Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Things To Do In Nikko Japan + Nikko Day Trip


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Melodie Gao



Welcome to Nikko, a charming city nestled in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture in Japan. Known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Nikko is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a mix of history and natural beauty.


Steeped in centuries of tradition, Nikko is famous for its majestic shrines, tranquil temples, and vibrant festivals. The city offers a seamless blend of old-world charm and modern conveniences, making it an ideal getaway for both history enthusiasts and nature lovers.


Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer stay, Nikko has something for everyone. From exploring ancient temples and shrines, marveling at picturesque waterfalls, to hiking through lush forests and soaking in hot springs, the possibilities are endless in this captivating city.


Getting to Nikko is convenient, with easy access from Tokyo. You can reach the city by train, bus, or car, and the journey itself is a treat, offering glimpses of Japan’s stunning countryside along the way.


Once you arrive in Nikko, be prepared to be awestruck by the grandeur and beauty that awaits you. With so much to see and do, we have compiled a list of the top attractions that should not be missed during your visit.


So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to explore the wonders of Nikko. Let’s dive into this captivating city and discover the top things to do on your Nikko day trip.


Getting to Nikko

Nikko is located approximately 125 kilometers north of Tokyo, making it a perfect day trip or a weekend getaway from the bustling capital city. The most convenient way to reach Nikko is by train, which offers a scenic journey through the countryside.


If you’re departing from Tokyo, you can take the Tobu Nikko Line from Asakusa Station to Tobu Nikko Station. The train ride takes around two hours and offers breathtaking views of the landscape along the way. Alternatively, you can also take the JR Nikko Line from Tokyo Station to JR Nikko Station, which takes approximately two and a half hours.


Another option is to take a direct bus from Tokyo to Nikko, which is a popular choice for those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery. The bus takes around two to three hours, depending on traffic conditions, and provides a comfortable and hassle-free journey.


If you’re driving to Nikko, the journey takes approximately two to three hours from central Tokyo, depending on traffic. The Nikko- Utsunomiya Road is the main route, and there are several parking lots available in Nikko for visitors.


Once you arrive in Nikko, getting around the city is convenient and easy. The attractions in Nikko are relatively close to each other, and you can explore them on foot or by utilizing the local buses. The bus network covers all the major landmarks, making it a convenient mode of transportation for visitors.


It’s important to note that Nikko is a popular tourist destination, especially during the autumn foliage season. Therefore, it’s advisable to plan your trip ahead and check the train and bus schedules to avoid any potential delays or overcrowding.


Now that you know how to get to Nikko, it’s time to dive into the top attractions that await you in this enchanting city. From UNESCO World Heritage sites to stunning natural wonders, Nikko has something to offer for every traveler.


Toshogu Shrine

One of the most iconic and significant landmarks in Nikko is the Toshogu Shrine. Built in the 17th century, this UNESCO World Heritage site is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years.


Toshogu Shrine is renowned for its intricate and elaborate architecture, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail. From the vibrant colors to the ornate carvings and gilded decorations, every aspect of the shrine is a testament to the skill and artistry of the craftsmen involved.


The most famous and striking feature of Toshogu Shrine is the Yomeimon Gate, also known as the “Gate of Sunlight.” This ornate gate is adorned with hundreds of exquisite carvings, depicting mythical creatures, historical figures, and scenes from Japanese folklore.


Inside the shrine complex, you’ll find several other remarkable structures, including the Shinkyusha Sacred Stable and the Honjido Hall. The Honjido is famous for its “Crying Dragon” painting where, when you clap your hands, the sound echoes and creates the illusion that the dragon is crying.


As you wander through the shrine grounds, you’ll also come across the Tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a serene and sacred spot surrounded by towering cedar trees. The tomb is a place of reverence and offers visitors a chance to pay their respects to this influential figure in Japanese history.


Every year, Toshogu Shrine attracts thousands of visitors, especially during the grand Nikko Toshogu Festival held in May. This vibrant festival features processions, traditional music and dance performances, and a variety of events that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Nikko.


Visiting Toshogu Shrine is like stepping back in time and immersing yourself in the history and spirituality of Japan. As you explore the various buildings and admire the artistry, take a moment to appreciate the masterpieces of architecture and pay homage to the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.


After soaking up the beauty and history of Toshogu Shrine, it’s time to move on to our next stop: the breathtaking Kegon Falls.


Kegon Falls

Prepare to be awe-struck by the majestic beauty of Kegon Falls, one of Japan’s most spectacular waterfalls. Located in Nikko National Park, this natural wonder is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.


