Food and Travel blogger, Melissa Hie, takes on a short day trip to Nikko, a small city in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture, in the mountains north of Tokyo. Best known for its vast and rich nature as well as Historical Shrines and Temples, away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Nikko is well-known for its natural beauty (waterfalls, hikes, and onsen) as well as its UNESCO heritage sites. Located only 125km north from Tokyo, you can enjoy this area as a day trip or as a short 2-day trip, though some visitors opt to spend as much as 4 days and explore the outer Nikko region.
The best time to visit Nikko, like any other mountainous region in Japan, is during the Sakura season in Spring or Autumn Foliage season in Fall. It would be extra beautiful during these seasons! I personally went in mid-May and found it to be a very comfortable visit. It wasn’t too cold or hot, and I was even still able to catch glimpses of the Sakura flower as they bloom a bit later due to the colder climate in the mountains.
This red bridge is hard to miss, as it is located between Nikko Central town and the entrance to Nikko National Park. The name “Shinkyo” means sacred, and this bridge dates back to 1636. It is one of Japan’s three finest bridges – so it’s definitely worth a look.
Nikko National Park is undoubtedly the reason why many visitors ended up in Nikko. This is where all the shrines and temples are located, and yup! These are the ones that earned Nikko its claim to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Toshogu Shrine serves as the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the unifiers of Japan.
Kegon Falls was beautiful and majestic, but personally, I enjoyed Ryuzu Falls more. It’s a smaller waterfall compared to Kegon, but not only were there fewer people, but it’s also free to view.
I recommend stopping at Ryuzu Falls for lunch as there’s also a cozy little restaurant right by the waterfall. In fact, it’s probably the best way to enjoy the waterfall. You can get a seat facing the water while enjoying some delicious Japanese food. I recommend the Yuba soba here!
Lake Yunoko can be circled in about 1 hour of leisure walking on foot. I highly recommend this since it’s a really easy walk, and very quiet too! You might see some fishermen in the lake.
You definitely can’t miss Yuba while you’re in Nikko, it’s practically everywhere. If you love tofu or soybean, specifically soybean curd, you’ll love Yuba. Tofu is one of my favorite foods so I immediately fell in love with Yuba, a rolled-up soybean curd! If you’ve had hot pot before, Yuba is very similar to tofu skin, except it’s served rolled up and really, part of the fun in eating it (at least for me!) is to unroll them slowly. I think Yuba a bit softer than the Chinese tofu skin though.
We stayed at the Hotel Kinugawa Sunshine, an older hotel (probably built in the 80s) located about a 15-minute drive from Nikko Central. Although it is old, the hotel is well maintained and the rooms are spacious. It’s also located in a more remote and very quiet area, so definitely this will be a relaxing place for a getaway! When you get into your hotel, you might be wondering… where the heck is the bed? Well, they magically appear at night as part of the “turn down” service.