Top Places to Travel in 2019 Series
Nikko is one of the more beautiful places we have visited in Japan. Famous for its heritage sites and breathtaking mountains, it is also known for the many onsens built around the hot springs that dot the area.
About a 2-hour train ride from Tokyo, Nikko is the perfect destination for travelers who want to see a more rural side of Japan.
First Things First
We stayed at the Tobu Hotel Lavant Tokyo for a day before heading to Nikko.
Tobu Hotel Lavant Tokyo
130-0013 Tokyo Prefecture
Sumida-ku Kinshi 1-2-2 Japan
The double rooms are pretty standard yet cozy.
The nicest part was waking up to an unobstructed view of the Tokyo Skytree which was pretty awesome.
The breakfast buffet was nice, with choices between Western and Japanese.
Visit the Skytree
Since it was so near, we went to check out the Tokyo Skytree, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and tourist attractions. Reaching up to 634 metres (2,080 ft), the Skytree is the second tallest man-made structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa.
The tower is connected to Skytree Mall with shops and restaurants you can visit before heading up the tower.
There are two observatories, one at 350 m (1,150 ft) and the other at 450 m (1,480 ft). A glass covered skywalk, which gives visitors the most stunning view of Tokyo, encompasses a spiral walkway.
The best time to visit is right before sunset. You can watch the streets below come to life in a symphony of lights that is absolutely breathtaking.
Hours: 8am – 10pm Daily
Welcome to Nikko
The best way to get to Nikko is via train, which you can catch from Asakusa Station. The trip is around 2 hours.
If you want a bit of privacy, opt for a cabin. You can take in the rural scenery while making chitchat with your companions.
The Tobu Railway, which is the primary line in Nikko, stops at various destinations throughout the region.
Nikko is a rather large mountainous locality approximately 140 km north of Tokyo. Two large rivers pass directly through the city proper, and there are a number of falls and hot springs in the area.
Nikko is mostly known for its onsens that have been built around the various hot springs. Nature attractions and world heritage sites are also major draws for tourists.
The locals visit Nikko during holidays and weekends, especially during winter when the hot springs can be best enjoyed.
Toby World Square
When visiting Nikko, we recommend stopping by the Tobu World Square.
Tobu World Square
Kinugawa Olsen, Nikko, Tochigi, Japan
Hours: 9am – 5pm Daily
Rates: Adv Purchase Adult ¥2,500 Child ¥1,200
Same-day Purchase Adult ¥2,800 Child ¥1,400
It’s a miniatures theme park with replications of various world landmarks and heritage sites. There is a ‘It’s a Small World After All’ feel about the park but without that dreaded theme song.
The miniatures are extremely detailed, and they look amazing! The trees are actual banzi’s which bring the installations to life.
There are a handful of restaurants at the park. We opted for the Japanese restaurant.
A delicious hot bowl of soba noodles to counter the chilling weather outside was the way to go plus a shot of hot sakê, of course.
Probably the best part of our short stay in Nikko, Edo Wonderland is a breathing, living, Edo period village that gives guests the chance to experience life during the heyday of Shoguns and Samurai.
There are a number of activities and attractions to see, but the coolest thing is being able to rent Kimono’s to wear around the park. Prices vary depending on the class and style of the kimono, for instance, a Shogun’s Kimino will cost more than that of a Samurai or Commoner. The staff will also address and respond to you based on your attire, which helps you immerse in the experience.
Me failing horribly at trying to play the Shamisen, a traditional Japanese 3-string instrument.
When in Nikko, make sure to pay a visit to Edo Wonderland. It was such an amazing experience, and we all couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the trip. Definitely worth it!
Kinugawa Olsen, Nikko, Tochigi, Japan
Hours: 9am – 5pm Daily | 9am – 4pm Winter
Rates: Day-pass Adult 4,700 Child 2,400
Kamakura Snow Festival
From December to March, Nikko receives snowfall. What takes place during this time of the year is a local festival known as the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festivial where many of the establishments use the freshly fallen snow to build Kamakura. This is a type of igloo or snow house where guests can hangout, take pictures and even enjoy local snacks.
Make sure you visit the festival during day time. The various shops and cafes are closed in the evening.
Karakura Snow Festival
Various Locations Kinugawa Osen Area
Nikko, Tochigi, Japan
Time to Relax
Nikko is most famous for its mountainside Onsens and spas. There are a number of hotels in the area which cater to visitors who come to Nikko to experience the hot springs during winter.
We checked in to Hana To Hana, one of the better known onsens in the area. The staff were all friendly; and the food, exceptional even by Japanese standards.
The rooms are traditional Japanese style. Ours had a fantastic view of the river from the window.
There are two onsens in the hotel—a stone one which, unfortunately, we were unable to shoot due to guest and hotel regulations and another smaller wood-style one (pictured above), which they were kind enough to let us take a picture of.
Breakfast and dinner are included with your stay at Hana To Hana which is a plus. To be honest, the Yakiniku style dinner was the best meal we’ve ever had in Japan. The food was fantastic and the overall experience was something I’ll remember for a long time.
Hana To Hana
601 Yunishikawa Nikko–Shi
We really enjoyed our stay in Nikko. Winter time is one of the best and most picturesque times to visit Japan. The great thing about Nikko is that it’s merely 2 hours by train from Tokyo via Tobu Railways.
Winter is the best time to go for that onsen experience, and Hana To Hana (from what we heard and experienced) is one of the best in Nikko. Edo Wonderland is a must if you’re in the area and Toby World Square is perfect if you’re traveling with kids or anyone who would appreciate the miniatures.
Do check out Nikko on your next visit to Japan and experience the rural side of the land of the rising sun.
SEAN – Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our Nikko trip was sponsored by Tobu Railways. I wrote this article with my own biases, opinions and insights.
P.S. Some of the onsens are now more lax on the strict ‘no tattoo’ rule as more and more foreigners begin to regularly visit the area. Just ask if tattoos are permitted, and if not, there are private bathing rooms available. Just check with your Hotel.