The Japanese flock to Nikko, Japan especially on weekends. Yet very few American tours do. If planning a trip to Japan, this might just be the highlight of your trip, in an already extraordinary country.
Nikko is less than two hours outside of Tokyo. It is at the entrance of Nikko National Park and has been a center for both Buddhist and Shinto worship. It has one of the most lavishly decorated Shinto shrines in Japan, in addition to a well- known mausoleum. Besides being famous for its shrines and temples, what makes it so special is the famous carving of the three monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. These beautiful Japanese monuments are set against spectacular landscaping especially if seen when the cherry trees are in full bloom with cherry blossoms in the spring, or fall foliage in the fall. Autumn however, is absolutely spectacular. In short, it is a religious, cultural and visual delight. The carving of the three monkeys on the side of one temple is an unexpected treat.
The town of Nikko where you can also get lodging, catch a train from Tokyo, or simply stop for lunch, is also the “real” Japan. The former residence for the Japanese Imperial family is located there and contains unforgettable traditional gardens, available for all to see along with the interior of the former family home. It was constructed with traditional Japanese architecture and design, the gardens visible from nearly every room.
While you are in Nikko, make sure to visit the Okunikko area around Lake Chuzenji. It is visually stunning with several waterfalls and numerous hiking trails. There is also a lodge in the mountains which caters primarily to Japanese guests, and hotels in town where tourists of all nationalities stay.
Since Nikko is so popular with the Japanese on weekends, the drive into the park can be jammed then, and can extend the commute from Tokyo for as long as an hour each way. To enjoy the peace and tranquility of the surroundings, it is best to plan you visit during the week.
You can book a day trip to Nikko in advance of your departure on Viator.com, or with JTB Sunrise Tours.You can also book longer stays in the park area if you want to extend your visit and see the most of the natural scenery. Click here for more information on Japanese tourism.