoto. The other one is the Yomeimon Gate designated as a National Treasure. It is one of the most beautiful gates in Japan and is called "Gate of The Setting Sun" as one could stare upon it without end. While there, you can also visit the Nikko Toshogu Museum outside the paid area where you can see the collection of Tokugawa Ieyasu's personal belongings such as armor, swords, writing materials even the letters he wrote.
Admission Fee: ¥1300 / US$ 12 (shrine)
¥1000 / US$ 10 (museum)
¥ 2100 / US$ 20 (both shrine and museum)
Akechidaira's location is near the top of the Irohazaka Slope. You can go up to the observation platform located at an altitude of 1,473 m by the ropeway. It will take 3 minutes to reach the top where there awaits jaw-dropping sights overlooking the Kegon Waterfall, Lake Chuzenjiko, and Mount Nantai all constituted in one frame before your very eyes. The view is most splendid during autumn with countless red, brown, and gold colored trees decorating the mountainous landscape.
Before visiting, it's important to keep in mind that during bad weather, the ropeway will not be operating. Also, due to the popularity of this place during autumn, expect large crowds in Irohazaka. Therefore if you wish to avoid it don't go during weekends and try getting there early in the day.
Admission Fee: ¥ 400 / US$ 3.8 (one way)
¥ 730 / US$ 7 (round trip)
This waterfall is the most famous one in Nikko and ranked as one of Japan's 3 most beautiful waterfalls, together with Nacho Waterfall (Wakayama Prefecture) and Fukuroda Waterfall (Ibaraki Prefecture). The source of the waterfall's water comes from the nearby Lake Chuzenji. You can see Kegon Falls for free from the free observation platform, but it's recommended to see it from the paid platform at the bottom of the waterfall where you will have a better view of it. You can access the paid platform via the elevator that goes down 100 m deep.
Admission Fee: ¥ 550 / US$ 5 - adult
¥ 330 / US$ 3 - elementary student
The lake that was formed because of the eruption of Mount Nantai 20,000 years ago. It is the largest lake in Tochigi Prefecture and is the lake with the highest elevation (1269 m above sea level) in Japan. Due to its location, the lake has cool climate during summer and has attracted American and European countries to open embassy villas there. You can enjoy the surrounding beauty of the lake by getting on the sightseeing boats or simply strolling around, making for one of the best free things to do in Nikko.
Admission Fee : Free
Irohazaka Winding Road
If you want more free things to do in Nikko, then this scenic road that connects Nikko City and the higher elevation mountainous region of Oku-Nikko is for you. The literal meaning of 'Iroha' is the first three of the formerly used Japanese alphabet that has 48 syllables and the Iroha Poem used to make remembering hiragana easier. While 'zaka' means slope. Thus the road named Irohazaka because they have 48 turns and in each curve there are signs showing hiragana characters. From late October to early November, if you drive along this road, your eyes are going to be pampered by the spectacular autumn panoramic view.
Admission Fee : Free
Tobu World Square
When you are visiting Nikko either with your family or friends, don't miss this fun and unique place. In this theme park, you can visit the most well-known places and structures from countries all around the world, all in one place. From the American Empire State Building, to Vatican St. Peter's Basilica, to Egyptian Temple of Abu Simbel, you can find 102 replicas of famous landmarks from 21 countries and 45 World Heritage Sites. All of the replicas have mind-blowing details making you feel like you are actually there.
The theme park is also caters to its Muslim visitors, and comes with a prayer room and wudhu facilities, and halal food menu.
Admission Fee : ¥ 2800 / US $ 26.5 - adult (on the spot)
¥ 1400 / US$ 13 - children (on the spot)
¥ 2500 / US$ 24 - adult (in advance)
¥1200 / US$ 11.3 - children (in advance)
In this theme park, you can experience what it feels like to be a Japanese living during the Edo Period (1603-1868). This experience is surely not to be missed if you fell in love with the Japanese culture or even if you want to make the most out of your trip to Japan by experiencing traditional Japanese life. This is a fun way for you to learn about the Japanese culture. Inside the park, you can transform yourself into samurai, ninja, geisha or whatever you want by wearing the costumes or kimonos of your choosing. As you walk around, you will find friendly fellow townspeople who will be greeting you. They are the Edo Wonderland staff trying their best to make you feel belong in this town. The park is also full of interesting attractions, amusements, and performances that will never bore you. For example, you can watch the Mizugei-za performance, learn how to throw shuriken in the Ninja Village, create your own hair accessory at Aizome-Ya, and much more.
Admission Fee: 1 Day Ticket for Adult : ¥ 4700 / US$ 44.6
1 Day Ticket for Children : ¥ 2400 / US$ 22.8
Afternoon Pass for Adult: ¥ 4100 / US$ 38.9
Afternoon Pass for Children: ¥ 2100 / US$ 20
Nikko Strawberry Park (30 mins all you can pick and eat)
Tochigi is the top producer of strawberries in Japan as it produces the finest quality of strawberries. If you are a big fan of strawberry, then you should definitely check this out. Nikko Strawberry Park is the only strawberry farm that Nikko has. Other than Tochigi's most famous strawberry, Tochiotome, you can also find other strawberry specimen such as sky berries, beni hoppe, and yayoi hime. Moreover, many foreign TV programs have filmed here, and the park receives many international tourists annually. In this strawberry park, you can enjoy the strawberry picking courses, where you can have a 30 minutes long all-you-can-pick and all-you-can-eat strawberries. They also provide condensed milk as a topping for your fresh picked strawberries.
Admission Fee: ¥ 1500 - 1700 / US$ 14.2 - US$ 16
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