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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Where magnificent architecture, deep history and untouched nature merge

Nikko's beautiful setting and sacred mountains have been the backdrop of Shinto and Buddhist worship since at least the eighth century. Its most famous shrines and temples, the most magnificent in Japan, are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Don't Miss

  • Taking in Nikko's World Heritage architecture
  • Crossing into the Futarasan Shrine grounds at Shinkyo Bridge
  • Hiking Nikko's sacred surroundings

How to Get There

Nikko's Tobu-Nikko Station is easily accessible from Tokyo's Asakusa and Shinjuku stations in about two hours.

Travelers can reach Nikko from Gunma Prefecture, with buses running from Oze between mid-spring and mid-autumn.

World Heritage Nikko

The Shrines and Temples of Nikko consist of 103 structures spread over three complexes. They are all within easy walking distance of each other, making for an unforgettable day absorbing some of Japan's most dazzling religious architecture.

One of the most impressive and rightfully most visited is the Toshogu Shrine complex. The shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the powerful Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Lavish, colorful, and intricately carved, Toshogu Shrine stands in stark contrast to many of Japan's more stoic religious structures.

Take plenty of time to absorb the detail of its five-storied pagoda, colorful storehouses, and the dazzling and flamboyantly carved Yomeimon Gate. Walk up to the Inner Shrine grave for a beautiful view over the shrine complex. Do not miss the Toshogu Museum on the approach to the shrine, complete with anime of the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Nature worship and Buddhism

Eighth-century Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to the worship of Nikko's three sacred mountains. You can wander the impressive main grounds for free, and check out the inner garden with its ancient trees for a small fee. Futarasan Shrine has a branch at nearby Lake Chuzenji, and hardy hikers can visit a third branch on the summit of Mt. Nantai in the warmer seasons.

Rinno-ji Temple, also founded in the eighth century, houses three regal Buddha images said to represent Nikko's three sacred mountains. They're a perfect example of the era when elements of Buddhism and Shintoism were strongly intertwined. Its garden is a popular spot for viewing colorful leaves in autumn.

Taiyuinbyo Temple, while not part of the World Heritage complex, is another Nikko must-see. Brilliantly decorated, it features a mix of Shinto and Buddhist elements. It's the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson, the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In 1636 he transformed the smaller original Toshogu Shrine into the brilliant World Heritage masterpiece awaiting visitors today.

Nikko's traditional river crossing

Shinkyo Bridge is a part of the World Heritage Futarasan Shrine. Legend says that when the first priest attempted to ascend sacred Mt. Nantai, the Daiya river stood in his path. He prayed for a safe crossing, and the river god spawned giant snakes that formed the bridge. For much of its existence, only Futarasan Shrine parishioners and the imperial court could make the crossing. Now, it's commonly regarded as the gateway to the major Nikko shrines and temples.

Climbing Nikko's sacred peaks

Nikko is home to an ancient tradition of mountain worship. The three sacred peaks of Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyoho, and Mt. Taro, known collectively as Nikko Sanzan, dominate the area, and you can get in touch with the area's mystical side by trekking these mountains.

Towering over Lake Chuzenji, 2,486-meter Mt. Nantai is Nikko's highest, most sacred, and most frequently climbed peak. The precipitous trail to the top starts from Futarasan Shrine at the foot of the mountain. It serves as a branch of the World Heritage shrine of the same name. Climbers going to the summit are asked to pay a small fee. When you arrive at the top, soak up the view over Lake Chuzenji, and congratulate yourself on reaching the Okusha, Futarasan Shrine's most outlying structure.

Contact the Nikko Tourist Information Center for further details and to learn about hiking the other peaks. Whichever trek you choose, bring your boots, provisions, and a sense of adventure; hikes to the summits and back involve a full day on the trail and are for those with at least moderate physical fitness. You'll find easier hiking around Lake Chuzenji.

Yet more around Nikko

Don't miss the Tamozawa Imperial villa, part of which dates back to 1632.

Lake Chuzenji and its homey eponymous onsen area are easily accessible by bus from the city. The must-see Kegon-no-Taki Falls is widely considered one of Japan's most spectacular cascades.

In late March and early April, a 16-kilometer corridor of cherry trees blooms between Utsunomiya and Nikko on the old Nikko Kaido Route. A bus ride between the cities will let you take it in on the go; rent a car to stop off for photos as you please.

While in town, don't miss trying yuba, a Nikko specialty. Yuba is a soy product that has featured in Buddhist cuisine for centuries. Locals put it in almost everything, including ramen, sushi, rice cookies, and Nikko's famed yuba manju sweets.

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