Standing at a height of 97 meters (318 feet), Kegon Falls is a breathtaking sight to behold. The water cascades down from Lake Chuzenji, creating a mesmerizing display of power and beauty. During the autumn season, the surrounding foliage transforms into vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold, adding to the scenic splendor of the falls.


To fully appreciate the splendor of Kegon Falls, make sure to take a ride on the Akechidaira Ropeway. This aerial tramway offers panoramic views of the waterfall and the surrounding landscape. From the observation deck at the top, you can capture stunning photos and immerse yourself in the serene ambiance.


For a more up-close and personal experience, there is a viewing platform located at the base of Kegon Falls. Here, you can feel the mist on your face and listen to the powerful roar of the water as it crashes down into the pool below.


Aside from its natural beauty, Kegon Falls also holds a spiritual significance. According to Japanese folklore, the falls are considered a gateway to the underworld, and it is believed that the water flows directly from Lake Chuzenji without contact with the ground, symbolizing purity and cleansing.


Visiting Kegon Falls is a truly immersive experience, where you can marvel at the raw power and magnificence of nature. Whether you visit during the vibrant autumn season or in the tranquil winter months when the falls freeze over, Kegon Falls is a sight that will leave a lasting impression.


After exploring the wonders of Kegon Falls, it’s time to venture deeper into Nikko National Park and discover the beauty of nature at its finest.


Nikko National Park

Get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Nikko National Park, a haven of nature and tranquility. Spanning over 1,400 square kilometers, this national park is known for its lush forests, pristine lakes, and picturesque hiking trails.


As you explore Nikko National Park, you’ll be mesmerized by the rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes. The park is home to several prominent peaks, including Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho, and Mount Shirane, offering breathtaking panoramic views from their summits.


One of the most popular activities in Nikko National Park is hiking. With a network of well-maintained trails, you can embark on scenic hikes that cater to all levels of fitness and experience. Whether you choose to hike to the summit of a mountain or explore a leisurely nature trail, the park offers a range of options to suit every preference.


For those seeking a unique experience, visit the Senjogahara Marshland, a vast wetland with a wooden boardwalk that allows you to stroll through the serene landscape. The marshland is adorned with colorful wildflowers during the spring and summer months, creating a picturesque setting that is a favorite amongst photographers.


Nikko National Park also boasts several pristine lakes, including Lake Chuzenji and Lake Yunoko. Take a leisurely boat ride on Lake Chuzenji and admire the surrounding mountains and forests, or hike along the trails that lead you to hidden waterfalls and hidden viewpoints around Lake Yunoko.


Throughout the year, the park showcases its ever-changing scenery. In spring, cherry blossoms bloom, painting the landscape in delicate pink hues. In autumn, the park transforms into a riot of colors as the leaves change to vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold. Even in winter, the park offers a tranquil beauty as the snow blankets the landscape.


Whether you’re a nature lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle, Nikko National Park is the perfect retreat. The park’s serene beauty and diverse landscapes will captivate your senses and provide endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation.


After immersing yourself in the natural wonders of Nikko National Park, it’s time to continue our journey and visit the serene and picturesque Lake Chuzenji.


Lake Chuzenji

Prepare to be enchanted by the serene beauty of Lake Chuzenji, a picturesque lake nestled in the heart of Nikko. Located at the foot of Mount Nantai, this natural wonder is a popular destination for outdoor activities and offers breathtaking views of nature’s splendor.


Formed over 20,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption, Lake Chuzenji stretches across an area of approximately 25 square kilometers. Surrounded by lush green forests and towering mountains, the lake offers a tranquil retreat away from the bustling city.


One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of Lake Chuzenji is by taking a leisurely boat ride. Hop on a sightseeing boat and glide across the peaceful waters, enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The boat cruise offers a unique perspective of the lake, allowing you to soak in the tranquility and capture stunning photos.


For those seeking outdoor adventure, Lake Chuzenji is a paradise. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are perfect for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Rent a paddleboard or kayak and explore the lake at your own pace, admiring the scenic beauty and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.


Surrounding Lake Chuzenji, you’ll find several hiking trails that cater to all levels of fitness and experience. Take a leisurely stroll along the lakeside promenade, or challenge yourself with a hike to the top of Mount Nantai for a rewarding panoramic view of the area.


