On my third day in Japan, I took a day trip from Tokyo to Nikko, a small city in the mountains north of Tokyo. I guessed this was slightly off the beaten path when the customer service attendant at Tobu Asakusa Station asked me how I heard about Nikko and why I decided to visit.

The truth is that I had researched the best day trips to take from Tokyo and got several results that included Nikko, Kamakura and Hakone.

After looking more into these destinations, I decided to do the first two as a day trip and Hakone as an overnight trip. In hindsight, I think Nikko would also have been a great overnight destination too, however, I didn’t have enough time to fit it into my itinerary.

That said, I did have a fantastic day trip to the town. It was easy to travel to and navigate and visiting in November meant I got to enjoy stunning views of Autumn foliage – something I had never seen before!

Nikko Autumn Foliage

How to Get to Nikko from Tokyo

I decided to catch the 6 am train from Tobu Asakusa Station to Nikko to maximize my day. The Tobu Railway company operates the Tobu-Nikkล Line, which gets you from Tokyo directly to Nikko without any transfers. If you get the Nikko Pass, it covers this fare and the return trip to Tokyo.

For my onward trip, I used the regular trains but for my return trip, I jumped on the limited express train to Tokyo by mistake. Luckily, this error did not cost me too much and I only had to pay the surcharge while onboard. Whew!

Dragon Fountain Japan

A Quick Stop at Sensoji Temple

Before getting on the train, I made a quick stop at Sensoji Temple again – it’s just a short walking distance to the train station, so I thought I might as well visit while it was still mostly empty. I had to run to catch my train afterwards but it was a worthwhile stop anyway.

Sensoji Temple

The journey lasted a little less than 2 hours and was quite pleasant, with beautiful views. I exited the station and joined a queue to ride the bus to the first stop – Shinkyo Bridge. However, after waiting for over 20 minutes in the rain and cold, I decided it was best to walk to the bridge.

In the end, this was how my entire time in Nikko went. I walked everywhere, only successfully taking the bus once, back to the train station.

I can’t say I was disappointed though. Walking was a great idea and I was happy to ditch my “to-visit” list, choosing to explore different locations by chance instead.

My first stop was the 400-year-old Shinkyo Bridge, a notable landmark in the city adjoining Futarasan Shrine.

Futarasan Shrine & Shinkyo Bridge

Visitors can get access to walk across the bridge for a small fee but I chose to admire this beautiful structure from a distance instead.

Next, I went across the road to continue exploring the city on foot. I looked to my right and saw a Torii Gate and as you may know, I can’t resist looking at these beautiful structures! (Below are some of the beautiful Torii Gates I saw in Japan – from Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakone)

The Torri Gate was the entrance to one of Nikko’s oldest shrines, Hongu Shrine, and close by was Hongu Cafe, a traditional Japanese cafe which I found to be a cosy and warm breakfast spot.

Hongu Cafe

In conformance with Japanese indoor culture, guests entering the cafe are required to take off their shoes. The cafe provides indoor slippers and I believe there’s an outside seating area for guests who prefer to keep their shoes on.

After breakfast, I continued walking and ended up on a path with a canopy of trees and their beautifully coloured leaves.

Nikko Autumn Foliage
Nikko Autumn Foliage

I visited several more temples and shrines along the way and it was a great experience, however, by this time, I had started to tire out.

There were still many more sights left to see but I chose to save them for a later visit and return to Tokyo. As I said earlier, if I had more time, I might have scheduled an overnight stay instead of a day trip. Regardless, I was very pleased with my visit and returned to Tokyo feeling content.

Nikkosan Rinnoji Temple

Getting The Nikko Pass – Is it Worth It?

The Nikko Pass is a discounted transportation pass which gives you unlimited access to most trains and buses in Nikko and a return trip from Tokyo. The pass comes in two forms – Nikko Pass All Area and Nikko Pass World Heritage Area. You can read more about which pass is right for you here.

For this trip, I got the 1-day Nikko Pass World Heritage Area, since I did not allocate enough time to explore the city fully. This pass covers transportation to the temples and shrines of Nikko’s world heritage area and the famous hot springs of Kinugawa Onsen.

When I travelled, I needed to pick up a physical ticket at Tobu Asakusa Station, however, travellers no longer have to do this as Klook now offers a digital pass. This will certainly save you a trip to the station, if, like me, you choose to start your day early, before the customer service centre opens for the day.

I do think the pass is worth getting and offers great value to travellers even if you only use it for the return trip to Tokyo. But in addition to this, you get “free” bus rides in the covered areas and discounts in some shops.

Tokyo to Nikko Day Trip – The Sum Up…

In summary, Nikko makes a fantastic day and overnight trip from Tokyo and is certainly worth including in your Japan itinerary. For a wider array of choices for activities in Nikko, check out the Visit Nikko website.

Shinkyo bridge Nikko Day Trip from Tokyo

I would love to hear from you! Let me know if you have visited Nikko in the past and what you liked about this city. If you haven’t visited, would you consider doing so? Finally, I’d also love to hear about locations you’ve explored with stunning Autumn foliage. Please share with me in the comment section below!

I love to hear from you, Leave a comment here!

10 Comments

  1. I’ve never been to Japan, but what a wonderful place to visit! I love those photos ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What a beautiful place! Would love to visit!

  3. Nikko looks like a wonderful place to explore just like you did on foot and without any rush. The autumn colours are gorgeous and provide a mesmerising backdrop to the old bridge. I never made it to Nikko, but Sladja did. Though hers was a winter visit with not much colour and snow-covered hills and temples. Japan is probably one of the best places to see fall foliage, and to experience it for the first time must have been enchanting.

    • I’ve seen some photos of Nikko during winter, covered in snow and it looks quite magical too! I guess it’s a year-round city with each season having a special appeal. Experiencing peak fall foliage in Nikko was certainly special. It was the only place I saw it in Japan (Other places hadn’t reached the peak yet), so I’m really glad I went ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. To me it looks the perfect place for walking, and the colours are the icing on the cake.

    • Couldn’t agree more! Most of the must-visit sites are along the walking paths, so even if you approach the city without a set itinerary, you’ll likely still stumble on the sites and a few hidden gems too.

  5. I’d love to see a true autumn too! I think autumn and spring would be my favourite seasons if I lived outside the tropics

    • Same for me and these are the months I prefer to travel to other locations too. Especially Autumn because it is shoulder season in many places.