Nature awaits

A four-day adventure in Nikko

It’s hard to believe the lush, temple-studded scenery of Nikkō is so close to Tōkyō, but hop on the luxury SPACIA X by Tōbu and you’ll be in this bucolic region in under two hours, ready to explore…

Nikkō is the perfect place to step back into Japan’s past. Its dramatic landscapes made it one of the country’s oldest national parks, with mountains and lakes, hot springs and waterfalls, marshlands and plains. Nikko is also home to centuries-old, UNESCO-listed shrines and temples, known for their intricate wood carvings and the mausoleums of two Tokugawa shōgun (samurai leaders). All this is under two hours from Tōkyō, easily accessible on the luxurious SPACIA X train from Tōbu.

Getting to Nikkō with SPACIA X

Getting to Nikkō from the capital couldn’t be easier. The elegant SPACIA X train leaves Asakusa Station in northeastern Tōkyō four times daily – three morning services, one afternoon. It takes under two hours to arrive at Tōbu-Nikkō Station. One stop along the way is TOKYO SKYTREE, making it straightforward to visit the tower (the tallest tower in the world) and Asakusa’s historic attractions before or after your trip to Nikkō.

Note that two SPACIA X services per day don’t go to Nikkō; they branch off one stop earlier, continuing on to TŌBU WORLD SQUARE and the hot-spring town of Kinugawa Onsen.

A four-day itinerary in Nikkō



Catch a morning train from Asakusa in Tokyo to Tōbu-Nikkō, then make for the historic NIKKO KANAYA HOTEL. After dropping your bags off, you can walk to one of Nikkō’s most iconic vistas in just a couple of minutes: the vermilion bridge Shinkyō, arcing over the River Daiya. There’s a great lunch option nearby, too: Yubamaki ZEN, which specialises in subtle-flavoured yuba (tofu skin).


A short way over the river is the Kosugi Hōan Museum of Art, a small museum displaying both the works of Kosugi – best known for his nihonga-style paintings – and a few other regional artists. The nearby Matsuyashiki Villa and Garden was built in the 1920s by the director of the NIKKO KANAYA HOTEL. Drop by on one of its limited opening days to admire the garden’s 150 pine trees, serene pond and traditional-style villa.


Return to the NIKKO KANAYA HOTEL, which dates back to the 19th century and is a registered Tangible Cultural Property, to check in. Your room might be in the main building, a harmonious fusion of 19th-century Western and Japanese styles, or the elegant Annex which was remodelled in 2023. For a leisurely pre-dinner walk just stroll along the river to Kanmangafuchi Abyss, an atmospheric gorge which is lined with jizō statues (the Narabi-jizō, stone statues said to be guardians for all those who walk along the trail) in one part. Back at the hotel, you can indulge in a high-end French meal followed by a postprandial drink in Bar Dacite.



Nikkō’s biggest draw is its concentration of shrines and temples, where you can see examples of complex Edo-era (1603-1868) wood carvings, paintings and architectural techniques which have been preserved for centuries.

Make for Rinnōji after breakfast, a Buddhist temple founded in 766 which has a vast main hall, Sanbutsu-dō – one of Nikkō’s largest wooden buildings, and home to eight-metre-tall golden Buddha statues. Rinnōji’s Treasure House (Hōmotsuden) is fascinating if you’re interested in religious art and artefacts, while the neighbouring Tōshō-gū Museum (Hōmotsukan) is the place to explore Nikkō’s samurai history.

For lunch, there are several good cafés and restaurants in the area, but nothing beats Meiji no Yakata for historical value. Set in expansive tree-dotted grounds, the restaurant was established when foreigners began to visit Nikkō in the 19th century. It still serves many of the same yōshoku (a Japanese take on Western food) dishes today as it did then.


After lunch, make for Nikkō’s crowning jewel: Nikko Tōshō-gū, the site of the first Tokugawa shōgun’s austere mausoleum. The rest of the shrine complex is much more colourful, with brightly painted carvings including the famous Three Wise Monkeys (in a “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” tableau), the Sōzō no Zō (“imagined elephants”, carved by an artist who had never seen one) and the charming Nemurineko, a sleeping cat curled up by the path to the mausoleum.

Just west of Nikko Tōshō-gū is Futarasan-jinja, a Shintō shrine which offers some unique experiences. The whole complex is filled with spots to play fortune-telling games, like throwing a ball through a hole at the top of a torii (shrine gate), or tossing rope rings onto wooden rods. You can also see the bakedoro here: a “ghost lantern” covered in fierce-looking cuts, made by sword-wielding samurai who mistook its light for an apparition.

At nearby Taiyūin you can see another mausoleum – this time of the third Tokugawa shōgun, Iemitsu. Another rewarding addition if you have time is the 30-minute hike up a winding path to Takino’o-jinja. It’s a quiet and atmospheric shrine, surrounded by cedar trees and sitting just above a small waterfall.


