Nikko is one of the most famous and popular tourist attractions in Japan. It is famous for its housing of the world culture heritage, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, its picturesque scenery of nature, and natural spas. The fresh verdure in spring after the trial of the cold winter and the scarlet-tinged leaves in autumn show the great vitality and charm of nature. It is a terrific place embraced by the great wilderness- a place that holds Japanese traditional culture and history together with western culture, and the ancient with modern civilization.
Nikko- A Famous Historical City
Nikko is a famous historical city surrounded by nature abound. In remote antiquity it was worshipped as a Mecca for pilgrims, and since the Meiji era, it has become a very popular summer resort among foreign visitors and residents in Japan. UNESCO has designated Nikko’s temples and shrinesas the 10th world cultural heritage in Japan.
Asakusa is a popular sightseeing spot among foreigners. Located in the Tokyo metropolitan area it has many traditional characteristics. The Special Express of Tobu Railway for Nikko and Kinugawa starts from here. The departure station is Asakusa Station. This is a spacious and luxurious train with high-class interior decoration, and reclining seats. Many people describe the train as being so comfortable and so relaxing that it is just like a moving luxurious hotel.
If you want to go to Nikko, which houses the world culture heritage, take the ‘Kegon’, which will take you directly to Tobu Nikko Station. The trip takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. If you want to go to Kinugawa, which is one of the most famous hot spring resort areas in Japan and houses a unique amusement park that you cannot see in other parts of Japan, it takes about 2 hours. The ‘Kegon’ and the ‘Kinu’ connect conveniently at Shimoimaichi Station, so even if you take the wrong train, you can make an easy transfer there and still not lose too much time.
Hopefully you will notice before this junction station in such a case. Also, check out the special discount service, Nikko-Kinugawa Free Pass Ticket. This ticket is available for visitors who want to visit both Nikko and Kinugawa. The pass will save you not only money but also time and trouble making fare adjustments that you would have usually had to do had you traveled to each location seperately. With all of these attentive services, there’s a good chance you will fall in love with Nikko and Kinugawa.
Temples and shrines with obvious historical characteristics
After an 8-minute bus ride from the station, there is a quiet picturesque world where you can embrace the beauty of nature- an impossibility in a bustling city environment. This is Nishisando. To get here take the Tobu Bus for Chuzenji Hot Springs at Tobu Nikko Station, and get off at Nishisando. The fresh verdure and refreshing air is waiting here to welcome you. Once it does, it is irresistible and you won’t help but to spread your arms and embrace the great outdoors. The world culture heritage Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Jinja Shrine, and Rinnoji Temple, which together are called ‘Nisha Ichiji’ meaning ‘Two Shrines and One Temple’ in Japanese, are located here. Their dazzling man-made beauty attracts a great number of foreign and domestic visitors. The unique decoration techniques and splendid sculptures of these buildings are sure to peek your curiosity.
The nearby forest of tall, straight standing cedars and its serenade of singing birds makes for an especially pleasing daytime stroll. Follow the front approach and behold Japan’s biggest stone-made torii (an ‘H’ shaped structure topped with a flaring horizontal beam, which serves as a gateway to Japanese shrines). It stands high against the sky behind the stone stairway. As soon as you pass under the torii, to the left-hand side is a thirty-six meter high pagoda with a brightly colored cinnabar red roof. This pagoda is known as ‘Gojunoto’ meaning 50 story tower. Climb further up the stone stairs to reach the gate of the Toshogu Shrine, which is the highlight of sightseeing in Nikko. On either side of the gate stands a statue of the Deva king named ‘Aun,’ welcoming you and guarding you from evil. To go further, you must pay an admission fee. After passing under the gate, you can see three red buildings lined up one after the other. This line of buildings is called ‘Sanjinko.’ On the opposite side stands the only wooden architecture in the yard, ‘Shinkyusha.’ On its front wall, there are realistic carvings of monkeys, which are so vivid that you may feel like reaching out to feed them. The monkeys are regarded as guardian deities of horses. They are also the ‘Sanzaru’ (three monkeys) of ‘see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil,’ and are very famous. It is said that viewing the carving from the left to the right makes an intact and interesting story just like reading a picture storybook.