One of the highlights of Lake Chuzenji is the iconic Kegon Falls, mentioned earlier in this article. Towering over the lake, this magnificent waterfall is a sight to behold. Enjoy the view of the falls from a distance, or venture closer by taking the Akechidaira Ropeway for an elevated vantage point.


During the autumn season, Lake Chuzenji is bathed in a vibrant palette of colors as the leaves change. The surrounding forests become a canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a picturesque scene that draws visitors from far and wide.


When visiting Lake Chuzenji, make sure to explore the nearby attractions as well. Take a stroll along the historic British and Italian Embassy Villas, which were once vacation homes for foreign diplomats. These beautifully preserved villas offer a glimpse into the past and provide a unique cultural experience.


As you explore the beauty and tranquility of Lake Chuzenji, take a moment to immerse yourself in the natural wonders that surround you. From the shimmering waters to the breathtaking scenery, this enchanting lake is a treasure to be cherished.


As our adventure in Nikko continues, our next stop takes us to the historic and elegant Tamozawa Imperial Villa.


Tamozawa Imperial Villa

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the elegance and grandeur of the Tamozawa Imperial Villa. Located in Nikko, this historic site was once the summer residence of the Imperial family during the Meiji and Taisho periods.


The Tamozawa Imperial Villa is a fascinating blend of traditional Japanese architecture and Western influences. As you explore the villa, you’ll be enchanted by the intricate craftsmanship, exquisite gardens, and opulent interiors that showcase the luxurious lifestyle of the Imperial family.


The villa consists of several interconnected buildings, each designed with its own unique purpose and style. From the Main Villa, which served as the residence for the Imperial family, to the Tea House, where traditional Japanese tea ceremonies were held, every structure exudes a sense of elegance and refinement.


One of the highlights of the Tamozawa Imperial Villa is its stunning garden. Created in a traditional Japanese style, the garden features meticulously manicured lawns, serene ponds, and beautiful cherry trees. During the cherry blossom season in spring, the garden transforms into a symphony of delicate pink blossoms, creating a picturesque setting that is truly breathtaking.


Guided tours are available at the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, allowing visitors to learn about the history and significance of this architectural gem. Knowledgeable guides provide insightful information about the villa’s design, the lives of the Imperial family, and the cultural traditions associated with the location.


Visiting the Tamozawa Imperial Villa offers a unique opportunity to step into the world of Japanese nobility and experience the refined lifestyle of the Imperial family. As you stroll through the beautifully preserved rooms and peaceful gardens, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe and reverence for the rich history and cultural heritage that this site represents.


After immersing yourself in the elegance of the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, continue your journey through Nikko and be captivated by the iconic Shinkyo Bridge.


Shinkyo Bridge

Prepare to be mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the Shinkyo Bridge, a symbol of Nikko’s rich cultural heritage. Also known as the Sacred Bridge, Shinkyo Bridge is located at the entrance of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nikko Toshogu Shrine.


This iconic red bridge spans across the Daiya River and is a perfect blend of Japanese architectural style and natural surroundings. The vibrant vermillion color of the bridge, set against the lush greenery and flowing river, creates a picturesque scene that is truly captivating.


The Shinkyo Bridge holds great significance in Japanese folklore and history. According to legend, the deity of the bridge, Jinja-Daiou, transported the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, across this sacred bridge. The bridge is considered a spiritual crossing point from the secular world to the spiritual realm.


While crossing the Shinkyo Bridge, you’ll be surrounded by a serene atmosphere and breathtaking views of the surrounding nature. The sound of the flowing river and the fragrance of the nearby cedar trees create an immersive experience that transports you to a different time and place.


The Shinkyo Bridge can be admired from both sides of the river, allowing for stunning photo opportunities. Whether framed by the vibrant autumn foliage or covered in a blanket of snow during the winter months, the bridge offers a picturesque backdrop that is a favorite among photographers.


While visitors can admire the Shinkyo Bridge from the outside, access to the actual bridge is limited. However, during the annual Shinkyo Bridge Opening Festival, usually held in May, the bridge is temporarily opened to the public, allowing visitors to experience its beauty up close.


As you stand on the banks of the Daiya River, gazing at the Shinkyo Bridge, you’ll feel a sense of awe and reverence for this cultural treasure that has stood the test of time.


After admiring the splendor of the Shinkyo Bridge, it’s time to explore the spiritual side of Nikko at Rinnoji Temple, our next destination.


Rinnoji Temple

Discover the spiritual heart of Nikko at Rinnoji Temple, one of the most important Buddhist temples in Japan. Founded in the 8th century, this historic temple complex showcases stunning architecture, serene gardens, and a rich cultural heritage.


