A Day in the Countryside: Shrines, Waterfalls and Onsens in Nikko

Tokyo, Japan

10 places
Eugenia Dorozhkina

Nikko is a small town in Tochigi prefecture with ancient shrines, crystal waterfalls and picturesque onsens. It's one of the most exciting suburbs of Tokyo and a perfect compromise between those who love nature and hiking and urbanists. A great one-day route.

Asakusa Station

The station is a key one for several routes. There are, actually, two stations with this name – Tokyo Metro and Tobu Line. Check in advance, which exit you need, as there are plenty. To get there, walk to Daimno Station and ride Ginza Line to Asukasa. Here admire a beautiful corner building of Tobu Line Station, its art-nouveau style will never make you think it is a railway terminal. To buy transport cards, go to the information desk on the first floor. From here you can go to Nikko or explore inner Tokyo. You can also take a water bus or exit to the Sumida River.

Tobu-Nikko Station

All Nikko routes start here (if you arrived on a JR train walk about three minutes). Here you’ll also find tourist buses to bring you to Nikko shrines (Nishi-Sando), Kegon waterfalls (Chuzenji onsen) and Umoto onsen. To do list – get a map in the tourist center, leave the stuff you don't need in a locker, take a camera, a towel and warm socks with you.


This sacred red-lacquered bridge is a perfect addition to the landscape and seems to be a natural part of it being over the banks forever. You can enter the bridge for 300 Yen but admiring it from a distance and making pix is more exciting.

Toshogu Shrine

This temple made Nikko so popular– Toshogu Shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years. His mausoleum is one of the most splendid shrines in east Japan and is famous for its fine wood carvings, gilding and legendary statues – the three wise monkey (don't see, don't hear, don't speak), an elephant and a sleeping cat. The legend says the cat protected the shrine from mice for all these years. A must bring is a pair of wool socks if you plan to visit in fall or winter – shoes are not allowed in shrines and the floor is cold. Staying warm will let you admire the beauty instead of shivering. Admission is Y1300.

Honjido Hall

Look for it to the left to the main temple. The hall's ornate ceiling features a white dragon that, actually, can sing. It roars in a thin voice when two pieces of wood are clapped directly under its head due to the acoustics of the hall. The clapping is the stunt frequently performed to visitors by a priest. And take warm socks as visitors should be barefoot and the show is a long wait.

Taiyū-in Temple

This is a mausoleum for the third Tokugawa shogun, the grandson of Ieyasu. Its splendor can be compared to the one of Toshogu Shrine, but the surrounding landscape of tall сedar trees is more impressive and it is not that crowded, so you can listen to the sparkling stream and enjoy the company of two tough heaven guards at the entrance.

Nishi Sando

You will need Nishi Sando bus stop to get to Yumoto onsen. If you've just missed the bus go to 7Eleven combini down the road and buy a bento.

Ryūzu Falls

It is the first water cascade on your way to Senjogahara Marshland. Some say it looks like a dragon, so the name is Japanese for “dragon's head”. You can have a bite and buy some souvenirs nearby and get some view from a free observation deck if you take the stairs up. Take a seat on a log-bench, listen to the roaring water and ponder eternity.

Senjogahara Marshland

Here, the beauty of nature is blinding and overwhelming touching both your eyes and soul. Autumn is the perfect time to visit – the marshes are covered with a red flower carpet, trees are clad in shiny gold and in November the grass stands almost white under the deep blue skies. In the middle of the marshland there is a river with a hiking trail - perfectly neat and bridge covered - some local girls even wear heels. You can cover the distance in 1,5- 2 hours depending on your speed and photo stops (you will have plenty). Follow the omnipresent signs and head to Yudaki waterfall and Yumoto onsen.


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