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Nikko

Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in nikko

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Carvings in ToshoguCarvings in Toshogu
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Carvings in Toshogu

Nikk? (??) is a small town to the north of Tokyo, in Tochigi prefecture.

nikko Travel Guide :

Nikko

Understand

Magnificent enough?

A famous Japanese saying proclaims Nikko wo minakereba "kekk?" to iu na. Most tourist literature translates this as "Don't say 'magnificent' until you've seen Nikko", but there's another dimension to this Japanese pun: it can also mean "See Nikko and say 'enough'."

Nikko is above all known for the mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns, which have made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, the buildings here are extremely gaudy and ornate, with multicolored carvings and plenty of gold leaf, and show heavy Chinese influence. Some sense of dignity is restored by a magnificent forest of over 13,000 cedar trees, covering the entire area.

Nikko

Get in

Nikko

By train

Nikko

By Tobu

The fastest and most convenient way to access Nikko is on the private T?bu Nikk? Line (?????) from Tokyo's Asakusa station.

Rapid, or Kaisoku (??) trains, which depart from Asakusa each hour, take about 2 hours to reach Nikko and cost ¥1320 each way. You must board one of the first two cars, since the train divides en route. Timetable (http://www.tobuland.com/foreign/timetable.html)

In addition, Tobu runs all-reserved limited express services, known as Tokky? (??) trains, to the area. These trains, which use Tobu's "SPACIA" railroad equipment, have comfortable, reclining seats, with vending machines available on most trains.

One service, called Kegon (???) runs directly from Asakusa to Nikko in the morning, and back to Asakusa in the afternoon. There is one daily departure from Asakusa at 7:30 am, and depending on the season, there may be an additional departure at either 8:30 am or 9:30 am. The other service, Kinu (??), departs from Asakusa more frequently, but branches off to Kinugawa so you will need to transfer at Shimo-Imaichi station (???) to a local shuttle train for the final 10-minute run to Nikko. This train is timed to meet the Kinu arrival.

The Kegon run takes 1 hour 45 minutes; the Kinu run with transfer takes 1 hour 50 minutes.

The drawback is the cost: ¥2720 each way for either service. However, if you purchase a World Heritage Pass (see below), you can "upgrade" to these services at a discounted cost each way.

Nikko

By JR

Travel by JR costs more and takes longer, and isn't really worth considering unless you have a Japan Rail Pass, in which case you can take the Tohoku Shinkansen (Yamabiko, Max Yamabiko, Tsubasa or Nasuno) to Utsunomiya, then connect to the JR Nikko line. The trip from Tokyo Station will take around 2 hours; with a good connection in Utsunomiya, about 1 hour 40 minutes. The JR railway station in Nikko is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nikko

The future

JR East and Tobu have announced joint plans to offer limited-express service from Shinjuku station to the Nikko area.

This service will begin on March 18, 2006, and will offer one daily round-trip between Shinjuku and Tobu-Nikko station. The Nikko limited express will depart Shinjuku at 7:12, and make stops at Ikebukuro and Omiya, then continue via JR tracks to Kurihashi station, where control of the train is turned over to Tobu. Operating over the Tobu Nikko line, the train will then make three more stops before terminating at Tobu-Nikko at 9:08. The return trip will depart Tobu-Nikko at 17:35, arriving in Shinjuku at 19:18. This is all in addition to Tobu's regularly-scheduled Spacia service into and out of Asakusa.

Seat reservations will be mandatory, and the fare for this journey will be ¥3900 each way. As of this writing, it remains to be seen if all or part of the trip will be covered under the Japan Rail Pass.

Nikko

Get around

Both stations are about two kilometers to the west of the shrine area. You can take a bus, or walk for about 20-30 minutes, following the pedestrian signs along the main road. Halfway between the stations and shrines, you can stop at a Tourist Information Center to get maps, ask questions (some English spoken), and quench your thirst with water from a small, ladle-drawn waterfall.

Nikko

See

View of Shoyoen, Rinnoji TempleView of Shoyoen, Rinnoji Temple
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View of Shoyoen, Rinnoji Temple

It's best to buy a combination ticket (???????, ¥1,000) that covers Toshogu, Rinnoji and Futarasan, as separate admissions are ¥600 each. You can buy this at any of the three sites.

Tobu Railways also offers a World Heritage Pass to foreign tourists only for ¥3760. Valid within two days, it includes a round trip from the Asakusa train station to the Nikko train station (Local or Rapid trains only), unlimted rides on Tobu bus from Nikko station to the shrines, and admission to Toshogu, Rinnoji and Futarasan. It also includes Local or Rapid train travel to the Kinugawa Onsen area. The pass must be purchased at Asakusa station.

With the World Heritage Pass, you can optionally reserve seats for travel on the Kegon or Kinu limited express trains (see above) at the discounted fare of between ¥1040 and ¥1120 (sometimes as low as ¥800) each way. If you are travelling with a small group, you can reserve a compartment, which seats 4 people, at a discounted rate.