As you approach Rinnoji Temple, you’ll be greeted by the grand entrance gate, known as the Nio-mon gate, guarded by two fierce-looking statues. Passing through the gate, you’ll enter a world of tranquility and serenity.


The main hall of Rinnoji Temple, called the Sanbutsudo Hall, houses three large wooden statues of Buddhist deities. These statues, known as the Sanbutsu, represent Amida Buddha, Senju-Kannon, and Bato-Kannon. The size and intricate details of these statues are awe-inspiring, and they are considered national treasures of Japan.


Take a moment to offer prayers and reflect on the spiritual significance of Rinnoji Temple. The soothing atmosphere and the gentle murmurs of incense create a serene ambiance that invites introspection and contemplation.


Adjacent to the temple hall, you’ll find the beautiful Shoyoen Garden. This traditional Japanese garden features meticulously manicured lawns, serene ponds, and carefully placed rocks and trees. Stroll along the garden paths, listen to the sound of running water, and find a peaceful spot to sit and embrace the tranquility.


Rinnoji Temple is also renowned for its role in the annual Shunki Reitaisai festival held in May. During this vibrant festival, the temple grounds come alive with colorful processions, traditional music and dance performances, and spirited celebrations. It is an incredible opportunity to witness the fusion of spirituality and cultural traditions in Nikko.


Visiting Rinnoji Temple offers a spiritual escape from the outside world and allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of Japan. The temple’s serene atmosphere and beautiful surroundings provide a peaceful retreat for reflection and appreciation.


After experiencing the serenity of Rinnoji Temple, let’s uncover the hidden gem of Kanmangafuchi Abyss, our next stop in Nikko.


Kanmangafuchi Abyss

Escape the bustling city and venture into the serene beauty of Kanmangafuchi Abyss, a hidden gem nestled in the outskirts of Nikko. This scenic gorge is a natural wonder that offers breathtaking views of the tranquil river, lush vegetation, and unique stone statues.


Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a peaceful and picturesque spot that allows you to reconnect with nature and experience a sense of tranquility. As you stroll along the walking trail that follows the river, you’ll be surrounded by the soothing sounds of flowing water and the rustling leaves.


One of the highlights of Kanmangafuchi Abyss is the row of stone statues known as “Jizo.” These small stone statues depict the Bodhisattva Jizo, a beloved deity in Japanese Buddhism known for guiding and protecting souls. Over 70 stone figures are lined up along the trail, creating a serene and spiritual ambiance.


Legend has it that the number of Jizo statues changes mysteriously. It is said that if you count the statues twice and the number is different, you may have encountered the supernatural. This adds a touch of intrigue and mystique to the surroundings, making Kanmangafuchi Abyss even more captivating.


During the cherry blossom season in spring and the autumn foliage season in autumn, Kanmangafuchi Abyss transforms into a breathtaking canvas of colors. The cherry trees and maple trees lining the gorge explode in vibrant hues, creating a picturesque scene that is simply mesmerizing.


As you explore the abyss, you’ll come across a wooden walking path that leads to a suspension bridge. Crossing the bridge offers a unique perspective of the gorge and provides an opportunity to capture stunning photographs.


Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a place of serenity and natural beauty, where you can escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the peacefulness of the surroundings. The combination of flowing river, stone statues, and vibrant foliage creates a harmonious and enchanting atmosphere.


After exploring the tranquil beauty of Kanmangafuchi Abyss, let’s continue our journey to the serene Nikko Botanical Garden.


Nikko Botanical Garden

Discover the diversity of Japan’s flora at the Nikko Botanical Garden, a paradise for nature lovers and plant enthusiasts. Located in Nikko, this expansive garden is a treasure trove of unique plant species, serene walking trails, and educational exhibits.


Nestled in the lush greenery of Nikko, the botanical garden spans across 24 hectares and showcases a wide array of plants native to the region. As you explore the garden, you’ll be immersed in a world of vibrant colors, soothing fragrances, and the tranquil sounds of nature.


The garden is divided into several sections, each dedicated to different ecosystems and plant collections. From the mossy forest floor to the towering trees, every corner of the garden offers a glimpse into the rich biodiversity of the area.


One of the highlights of the Nikko Botanical Garden is the alpine garden, where you can explore a simulated alpine environment and discover unique mountain plants that thrive in the high altitudes. Marvel at the hardy alpine flowers and mosses that have adapted to survive in harsh conditions.


