Day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo

Day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo

Had I known how much Nikko has to offer, I would have stayed there for at least 3-4 days. I took a day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo with the thought that I would explore just the city, however, destiny had other plans for me. And this destiny came in the form of Nikko All Area pass for me, more information included towards the end of this post.

The five-story pagoda at the entrance of Toshogu shrine
The five-story pagoda at the entrance of Toshogu shrine

Sightseeing

Walking around Nikko

Nikko is famous for both Buddhist and Shinto shrines, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Unaware of the powers of my pass, I walked around Nikko to view some of these buildings. It is a beautiful town and you can spend a pleasant day here.

I was not allowed free access to all sites with Nikko All Day pass and I was disappointed to know that, so using the pass, I decided to go to the Okunikko region.

Bus ride through Nikko National Park region

Take Bus 26A to go to Yumoto Onsen, the last stop in Okunikko region and 26 B back to Nikko. You can take the bus from outside Nikko station. The bus ride through this area was truly scenic.

Irohazaka

This is the scenic, loopy route connecting Nikko to Okunikko.

The only picture I have of this route and it's blurred
The only picture I have of this route and it’s blurred

Akechidaira ropeway

The ticket price of ¥740 to this ropeway was included in my pass. I saw beautiful fall colors going up and coming down the ropeway. From the top, you can get a view of the Kegon falls, one of the three most beautiful falls in Japan. You can also visit the falls provided you have enough time. They are in another direction.

View of Kegon falls from Akechidaira ropeway viewpoint
View of Kegon falls from Akechidaira ropeway viewpoint

Lake Chuzenji

This styunning lake has volcanic origins and was formed by the eruption of Mt. Nantai 20,000 years ago. You can go boating in the lake. The boat ride was included in my pass, however, I decided to visit it on my way back, something that never happened. The circumference of the lake is 25 kilometers and I am sure that there must be some trekking trails around it.

Lake Chuzenji as seen from the bus
Lake Chuzenji as seen from the bus

Ryuzu falls

Skipping Lake Chuzenji, a huge lake that I saw from the bus, I went on to Ryuzu falls. I decided to cover the farthest points first. Also I met a sweet Thai family, a couple and their eight-year old daughter, the latter being the only person who spoke English and the who explained the pass to me. They were going to visit the Ryuzu falls, and I tagged along.

These voluminous waterfalls fell in three steps and were surrounded by beautiful autumn foliage. As it was very chilly close to the falls, I walked on a quiet lane until it was time for the bus to arrive.

Ryuzu falls surrounded by the bright fall colors
Ryuzu falls surrounded by the bright fall colors
I couldn't capture the three step  Ryuzu falls in a single frame.
I couldn’t capture the three step Ryuzu falls in a single frame.

Senjogahara

Leaving behind Senjogahara, an expansive wet marshland area for another day, I went to Lake Yuno, the last point on the bus route. It is approximately 400 hectares in size and located at an elevation of 1400 metres. There are trails in this area as well.

Senjogahara, wet marshland area, clicked on the go
Senjogahara, wet marshland area, clicked on the go

Lake Yuno

This lake is of volcanic origin and was formed by the eruptions of Mt. Mitsudake. It has many natural hot springs and you can smell sulphur and see the hot steam at certain points.

Lake Yuno surrounded by bright fall colors
Lake Yuno surrounded by bright fall colors

I bid goodbye to the lovely Thai family here as I wanted to walk the 2.8 kilometers long trail around the lake. It takes around an hour at a leisurely pace. This is not a place to rush. The lake has cedar trees planted around it and the reflection of colored leaves on the still waters was a precious site to behold. After my contemplative walk around the lake, I went back to the part of the trail that directed me towards Yutaki falls.

The trail around Lake Yuno
The trail around Lake Yuno
A narrow wooden bridge
A narrow wooden bridge
Views around the trail
Views around the trail

Had the day been sunny, the pictures would have turned out gorgeous. I don’t have the skills and patience of a photographer so I didn’t tinker with the settings. Also I have a very genuine excuse of running short of time.

