Historic site, Tochigi

A Day Trip to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko, Tochigi

Just over two hours by train you can reach Tobu Nikko Station from Shinjuku Station with beautiful scenary. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the Nikko National Park and the style of Nikko Toshogu is characterized by its colorful carvings. Now it is one of the most photographed locations in Tochigi due to its impressive structure.  So, to help you make the most of your time in Nikko, we’ve picked up the best neighborhood to showcase.

Tokugawa Ieyasu’s graveyard

It seems a bit spooky to visit a graveyard as a tourist attraction but Tokugawa Ieyasu’s graveyard has become one of the top things to do at Nikko Toshogu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868) and the second shogunate, Hidetada, and the third shogunate, Iemitsu, built Nikko Toshogu with the deification of Ieyasu. Climbing up long steep steps to the top of Ieyasu’s graveyard, you might be surprised at just how much you enjoy it with its calm and serenity. 

Sleeping cat 

The most famous cat is sleeping on the gate to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s graveyard and we can not go without mentioning a few sparrows carved on the backside of the gate. 

Nikko Toshogu’s Carvings

As one of the largest shrines, Nikko Toshogu has an impressive history and an even more impressive carvings collection of over 5,000. You can observe some of them at the main gates, Youmeimon and Karamon. 

Five-story pagoda

There are many more reasons to visit the Nikko Toshogu but mine is to observe a five-story pagoda’s construction method of earthquake-resistance. The main pillar is hung from the top to absorb the shock of shaking with the traditional skill of the Edo period’s carpenters. 

Nikko Futaarasan Shrine

Nikko Futarasan Shrine is located on the western side of Nikko Toshogu and is one of the favorite choices for matcha tea lovers. Waters spring out from a rocky pile and you can drink it directly or have matcha tea at the nearest cafe.

Nikko Toshogu Art Museum

After experiencing the overwhelming solemnity of Nikko Toshogu, you might prefer the much calmer and straightforward circumstances of Nikko Toshogu Art Museum, built in 1928, with a Japanese garden. There are Japanese architectural paintings, Sugidoo-e, sliding cedar doors with paintings by Yokoyama Taikan and other painters from the same period. The building itself is quite small, so one-hour would be perfect to walk around.

Nikko Kaido Street 

If traveling back to Shinjuku on that day, you will first need to make your way to Tobu Nikko Station to take an Express direct to Shinjuku. My recommendation is a 40-minute-walk along the traditional Nikko Kaido street bustling with merchants and local artisans.

Nikko Daiya River

We may have saved the best for last. Another of my favorite streets to Tobu Nikko Station is the walking path along the Daiya River. The Daiya River rises at Lake Chuzenji and flows past Kegon Falls with all of the most elegant sceneries.

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