Statistics and surveys show that more and more travelers are heading east and visiting the countries of Asia. A fascinating and diverse continent with an intriguing past and an exciting future, Asia is filled with amazing places to explore and wonderful experiences to enjoy, with Japan standing out as one of its most-visited nations.
Leading the way in fields of technology and innovation, Japan is a highly advanced and almost futuristic nation in many ways, but still has a lot of pride in its ancient traditions and monuments. It’s a place where visitors can enjoy a real spectrum of experiences from walking around the mega-metropolis of Tokyo to admiring centuries-old temples.
Lots of visitors to Japan fly into one of the two Tokyo airports and spend the whole duration of their trips in the Japanese capital city. As the biggest metropolitan area on Earth, Tokyo has a lot to offer. It houses some of the best restaurants in Asia, as well as being home to some iconic temples and monuments, as well as interesting museums and more.
However, there’s a lot more to Japan than Tokyo. Cities like Osaka and Kyoto are also worth exploring, and many other towns, villages, and natural areas can be enjoyed all around the Land of the Rising Sun. Nikko is a perfect example, and it’s actually possible to do a full day trip from Tokyo to Nikko quite easily. Read on to learn how.
All About Nikko
Located in the Tochigi Prefecture just north of Tokyo, Nikko is a small city surrounded by mountains and magical scenery. It's not actually too far from Tokyo, but the landscape and nature all around it give it a completely different vibe to the big city. Indeed, many people choose to visit Nikko in order to escape the noise and neon lights of Tokyo for a little while.
Nikko is the home of Toshogu, a famous Shinto shrine created in the early 17th century in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, a prominent ruler of Japan in the Edo Period. Visitors can also enjoy admiring the Rinnoji temples at Nikko, as well as seeing the nearby sacred mountains of Taro, Nantai, and Nyoho or visiting Nikko National Park for waterfalls and hiking trails through the forests.
Getting to Nikko from Toyko
If you're looking to get to Nikko, one of Japan's best mountain towns, for a day trip from Tokyo, you'll have a few different options to choose from. Nikko is about 150 km (93 miles) away from Tokyo, so the journey doesn't take too long, but you will need to set off early and plan on getting back to Tokyo quite late if you want to have a full day in Nikko. You can choose to travel by car, train, or bus.
Getting to Nikko from Toyko by Car
If you're not worried about hiring a rental car and driving in Japan, this can be a great way to get to Nikko for your day trip from Tokyo. As previously stated, the journey is a little over 90 miles long when following the fastest route, and it'll take you through some picturesque scenery as you head up into the mountains.
You can drive to Nikko from Tokyo in about two hours on a good day with minimal traffic, but this will depend on the conditions in and around Tokyo itself, as well as the time you decide to set off. It’s also worth noting that Japanese roads and signs can be confusing for tourists, so having a map or GPS is a smart idea before you start your journey.
Getting to Nikko from Toyko by Train
In general, the simplest, cheapest, and best option to get to Nikko for a day trip is to take the train. Japan is famous for its high speed trains, which are almost always very reliable and on-time. Trains leave Tokyo for Nikko on an hourly basis on most days, and the journey takes about two hours in general. You can catch trains on either the JR or Tobu lines.
If you'd like to save a little cash and get access to Nikko's public transport network too, you can buy a Nikko World Heritage Area Pass which gives you a round-trip and unlimited train and bus rides all around Nikko. If you've got a JR Pass, you can take the JR Toyoku Shinkansen train our of Ueno Station to Utsunomiya and then transfer to the Nikko line.
Getting to Nikko from Toyko by Bus
Getting to Nikko from Tokyo by bus is possible, but it's not quite as accessible as the trains. While there are many trains leaving on a daily basis from Tokyo to Nikko and a few different line options to choose from, there's only really one bus going from Tokyo Station direct to Nikko. Tickets can be quite cheap though and you might find that the bus is more affordable than the train.
You can also take sightseeing buses to Nikko from Tokyo, as well as signing up for minibus and van tours with English-speaking guides and included activities like stops at the Toshogu Shrine and Lake Chuzenji. Be sure to look around at the different tour options and compare the various packages before deciding on your Nikko day trip.
Important Information and Things to Do in Nikko
- Best Time to Visit - If you're heading to Nikko on a day trip, you're most likely going to plan on spending most of the day outdoors, so you need good weather. The natural beauty of Nikko is particularly enjoyable in the months of spring and fall, with these periods of the year also offering good weather conditions and small tourist crowds in general. Summer is another good time to visit Nikko, but you'll have to put up with more tourists at this time of year.
- Things to Do in Nikko - There are lots of man-made and natural sights to see in Nikko, and a lot of the main sights are quite close together, so you can get a lot done in a single day. Most visitors will definitely want to make their first stop at the Toshogu shrine, which is easily one of the top highlights of the whole Nikko area. After that, you might like to head out to Nikko National Park to see lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and forests on the various hiking trails, which are particularly enjoyable in spring and fall. If you'd like to spend time in some hot springs, head over to Lake Chuzenji.