“Never say kekko until you’ve seen Nikko” is a famous Japanese proverb, where “kekko” means “to be satisfied”. Essentially this means that you cannot miss doing Nikko when you visit Japan.
Nikko is a small city in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture, in the mountains north of Tokyo. It is situated at the entrance of the Nikko National Park and is a driving distance of about 2-3 hrs from Tokyo. It is famous for Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated Shinto Shrine. It has been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries and if you are sensitive to vibrations, you will strongly feel the spiritual vibrations of the place. Nikko is located along Japan's Romantic Road.
The Nikko National Park is full of lakes, waterfalls, hot springs and hiking trails. The area is famous for thermal spa resorts. Even though I went to Nikko in mid-April, the best time to visit is autumn as Nikko is famous for its beautiful autumn colors.
I drove to Nikko from Tokyo with a Japanese tour guide and spent one night at the Nikko Station Hotel Classic, a comfortable 4-star hotel with indoor and outdoor hot spring baths, located right across the JR Nikko Station.
Here are the top three things to do in Nikko if you are visiting only for a day:
1. Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Nikko Toshogu Shrine is Japan's most lavishly decorated Shinto Shrine. It is also the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine consists of a dozen beautifully decorated buildings set in a beautiful forest. A five story pagoda stands out near the main entrance of the shrine. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For more pictures of the shrine read my full post on the Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
2. Shinkyo Bridge
The Shinkyo Bridge which means the "sacred bridge" is one of the three finest bridges in Japan. It is located in central Nikko at the entrance of Nikko's shrines and temples. It belongs to the Futarasan Shrine. It can easily be accessed from JR Nikko Station by a bus which stops at the Shinkyo bus stop (and is a 5 minute bus ride). Alternatively, it is about a half an hour walk from the railway station. The admission to the bridge costs 300 yen.
For more information on the bridge and photos, check my full post on the Shinkyo Bridge.
3. Kegon Falls
The Kegon Waterfall is the most famous waterfall in Nikko. It is almost 100 Mts. tall and is regarded as one of Japan's three most beautiful waterfalls (along with Nachi Waterfall and Fukuroda Waterfall). There is a free observation deck to view the waterfalls that can be easily accessed by foot. There is also a paid platform at the base of the falls that can be accessed by an elevator and offers better views of the falls. the Kegon Falls is a popular tourist destination in fall when people crowd here to see the autumn colors. Admission to the falls cost 550 yen.
For more photos and information on the falls, check out my full post on the Kegon Falls.