Further up the stone steps, stands the biggest building in the Nikko Toshogu Shrine grounds, the Nakiryudo, which means ‘hall of the whooping dragon.’ Once inside, look up towards the ceiling. You will see a huge dragon twisting in a fury with its head swiftly turning around. When a shrine staff strikes two wooden blocks together at a place directly under the head of the dragon, the striking sound reverberates sharply around the dragon’s head as if the dragon were really screeching. That is why the dragon is called the Nakiryu (whooping dragon) and this building is named the Nakiryudo (‘Do’ means a ‘building’ or a ‘hall’ in Japanese).
Another popular scenic spot in Nikko Toshogu Shrine is the splendid Sakuramon, and Yomeimon, which have more than 500 colorful carvings, and are two buildings that represent Nikko well. A collection of almost every type of decoration and industrial art technique popular in the early Edo Period is evident here. Don’t forget to take a picture so you can remember this place forever.
An expanse of magnificent pure wild land
As is well known, Nikko is famous for its beautiful momiji (scarlet-tinged leaves) in the autumn. Right now in the early spring, the trees and other plants in Nikko that have undergone the trial of the cold winter are sprouting robustly and covering the mountains with fresh vegetation, revealing their great vitality. Chuzenjiko Lake is a famous summer resort area where you can bask in the cool breeze below red momiji in autumn and frolic around in the charming beauty of nature in spring. This lake was formed by the volcanic activity of Nantaisan Mountain. In this area, there are also a lot of villas of foreign embassies. From the mid of April to summer, you can go sailing and camping, and enjoy nature’s finest.
If you take the Tobu Bus, it will take about 50 minutes to get from Nikko Station to both Chuzenji Hot Springs and Yumoto Hot Springs. The road winds through the mountains with forty-eight acute curves. This drive provides a stunning scenery of a mountain landscape and will litterally thrill you on every bend of the way.
There are forty-eight waterfalls in Nikko, and the most famous one is ‘Kegonnotaki.’ It is a real water work of art with such a superb view, showing off the incredible force and power of nature with the sound and sight of constant hurling and crashing of water- a display that will captivate you.
A travel around the world’ in the arms of the great nature
Since ancient times most people knew of Kinugawa as one of the few most famous hot spring resort areas in Japan. It takes about two hours from Asakusa Station to Kinugawa Hot Spring Resort. Take the Super Express Special. Just a walk away from the train station is the ‘Yunosato’ (meaning the hot spring village) that houses about 130 modern and Japanese-style spas and other various hot spring hotels and inns. Take a dip. The wonderful spas in Kinugawa will refresh you and heal any fatigue you may feel from your journey or otherwise.
Another wonderful place we recommend you to visit is the Tobu World Square, which is one of the three main theme parks in Kinugawa. This park houses miniature reproductions of the world’s most famous architectural acheivements, and all the models include human figurines and landscapes all vividly reproduced to 1/25th of the original size. It took the specialists who made the settings of the famous movie ‘Godzilla’ five years to complete all of these. Green mountains surround this park, so you can enjoy a tour around the world here in the arms of the nature. For a better enjoyment, you can buy a ‘Play Card’ at the entrance. The card will allow you to activate the 140,000 figurines, making them sing, dance, and play music and march for you. Make the trains run and the ships in the harbor move, and watch whole process of the ships passing the dams. Tobu World Square is generally divided into 6 major zones: Modern Japan Zone, America Zone, Egypt Zone, Europe Zone, Asia Zone and Japan Zone, among which the Japan Zone and the America Zone are the most popular. Especially after the 9/11 incident in the US, the World Trade Center in the American Zone has really become a precious architecture with great historic significance for every visitor to whitness. The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor, and the vivid reproduction of the streets in New York present a real America right before you. In the Europe Zone the masterpiece of the talented architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926), El Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, is as vivid as the original. There are also restaurant corners in the park where you can enjoy all the various flavors the world.
As you can see, Nikko is really a great place to visit, with a touch of the great outdoors and Japanese culture and history all around. Its wonderful spas in the calming mountain atmosphere will ease your stress. Nikko also houses many other fantastic attractions, such as Nikko Edo Village, which is a Japanese traditional theme park where you can experience what it was like to live during Japan’s 300-years of splendid culture and civilization all throughout the Edo Period. Nikko Edo Village also offers the Western Village, which is a vivid replication of an old American western village where you can experience America’s wild western culture and food among other things. You can play with and shake hands with the western gunmen and riders. Needless to say, Nikko is a must visit.