Another option is the Nikko Kinugawa Pass for ¥5000, which lets you to ride all Tobu trains between Asakusa, Nikko and Kinugawa for four consecutive days and is also valid for all buses in the area, to Lake ChuzenjiChuzenji for instance. It doesn't include admission to the Nikko temples though.

  • Shinky? (??). This much-photographed red bridge separates the shrines from the town of Nikko. In feudal times, only the shogun was allowed to crossed it, and even today it's barred from pedestrian traffic — although there's a 4-lane highway rumbling right past. After scaffolding in 2004, the bridge can now be admired in full again.
  • T?sh?g? (???). The burial place of dynasty founder Tokugawa Ieyasu and the most extravagant of the lot. Ieyasu was buried here immediately after his death, but the present complex was only built in 1634 on the order of his grandson Iemitsu. The shrine took 2 years to complete with 15,000 people working on it.
    • After two flights of steps you will reach the Sacred Stable, housing a white horse. The most famous symbol here is the carving of the Three Monkeys, who "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". You can also find an interesting approximation of an elephant, carved by an artist who had clearly never seen one.
    • Yakushi-d? Hall (???), the Hall of the Medicine Buddha, is known for a dragon painting on the ceiling. According to legend, if you clap your hands here the echo sounds like a dragon's roar.
    • Yomei-mon Gate (???) is an incredibly ornate gate with over 400 carvings squeezed in.
    • To the right of the main hall is the way to Ieyasu's tomb, entry to which costs an extra ¥520. Look out for another famous carving, this time of a sleeping cat (nemuri-neko). There are 200 stone steps and then you finally reach the surprisingly simple gravesite itself.
  • Taiyuin-by? (????). After completing Toshogu, Iemitsu himself was buried here. Smaller in scale (but not by much), this is generally held to be artistically superior to its predecessor.
  • Rinn?-ji Temple (???). Known for its three large Buddha figures, the real reason to visit is the beautiful and peaceful Sh?y?-en Garden (???). Note that the garden charges a separate ¥300 admission, which also gets you into the temple's treasure hall (??? H?motsuden).
  • Futarasan Shrine (????? Futarasan-jinja). Directly to the west of Toshogu and the oldest structure in Nikko (1617). The shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Nikko's three holy mountains Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyoho and Mt. Taro.
Nikko

Do

Nikko National Park offers plenty of hiking opportunities.

  • A short walk from the center of town will get you on a strenuous but rewarding hiking trail to the summit of Mt. Nakimushi (??? Nakimushiyama). Allow a few hours for a return trip.
Nikko

Buy

Nikko

Eat

Yuba, the 'skin' that forms on top when making tofu, seems to be everywhere in Nikko. Even if you're not a fan of tofu, it tastes pretty good, especially with soba (buckwheat noodles in a soup broth).

  • Hippari Dako (on main street just before the shrines). Enshrined in Lonely Planet, every other foreign tourist to Nikko seems to stop here for yakitori (Japanese chicken kebabs) and noodles, so you might as well join the crowd. Every available space plastered with business cards and scribbled recommendations from visitors. Dishes ¥500 and up.
Nikko

Drink

Nikko

Sleep

Nikko can be covered in a busy day trip from Tokyo, but it's also a good place to spend the night, especially in a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse. The shrines are quite atmospheric early in the morning and at dusk, when the tour buses are not around.

Nikko

Budget

  • Daiyagawa Youth Hostel (??????????). Tel. 0288-54-1974; 1 (http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~daiyayh/). A cosy and very friendly place which can be a bit narrow at times, but it's the obvious choice for budget travellers with ¥2730 for a bunk bed. The owner is very hearty and is happy to lend guide books and answer questions. Either walk about 10 minutes uphill on the main street or take the bus to the tourist information centre, from there take the first right and follow the road up the river for a few minutes. It's a bit tucked away and directly at the Daiyagawa river.
  • Catnip Bed & Breakfast (???????). Tel. 0288-54-3120; 2 (http://www.geocities.jp/catnip_nikko/index.htm). This comfortable family-run B&B is a fair hike from the station but the 40 minute walk is beautiful and the owners promise you a free beer on arrival. Alternatively you can take the #6 bus or arrange to be picked up from the station. The rooms are spacious and charming, with shared bathrooms. A bargain at ¥5000 per adult or ¥4000 for children for the first night, there is a ¥1000 discount for each subsequent night and a hot breakfast is included in the price. The owners speak fantastic English.
Nikko

Splurge

  • T?kans? (???). Tel. 02-8854-0611; 3 (http://www.tokanso.com/tokansou_en/index.html). A well-located ryokan used to English-speaking guests, the flip side is the large size and consequently impersonal service. Rooms start at ¥9450 per person.
Nikko

Get out

  • Lake ChuzenjiLake Chuzenji with its waterfalls and hikes is only a short bus ride away.
  • Those with an interest in pottery or steam locomotives may enjoy Mashiko on the way back to Tokyo.
Nikko

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