Tokyo is a big bustling city with plenty to see and do; for those who want to get away from the concrete jungle, Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture is a destination to consider. A quaint town north of Tokyo, Nikko has many cultural and historic sites for those who want to catch a glimpse of the country’s illustrious past.

The town is home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toshogu, a shrine with lavish and elaborate decorations that will grab your attention. Many Shinto and Buddhists visit the mountains to worship for hundreds of years, even before Toshogu was constructed. Fast forward to today, Nikko is a prime tourist destination with plenty to offer local and foreign visitors. There are stunning views of the landscape, beautiful waterfalls, trails for the outdoorsy and cerulean-tinged lakes.

Surely, Nikko combines nature, culture, and history in one place. You’ll learn more about the country’s history and culture while enjoying scenic views. Here are just some of them.

Toshogu Shrine

This shrine is one of the most famous not just in Nikko but in Japan. It is Tokugawa Ieyasu’s mausoleum. He was the founder of the shogunate that ruled the country for more than two centuries. The shrine will quickly capture your imagination with its lavishness. The initial structure was simple, but Iemitsu (the grandson) decided to enlarge it. You’ll see the extravagant use of gold leaf and intricate carvings on the buildings inside the complex. One other distinction of the shrine is that you’ll find elements of Buddhism and Shinto in its design.


This structure is Tokugawa Iemitsu’s mausoleum. You’ll pass through two elaborate gates the Nitenmon Gate and the Karamon Gate, and halls before reaching the mausoleum. It approximates the beauty and lavishness of nearby Toshogu; however, it was deliberately made modest to display the grandson’s respect for his grandfather. If you have the eye for it, you’ll notice the blend of Shinto and Buddhist influence in the buildings. This mix was a common practice up until the Meiji Period.

Rinnoji Temple

Shodo Shonin was the monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko centuries ago. He founded Rinnoji, making it the most important temple in Nikko. The Sanbutsudo is home to the wooden statues of three important deities namely Amida, Bato-Kannon and Senju-Kannon. The complex also has a treasure house where you’ll find ancient relics. You can walk leisurely around the small garden too.

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

If you want to take a break from temple and shrine hopping, include Kanmangafuchi in your itinerary. This beautiful gorge isn’t very long, but it provides scenic views and an easy trail. While walking you’ll see a line of Jizo stone statues which add to the ambiance of the trail.

Kegon Waterfall

Nikko is blessed with beautiful landscapes and waterfalls; one nature destination to include in your itinerary is Kegon Waterfalls. This attraction is in the country’s top three stunning waterfalls. This 100m-waterfall is where Lake Chuzenji’s water falls through. There is a platform you can easily walk to and another one at the Kegon’s base. The waterfall is jaw-dropping during autumn when the trees surrounding it are ablaze in reds, oranges, yellows, and greens.

Lake Chuzenji

This scenic lake is situated in the mountains towering over Nikko. There are a number of sites you can visit around the lake; these include Kegon Waterfall, Ryuzu Waterfall, and Chuzenjiko Onsen. The lake area becomes colorful during autumn. Plan your visit towards the end of October to see the autumn foliage at their most vibrant. If you have time, go on an easy hike along the trails to breathe in the fresh cool air and admire the views. You also have the option to see the lake on a boat.

Ryuzu Waterfall

The name of this waterfall translates into “dragon’s head waterfall.” It got its moniker because of the shape it takes as it flows out of a cliff. Ryuzu may not be big and spectacular like Kegon, but its beauty is very Japanese — subtle and muted. The best time to visit is autumn when Ryuzu is surrounded by autumn foliage. There is a deck where you can view and take pictures of the waterfall from. There is a short trail that allows you to get a closer look at the raging river.


If you have extra time in Nikko after seeing the waterfalls and UNESCO-listed shrines and temples, include this mountain. The drive to the observation platform is scenic and colorful during autumn. Once you reach the top, you’ll get fetching, bird’s eye views of Lake Chuzenji and the surrounding area on a clear day.

Senjogahara Marsh

Nature lovers will love Nikko; one place to go hiking while here is Senjogahara Marshland. The marsh offers easy and scenic trails that take you through the plateau. Completing the trail can take up to three hours depending on how fast you are going. The ideal time to hike is in autumn when the temperature is just right and the colors are stunning.

Top Nikko Hotels

Okunoin Hotel Tokugawa

Hatago Nagomi Hot Spring Hotel

Nikko Station Hotel II

Yumoto Itaya

Japan Hotel Discounts


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