How to Do One Day in Nikko, Japan

My essential guide on what to see and do on a daytrip to the picturesque Nikko from Tokyo, Japan.

While I had plenty of best moments in Japan, enjoying the tranquility of nature that Nikko had to offer ranked one of the highest. Determined to get out of city life while in Tokyo, we found to be most accessible for us.

Located in the Tochigi perfecture, Nikko is a daytrip away from Tokyo.

Getting There: 

From Asakusa station, take the Tobu line to get you to Tobu Nikko.

It was almost a 3-hour long journey. Since this was a daytrip for us, we left for the train very early in the day to maximise our time at Nikko. The long train journey meant that we had the perfect opportunity to buy adorable bentos to eat on-board. We purchased our bentos from the train station itself, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the boxed meal.

The Tobu line was not one of the… newer, trains, in Japan. On our way back, our train was held us several times due to some track fault apparently. That ended up being a frustrating 4+ hours journey back to Tokyo. Although this is not common, just a heads-up that delays are possible.

Nikko Tourist Information Centre

Once you reach Nikko station, make your way to the Tourist Information centre within the train station itself.

Ask for maps and info on how to get to attractions or hiking trails. Maps of hiking trails were readily available.

As a nice touch, we were given adorable origami paper cranes simply because we were tourists.

  1. Lake Chuzenji

We began our Nikko exploring from Lake Chuzenji, which we reached by local bus from the train station.

Lake Chuzenji(Chuzenji-ko) is a 20,000-year old lake located at the foot of the volcano, Mount Nantai. It was created when Mt Nantai erupted and blocked the valley. Lake Chuzenji was one of the most idyllic lakes I’ve ever come across.

It was still too chilly at time of visit, so we didn’t see any swimmers. On hindsight, I don’t know if you can actually swim here. We saw no swimmers while there.

2. Kegon Waterfall 

Nikko is home to one of the famous waterfalls in Japan, Kegon Waterfall (Kegon no Taki). The Kegon Waterfall is the only exit for the Lake Chuzenji.

The waterfall is viewable on two platforms, one of which is at level with the mouth of the waterfall and is free. The other one is located at the base of the waterfall and costs about 500 Yen to access. I thought it was well worth it, since you end up with a nicer photo to take home. You’re also able to get up close and personal with the waterfall, that you feel it on your face.

Not-so-fun fact: This beautiful waterfall has an unfortunate reputation of being a suicide site for impressionable Japanese students. Yikes.

3. Nikko National Park

The Nikko National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve hiked. There are several hiking trails in the park to fit all types of adventurers – from lazy wanderers to serious nature hunters.

We found ourselves on the Ryuzu waterfall trail by accident. The plan was to take the bus to Ryuzu waterfall and work our way down. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite figure out how the local bus worked and found ourselves way past our stop.

No matter, we simply followed the hiking trail and asked the friendly local hikers for directions towards the waterfall. It was such a refreshing and calming hike.

Though at one point, the trail entered an area with warning signs of bear sightings, so that was kind of exciting. Truth: I will not know what to do if I see a bear and I will die because I will most definitely scream and shout and let it all out.

We hiked for a couple of hours before we came to this gorgeousness. To be honest, we’re not sure if this was Ryuzu waterfall (till now I’m still not sure), but it’s stunning nonetheless. We had to make our way back at this point for our train back to Tokyo.

4. Nikko Heritage Site 

The Nikko structures and the surrounding forest areas are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There’s an entrance fee to enter the shrine area. We chose to explore from the outside, since there wasn’t time to enter the compound.

The Toshogu Shrine would be the highlight of the visit. However, it was under construction at time of visit. Another reason why we chose not to enter.

5. Shinkyo Bridge

The heritage sites in the vicinity were equally gorgeous, such as the Shinkyo Bridge. You can stroll across the bridge and back for an entrance fee. We chose to admire it with the other camera-toting tourists from across.

6. Quaint Town of Nikko

The town of Nikko, where we started and ended our trip, is worth a mention.  Coming from metropolitan high-rise cityscape of Tokyo, Nikko’s traditional houses were a charming change and deserving of a nice stroll through.

We shopped for cute Nikko specialty boxed snacks here too. One of my favourite stops is this stall selling dango, or chewy Japanese rice dessert balls. The dango was grilled to a slightly crisp exterior. A deliciously goopy sweet soy sauce was then slathered over it. Mmm.

We also stumbled upon this gem of a wise piece:

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