Another captivating section of the garden is the Azalea Hill, which bursts into a riot of colors during the spring season. Thousands of azalea bushes create a dazzling display, painting the hillside in shades of pink, purple, and white. This is a true spectacle of nature that should not be missed.


The garden also houses an impressive collection of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, and other flowering plants that bloom during different seasons, ensuring a delightful experience no matter when you visit.


In addition to its natural beauty, the Nikko Botanical Garden offers educational exhibits and informative signage that provide insights into the diverse plant life of the region. Visitors can learn about the unique characteristics of various species and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of biodiversity conservation.


Whether you’re a botany enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a peaceful retreat, the Nikko Botanical Garden offers a serene and immersive experience. The tranquil surroundings, diverse flora, and educational opportunities make it a must-visit destination in Nikko.


After exploring the wonders of nature at the Nikko Botanical Garden, let’s dive into the vibrant world of Edo era at Edo Wonderland, our next stop in Nikko.


Edo Wonderland

Step back in time and experience the vibrant world of Japan’s Edo period at Edo Wonderland, a unique theme park in Nikko. This immersive attraction transports visitors to the 17th century, offering a glimpse into the daily life, culture, and traditions of this historical era.


As you enter Edo Wonderland, you’ll find yourself in a meticulously recreated village resembling an authentic Edo period town. The streets are lined with traditional shops, samurai residences, and bustling theaters, giving you a sense of what life was like during this fascinating period in Japan’s history.


One of the highlights of Edo Wonderland is the opportunity to dress up in traditional Edo-era costumes and become a part of the immersive experience. Choose from a variety of costumes, including samurai, geisha, or common townspeople, and roam the streets of the village, fully embracing the spirit of the Edo period.


Throughout the day, you can witness entertaining performances and demonstrations that showcase the culture and skills of the time. From theatrical shows featuring samurai sword fights and ninja acrobatics to traditional arts and crafts workshops, there is always something exciting happening at Edo Wonderland.


Food lovers will delight in the authentic Edo-era cuisine served at the park’s various restaurants. Indulge in traditional dishes such as tempura, udon noodles, and sashimi, and savor the flavors of a bygone era.


For families with children, Edo Wonderland has a variety of attractions and activities that cater to younger visitors. Kids can enjoy exploring the Ninja Trick Maze, participate in ninja training sessions, or even dress up as samurai or ninja and engage in thrilling make-believe battles.


Visiting Edo Wonderland is like stepping into a time machine and experiencing a piece of Japan’s rich history. The attention to detail, immersive atmosphere, and engaging activities make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts, culture enthusiasts, and families looking for a fun and educational experience.


After immersing yourself in the vibrant world of Edo Wonderland, it’s time to conclude our Nikko adventure. Reflect on the memories made and the insights gained as you bid farewell to this enchanting city.



Nikko is a destination that seamlessly combines the allure of Japan’s cultural heritage with the breathtaking beauty of its natural surroundings. From the iconic Toshogu Shrine to the tranquil Kanmangafuchi Abyss, there is an abundance of experiences awaiting travelers in this captivating city.


Immerse yourself in the rich history and spirituality of Nikko as you explore the Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple. Marvel at the natural wonders of Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji, where the pristine water and picturesque landscapes create a sense of serenity.


For nature enthusiasts, the Nikko National Park and Nikko Botanical Garden offer opportunities to admire the diverse flora and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the outdoors. And for those seeking a unique cultural experience, a visit to Edo Wonderland provides a journey back in time to Japan’s Edo period.


As you journey through Nikko, you’ll encounter not only historical landmarks and natural wonders but also the warm hospitality of the locals. The city’s charm lies in its seamless blend of tradition and modernity, providing visitors with a unique and unforgettable experience.


Whether you’re roaming the streets of Edo Wonderland, marveling at the stone statues of Kanmangafuchi Abyss, or simply taking in the serene beauty of the Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko promises to leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.


So, pack your bags, explore the wonders of Nikko, and let the beauty of this enchanting city captivate your senses. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or cultural explorer, Nikko offers a myriad of experiences that will satisfy your wanderlust and leave you with cherished memories.


As you depart Nikko, carry with you the spirit of this remarkable city and the stories it has illuminated. Reflect on the vibrant culture, ancient traditions, and awe-inspiring nature that make Nikko a destination unlike any other.


Until we meet again in this captivating city, may your adventures in Nikko be filled with wonder, tranquility, and a deep appreciation for the unique treasures it holds.