Nikko National Park

Mountains, lakes, waterfalls and wetlands interwoven with cultural heritage

Long a sanctuary of the Japanese court, the imperial family and Japanese citizens for its seasonally changing beauty, Nikko is a must-see destination for domestic and international tourists alike. However, few visitors travel beyond the shrines and temples to experience the nature and history of the national park—the main reasons that Nikko has attracted people for generations. Read more about Nikko National Park's inspiring scenery.

Visiting Japan's National Parks

Nikko National Park, like all of Japan's national parks, has no entrance fees, no opening and closing hours, and no permit is required to enter or stay in the park. The national parks of Japan differ from national parks worldwide in that the land within the national parks is not exclusively designated for national park use and is made up of private property as well as public and protected areas. Visitors are free to enter and leave at any time. 

Lake Chuzenji

Park Highlights

This mountainous region of the Nasu Volcanic Belt has peaks such as Mt. Shirane (2,578 meters), the highest peak in the northern Kanto region; Mt. Nantai (2,486 meters), renowned as an object of worship from ancient times; and Mt. Nasu (1,917 meters), an active volcano. 

DON'T MISS

  • Traversing the major peaks of Mt. Nasu
  • Oku-nikko's marshland and waterfalls 
  • The inspriring scenery and hot springs of Lake Chuzenji 

Nikko National Park is easily accessible by train or car from the Tokyo area. It includes stunning volcanic peaks, ecologically rich marshlands, dense forests and dramatic gorges.

Nasu Heisei-no-Mori Forest, historically a retreat for the imperial family, is now open to the public, while Shiobara Gorge's foliage changes dramatically with the seasons.

MT. NASUDAKE (MT. CHAUSU, MT. SAMBONYARI, MT. ASAHI)

This is the collective name of several volcanoes on the border of Tochigi and Fukushima prefectures. It consists of Mt. Chausu, which is still releasing gas and steam; Mt. Asahi characterized by its sheer rocky cliffs; and Mt. Sambonyari, the highest peak of Mt. Nasudake surrounded by forests.

Mt. Nasu Hiking Trail

NASU HEISEI-NO-MORI FOREST

This is an area of approximately 560 hectares that lies partly on the former site of the Nasu Imperial Villa, which the Ministry of the Environment took over and opened to the public. Various nature experience events, and study programs are open to the public in this expansive natural forest.

Nasu Heisei-no-Mori Forest

SHIOBARA GORGE

Choose between three trekking courses of varying levels and distance in and around Shiobara Gorge. Walk along a valley covered in rich green in spring and summer—or red in autumn—while looking at falls, suspension bridges and marshlands.

MT. NIKKO-SHIRANE

Mt. Nikko-Shirane is the highest mountain in the Kanto region located on the border of Tochigi and Gunma prefectures at 2,578 meters above sea level. You can start your hike from Nikko Yumoto Onsen, Marunuma Swamp, or other points around the area.

Mt. Nikko-Shirane

OKU-NIKKO

The Yunoko, Yukawa, Senjogahara and Odashirogahara areas are collectively registered as Oku-nikko Shitsugen (Oku-nikko High Moor) in the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands. These marshlands, rich in unique plant and animal life, can be easily explored using wooden footpaths.

Oku-Nikko

LAKE CHUZENJI AND KEGON-NO-TAKI FALLS

Lake Chuzenji, Japan's highest natural lake, was formed 20,000 years ago by an eruption of Mt. Nantai that created a natural dam. Kegon Falls drop dramatically from the lake and can freeze solid in winter. The surrounding area is a popular sightseeing base.

Lake Chuzenji

Plants & Animals

As the elevation increases in the the Nasu and Shiobara areas, the landscape changes from broadleaf deciduous forests of Japanese beech and oak to coniferous forests of fir and thuja trees. This area is inhabited by large mammals like the Japanese serow, Japanese sika deer and the Asiatic black bear, as well as valley fish and amphibians.

