Seeing it ALL in Nikko
Few popular locations are simultaneously both well known by many tourists and at the same time so egregiously misunderstood. On that note, I’d like to welcome you back to another installment of my area guides. I’ll be diving into the weeds to ensure that readers are able to get the most of their visit to Nikko. As with all other articles in this series, this will be a long post so I suggest you grab yourself a cup of joe before reading further.
First, let’s start by taking a look at what makes Nikko so special. Located high in the mountains of Tochigi Prefecture, this region is home to a spiritual enclave with roots dating back over one-thousand years. As I’ve written before, Nikko’s collection of shrines and temples was originally founded in the late 700’s by the monk, Shodo Shonin. Since then, it has continued to exist as a place where Buddhism and Shinto could flourish alongside one another.
A thousand years later, Nikko’s roots are still tangible. Despite its protracted legacy though, today Nikko is perhaps more famous for its connection to the Tokugawa clan. The region is home to the ornate Toshogu Shrine which enshrines none other than Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This extraordinary leader is credited with finally uniting all of Japan following over a hundred years of bloody civil war.
In addition to its rich history, Nikko is also home to breathtaking natural vistas. The region boasts scenic mountain landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, and hiking trails. Though beautiful year round, Nikko is particularly popular with the locals in autumn when the trees begin to turn. The entire countryside is set ablaze with vibrant hues that will make your jaw drop. If you can, be sure to schedule a visit sometime during the months of October and November.
Before moving on, note that there’s enough content in the Nikko area to fill up a whole week. I’ll be proposing a two-day itinerary that will cover the essential tourist attractions with a side trip to Edo Wonderland in the nearby hot spring town of Kinugawa Onsen. This will allow you to get the most out of your visit to Nikko while not detracting from other locations across Japan.