Nikkō is one of Japan’s most holy cities, and is situated around 87 miles north of Tokyo. In the Tochigi Prefecture, Nikkō lies in picturesque mountainous surroundings, and it’s a popular tourist spot for Japanese and international visitors alike.
Nikkō National Park
Overlooked by mountains, and one of Japan’s most spectacular national parks, Nikkō National Park offers visitors hot springs, lakes and waterfalls. One of the waterfalls, Kegon Falls, is over three hundred feet high, which makes it one of the three highest waterfalls in the whole of Japan. Nikkō National Park became a national park in 1934, and it has a notable collection of flora. These include firs and maples, while the city itself is surrounded by Japanese cedar trees. The enchanting wild monkeys are also not to be missed. The park is used for a wide range of activities, such as golf, hiking and skiing, and camping is also permitted in the park. Admission to the park is free.
A Holy City
Nikkō is renowned for its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and this area of the city has been internationally recognised and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Toshogu, one of the most important shrines in Japan, has a forest setting. It consists of over a dozen buildings, which are decorated with gold leaf, together with many wood carvings. The shrine was built to hold the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was deified after founding the Tokugawa Shogunate around four centuries ago. The design of the shrine is influenced by both the Shinto and Buddhist religions. Some of the shrine is currently being renovated, with the whole process expected to be completed by 2020.
Lake Chuzenji is a beautiful mountain lake that can be found above the city of Nikkō. More specifically, the lake is underneath Mount Nantai, which is revered as a sacred volcano in Japan. At the point where the Yukawa River flows into Lake Chuzenji, on the lake’s northern side, there’s Ryuzu Waterfall. This waterfall is also a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
Close to Lake Chuzenji is Okunikko. This is an area well worth visiting in the autumn when the colours of the season are stunning, with the best time to enjoy them being from the middle of October to the end of the month.