Above 1,600 meters in the Nikko and Kinugawa areas, you will find coniferous forests and Erman's birch trees. The ridgelines and summits above 2,400 meters are characterized by shrubby alpine-belt vegetation, and provide unobstructed views. Fields of cottongrass cover wetlands such as Kinu-numa Swamp and Senjogahara. Many Japanese macaques inhabit these areas.

 

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    Shirane Aoi (Glaucidium palmatum) 

     

    The word "shirane" in the name of this Japan-endemic species comes from Mt. Nikko-Shirane, once home to a large colony of the flowers. Now greatly reduced due to predation by deer and illegal digging, the flowers are protected by ongoing initiatives.

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    Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata)

     

    These monkeys are found throughout non-mountainous parts of the Nikko area. Nikko City enacted the nation's first ordinance prohibiting the feeding of monkeys and worked to raise awareness of monkeys stealing bags from tourists, resulting in a considerable decrease in the problem.

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    Japanese Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)

     

    The males of these large herbivorous mammals have magnificent antlers. Sika deer can often be spotted in Oku-nikko. However, their population has expanded excessively and they have become a cause of severe damage to forest vegetation.

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    Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus japonicas)

     

    The Asiatic black bear, called tsukinowaguma or "moon-ring bear," is distinguished by the crescent-shaped white marking on the chest. Found in the forests of the park, this bear is the largest mammal on Honshu.

Culture 

Especially in and around the central Nikko City area, there are many major historical buildings and sites, including World Heritage-designated Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan-jinja Shrine, and Rinnoji Temple. The rich forests surrounding these temples and shrines encourage a striking harmony between the region's natural environment and its spiritual significance. 

A sect of Shugendo mountain worship used to flourish on the peaks of Mt. Nasu. Related historical sites are scattered around the area, particularly in Sandogoya Onsen.

 

Italian Embassy Villa

 

The areas around Lake Chuzenji were a popular summer getaway for foreign diplomats in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tour a villa formerly housing a retreat for the Italian embassy and take in sweeping views of the lake.

The Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa was constructed as a vacation spot for Emperor Taisho and incorporates architectural styles spanning multiple periods of Japanese history. Explore the diverse buildings and serene gardens of this National Treasure.

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    Seasonal Information

     

    The scenery of Nikko National Park changes dramatically with the seasons. Spring brings cherry blossoms and greenery spreading across the mountains, valleys and gorges. Summer is perfect for outdoor pastimes such as hiking and trekking, as well as kayaking or canoeing on Lake Chuzenji.

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    The park's hillsides erupt in brilliant red, orange and yellow foliage in autumn. The colorful leaves are equally as brilliant when lining a deep ravine as when framing one of Nikko's world-famous shrines. The area is blanketed in snow in winter, perfect for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Kegon Falls often freezes solid in the coldest months in a particularly striking diplay.

About the Park 

Opened in 1934, Nikko National Park is one of Japan's first national parks. The vast park straddles Tochigi, Fukushima and Gunma prefectures, spans a total area of 114,908 hectares, and includes mountains, waterfalls, marshlands and forests. 

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Date of National Park Designation: December 4, 1934
  • Area: 114,908 ha (1,149.08 square kilometers)
  • Location: Fukushima, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures 

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTERS 

Stop by one of Nikko National Park's information centers for trekking maps and discount tickets to museums and day-visit hot springs. Learn more about your surroundings through exhibits on local animals, plants and geography. Don't miss the forest recreation zone at the Nasu Heisei-no-mori Field Center. Read more about Nikko National Park's visitor centers. 

PARKS RULES & SAFETY 

As with any national park or conservation area, visitors to the national parks are required to observe the following rules for safety and to protect the area's natural biodiversity:

  • Carry in, carry out: Take all of your trash with you. 
  • Do not pick wildflowers or damage plants. 
  • Do not feed the wild animals. 
  • Hunting is not permitted. 
  • No fishing unless with a certified guide.
  • No smoking while walking. 
  • Campfires are only permitted in designated areas.
  • Camping is allowed only in designated camping areas.
  • Pets are not allowed on hiking and nature trails. 
  • Stay on the designated trails while hiking and walking.
  • Beware of bears.