Yutaki/Yudaki falls

Lake Yuno drains into the Yutaki/Yudaki falls. I descended along the roaring 75metres falls. They stunned and chilled me, I mean it. They were wild and beautiful and sprayed me with icy water droplets. In addition to that, it was beginning to get dark and it was drizzling(it drizzled throughout the day). I wasn’t equipped with enough winter clothing, as I left the hostel with the idea of visiting Nikko city.

Clicked the Yutaki falls from one of the platforms for viewing
Clicked the Yutaki falls from one of the platforms for viewing

When I reached the bottom of the falls, I realized that I was not near a bus stop and it would take me a long time to walk to the next stop, and I might have still missed the bus, so I climbed back up. I waited for at least half an hour in the drizzle for the next bus. It was completely dark by the time the bus arrived and I saw no point in getting down at Lake Chuzenji, so I headed back to Nikko to get a nice dinner as I had had nothing for lunch.

Other sites

I couldn’t visit many sites due to time limitation, so I recommend you spend at least two days here. Whether you are interested in culture, heritage, religion or nature, Nikko has everything to offer. There, I hope this post on day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo gives you an idea about places that can be visited and whether the Nikko pass is for you.

How to reach Nikko

You can take a day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo by train or bus.

By train

There are a couple of options and they both involve a JR Pass. To know if JR pass will be advantageous to you, read my post a guide to transportation in Japan.

  1. The first option is to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo station or Ueno station to Utsunomiya. Switch to JR Nikko line to reach Nikko.
    Ticket price: ¥2,590 one way. It takes around two hours one way.
  2. The second option is JR Tobu express that runs from Asakusa station. JR Pass(with the exception of JR East Pass) is not valid on the Tobu line portion and so you will have to pay ¥1560 for that part of the journey. It takes one hour 45 minutes one way. Tobu line offers a couple of passes to explore Nikko and Okunikko, that offer free bus and train services, free entry to some temples and shrines and discounts at some tourist sites. Scroll down to read more about these passes.

By bus

A bus runs from Narita Airport, Tokya and reaches Nikko in 3.5 hours. It costs ¥4500.

Nikko Pass offered by Tobu Line

Tobu line offers two passes to explore Nikko and surrounding area when traveling from Asakusa in Tokyo. You can buy the passes from Tourist Information Center at Asakusa Station, or the Tobu Tourist Information Center or Tobu Top Tours travel agency at Ikebukuro Station.

Nikko Heritage Pass

This pass is cheaper and allows free entry to certain heritage sites in Nikko center and Kinugawa Onsen and free bus rides in some area. It is valid for two consecutive days and offers 20% discount on express train from Tokyo to Nikko, a considerable sum, specially if you don’t have a JR Pass. You can learn more about this pass on Japan guide travel site.

Nikko Heritage Pass
Nikko Heritage Pass

Nikko All Area Pass

I bought this pass. It is pricier, however, the price is justified, provided you make good use of it. I was clueless about this pass before I bought it at the last moment and felt agitated at that time because it was quite expensive for one day. It was due to this pass though that I was able to visit the beautiful nature surrounding Nikko. As I went there in October, I was able to see the beautiful fall colors in the Okunikko region.

Nikko All Area Pass
Nikko All Area Pass

The pass is valid for four consecutive days and includes free round-trip by bus from Nikko to Yumoto Onsen. The bus has a time-table and you can get down at the spots you want to visit. It includes free entry to Akechidaira ropeway, free entry to Chuzenji Onsen and Yumoto Onsen and a free boat ride in Chuzenji river. Given the time constraints, I could not visit many of these places, but I managed a lot in one day.

Richa Jain

I am Richa, from India. Restless by nature, I am fascinated by everything unfamiliar. This is possibly the reason why traveling and reading has always been high on my wish list. I started this blog to document my travel stories and decided later to add book reviews as well. I also realized that planning for long travels, specially when it includes extensive documentation, can be quite daunting, so I decided to include my itineraries and some practical tips that would help in planning trips. Join me on my journeys. Traveling is not the most environment friendly hobby and yet it is essential for city dwellers to get in touch with nature. I have been looking at sustainable options in all areas of my life and can't wait to share them with all.

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