Nikko is a cute little place, perfect for you to do a day trip if you’re looking to escape the bustle of Tokyo. It’s a small city in the Toshigi Prefecture and of its most famous landmarks is the site of Toshugu – a memorial for Tokugawa Ieyasu who was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
At Nikko station, we purchased a bus pass that would allow us to get around the World Heritage Sites in Nikko. This turned out to be terrible value for money. I’m not sure what was going on in Nikko that day, but the roads were choked with traffic. The bus was 25 minutes late, which is an absolute travesty in Japan! The bus then crawled at a turtle’s pace because traffic was so bad. After one stop, a lot of the tourists got a little fed up and then hopped off the bus and started walking instead.
We ended up walking most of the time in our time in Nikko, which was surprisingly pleasant as the weather was good and the view around us beautiful.
For lunch, we went to a restaurant called Shiori, which served incredibly tasty, fresh food. I’m usually highly disinterested in any form of salad, but everything served here was delicious. I gobbled up my bowls of vegetables very quickly! An added bonus was that there was a young waitress there who spoke English, which is always a bonus for us! I would definitely recommend stopping at this restaurant if you are ever in Nikko.
After lunch, we headed to the famous Shinkyo bridge, which is a sacred bridge at the entrance of Nikko’s shrine. It was even more picturesque than expected, as there was a wedding taking place on the bridge. The wedding procession approached the bridge slowly, and stopped once they had reached the middle of it. Then, the groom threw a little paper bird over the bridge, and everyone clapped. I don’t have any idea what that meant, but I thought it was a pretty gesture.
Then it was Shrine Time. We started at the Toshugu Shrine. This is an enormous shrine with plenty of intricate carvings everywhere. I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil’ phrase. This is where the original carving of that comes from – the three wise monkeys at the Toshugu Shrine. As I’ve never thought of the origins of this saying, I was fascinated to discover the birthplace of it.
Toshugu Shrine was packed to the brim with people, though. There were both a lot of tourists and locals there. While it wasn’t uncomfortably or dangerously packed – and the Japanese are, as always, polite and courteous – it got a little tiring after a while to navigate through the throngs of people. There was also a ceremony we joined – we entered the prayer hall, sat on tatami mats and listened to what we believe was an explanation of the architecture of the shrine. (This is purely an assumption because it was all done in Japanese). It would have been a lot more meaningful to us if we had understood what was happening, but it was nice that we were welcomed into a ceremony.
Next, we went to the Taiyuinbyo, which is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Iemitsu, grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This shrine was a lot quieter and more peaceful vs Toshugu. The scenery around was breathtaking, and you could drink up the atmosphere much better without the crowds of tourists milling around you.
By now, my rather un-fit legs were crying with all the walking we had been doing, so we walked back down to the city and had a coffee.
We went to a very cosy little coffee shop called Lancatlgue Café. Now, I really cannot figure if this is a typo, a different language or intentionally misspelled in an effort of being quirky. Whatever the reason, it was a very warm and inviting café with yummy tea and cake. This is another café I would recommend if you are ever around in Nikko.
Because we were all a little tired from all the walking we’d been doing, we decided to head back to Tokyo. There are a couple more things to do in Nikko if you’re interested –like the Botanical Gardens, Tamozawa Villa and a waterfall.
All in all, it was a charming little city and a really enjoyable day trip – so it might be somewhere for you to consider if you’re looking for a quick getaway from Tokyo!
It takes about slightly over 2 hours to get to Nikko station from Shinjuku station. If you’re a tourist on the JR Rail Pass, you can use your pass. You’ll have to switch to Tokyo station to get onto the Shinkansen, and then make another change at the Utsonomiya station to finally reach the Nikko station. Don’t worry, transfers aren’t difficult.If you don’t have a JR Pass, you can get a ticket that gets you directly there from Shinjuku to Nikko.
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