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Welcome to Nikko

Located a short distance from Tokyo, Nikko offers everything from temples and shrines to hot springs and all manner of outdoor activities.

Welcome to Nikko
  • Welcome to Nikko

    Welcome to Nikko

    Nikko is located in northwestern Tochigi Prefecture, about two hours from Tokyo by train or car. Because of its proximity to the capital, it’s a popular destination for Tokyoites who want to get out of the hustle and bustle for a day or two and relax in the natural beauty of the area. Nikko is huge. In fact, it’s the 3rd largest city in Japan by area!

    Welcome to Nikko

    Welcome to Nikko

    This is one of Japan’s religious centers with a spiritual tradition that spans more than a thousand years. Nikko’s history starts with the Buddhist priest Shodo Shonin came here to establish a temple in 766. Since then, many temples and shrines have been built in the mountains and forests of Nikko. In the early Edo Period, the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, asked to be enshrined here to guard over the 8 Kanto Provinces in death, His grandson, the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, expanded his funerary temple and then had his own temple built. The shogunate built special highways to area for the purpose of visiting the shrines on special occasions, including a private subroute exclusively for the shogun and his retinue. As a result, Nikko has always been really accessible from Tokyo.

    Welcome to Nikko

    Welcome to Nikko

    Most tourists hit the big four: Rinno-ji, Tosho-gu, Futara Shrine, and Taiyu-in. Rinno-ji is a powerful Buddhist temple that administers Taiyu-in, the mausoleum of the third shogun. Tosho-gu. It’s one of the original temples established in the 700’s and has grown to its current size over the centuries. Tosho-gu is the elaborate – some say gaudy – funerary temple of the first shogun. It’s host to more than 1500 sculptures, including the famous 3 Monkeys and Sleeping Cat. Futara Shrine, also founded in the 700’s, is dedicated to 3 Shinto deities, including Okuninushi no Mikoto, an earthly kami involved in the myths connected to the origins of the imperial family. Finally, Taiyu-in, the funerary temple of the third shogun, more subdued than that of the first, set the standard for future Tokugawa funerary temples in Edo (present day Tokyo).

    Welcome to Nikko

    Welcome to Nikko

    The temples and shrines are definitely the most well known attractions in Nikko, but they are far from the only ones. In fact, it’s fair to say that area’s real charms a little less known. Just a short distance from the big four, is the Tamozawa Imperial Villa. It was built in 1899 for the future Emperor Taisho. It boasts some 106 and is surrounded by Japanese gardens and the natural beauty of Nikko’s mountains. When the bombing of Tokyo escalated in 1944, the Emperor Showa was evacuated to this site from time to time. The villa’s architecture smoothly blends styles from the Edo Period, the Meiji Period, and Taisho Period.

    Welcome to Nikko

    Welcome to Nikko

  • Another lesser known treasure in the immediate vicinity is the Takino’o Path. This hike up and down the mountain takes you through a dense cedar forest dotted with streams and waterfalls. The nature is beautiful as you trek along this course which goes around the periphery of the big four, but the real joy is discovering all the minor shrines and temples and religious objects that are scattered around the mountain. You can find everything from objects related to the establishment of Nikko, to the grave of its founder, Shodo Shonin, to a sacred matchmaking tree. The best part about this hike is that you can feel the solitude and quiet that drew Shodo to this area in the first place – a far cry from the crowds of tourists at Tosho-gu.

    Another hidden gem is the Kinugawa River which is popular for rafting and canoeing while enjoying the beautiful mountains and forest lining both sides of the water. A peaceful hiking course along the Ryuokyo Gorge links the onsen towns of Kinugawa and Kawaji. Along the way you’ll see clean mountain streams and majestic waterfalls, as well as quaint shrines dedicated to various kami who live along the river. When the weather is nice, you might want to try fishing or barbecuing on the shore. Again, in contrast to Tosho-gu, the beauty and tranquility of this place speaks volumes about why Nikko began life as a spiritual place in the hills.

    While most people think of NIkko as “just Tosho-gu” or a “a day trip,” it’s actually a place you could easily spend two or three days in, especially if you appreciate autumn colors, lush forests, and rolling tree-covered mountains.

    Posts by Marky Star

    Nikko Toshogu Shrine
    Address
    Tochigi Pref. Nikkoushi Sannai 2301
    Phone
    0288540560
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