After collecting your bags from the hotel, catch a Tōbu bus up to Oku-Nikkō. The journey takes you along Irohazaka, a series of tight turns with spectacular mountain views. Before you arrive at the wide expanse of Chūzenji-ko itself, stop at the Akechidaira Ropeway and take the cable car up to the spectacular observation deck that offers you the chance to really appreciate the scale and natural beauty of Chūzenji-ko – it's one of the best views in Nikko. After you've returned on the Ropeway, descend to the lake’s eastern edge and the luxurious The Ritz-Carlton, Nikkō. Check in, then enjoy dinner in the Japanese restaurant – you can go for multi-course kaiseki cuisine, sushi, or food cooked in front of you on the teppanyaki grill. Unwind with a soak in the hotel’s onsen (hot-spring baths) or a spa treatment after dinner, or with a nightcap in the bar.



Start your day at The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, with a zazen (a type of seated meditation) experience with a monk before heading to Kegon no Taki, one of Oku-Nikkō’s most popular sights and only ten minutes on foot from the hotel. Have an early breakfast so you can beat the crowds and get a clear view of the 97-metre waterfall thundering over a sheer drop. Afterwards, take a stroll along the northern edge of Chūzenji-ko, pausing to take a leisurely sightseeing cruise that not only takes in many of the historic sites that line its shores but allow you to soak up the lake from a different perspective. Carry on tracing the lake's northern fringes to Chūgūshi, a sub-shrine of Futarasan-jinja. There are shrine buildings spaced out along the route to the summit of Mount Nantai – a challenging multi-hour hike. However, it’s a fairly easy walk up to the first station, which has lovely views of the lake. Nearby

Alternatively, walk down Chūzenji-ko’s eastern bank to the Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park (closed between December and March). The unusual building was designed by Czech-American architect Antonin Raymond, its checkerboard pattern and sliding doors creating a harmonious blend of Japanese and Western styles. Next door lies the British Embassy Villa Memorial Park (closed between December and March), built in 1896 and originally the private villa of British diplomat Ernest Satow, who loved Nikko so much he wrote the first English language guidebook to the area.


Return to the hotel for lunch at Lakehouse, where you can either linger over the set menu or pick up a grab-and-go sandwich, before taking the bus to the CHŪZENJI KANAYA HOTEL. Set on the lake’s northern shore, it looks like an elevated take on a log cabin backed by dense forest. The hotel makes an ideal base for venturing into the mountainous landscapes of Oku-Nikkō. Tōbu buses run from right outside up to Yumoto Onsen, with plenty of scenic stops along the way.

Ryūzu no Taki is particularly popular in autumn, when the rusty hues of the leaves perfectly frame the waterfall. Further up is Yudaki, a delicate cascade down a rock face which is the starting point of a lovely (and not too taxing) loop trail through the trees. You’ll see a completely different landscape at Senjōgahara, a 400-hectare Ramsar marshland. It takes two or three hours to follow the circular boardwalk around Senjōgahara and neighbouring Odashirogahara, with time to pause at lookout points for birdwatching and admiring the diverse alpine plants.

The Senjōgahara Plateau Nature Trail follows the Yukawa River from Ryūzu no Taki, through the marshland, past Yudaki and finally to lakeside Yumoto Onsen. It takes over four hours to complete, but you can reward yourself with a soak in Yumoto Onsen’s thermal foot bath. It’s also worth stopping at eerie Yunodaira, a sulphurous-smelling marsh where the town’s mineral-rich waters bubble right out of the ground.


Wrap up your day with a bus back down to Chūzenji-ko and dinner at the hotel, which serves delicately prepared French dishes. You can soothe your post-hiking muscles in the idyllic outdoor onsen baths before bed.



After a leisurely breakfast, take the bus back down to central Nikkō. If you have time, you could stop off at Tamozawa Imperial Villa or Kanaya Hotel History House on the way. Both are located right by the bus route, just north of the Daiya River. Tamozawa was built in 1899 as a summer residence for the Imperial Family, and is a showcase of that era’s curious mixing of styles – parquet floors and floral carpets alongside sliding shōji screens (traditional Japanese partition door) and tokonoma decorative alcoves. Kanaya Hotel History House was the hotel’s original location, opened in 1872, and hosted everyone from diplomats to travel writers like Isabella Bird.


Tōbu-Nikkō Station is only a few minutes further by bus, so you can easily grab an eki-ben (train bentō, or packed lunch) and get the early afternoon SPACIA X service to Tōkyō. In the Japanese capital, leave Asakusa Station and cross the SUMIDA RIVER WALK bridge to revel in the citywide views you can have from atop the TOKYO SKYTREE. Back on the ground, TOKYO SKYTREE TOWN is an entertainment and shopping complex you can while away hours in.

Alternatively, store your bags here, grab a bentō and take the seasonal bus out to admire another dramatic waterfall, Kirifuri no Taki, and hike over the flower-scattered slopes of Kirifuri Kōgen. After an afternoon out in nature, you can catch the early evening SPACIA X and be back in the thrilling bustle of the capital in time for dinner, refreshed and restored by your time among the sacred peaks of Nikkō.

The Tobu experience

Tōbu runs several different services between Tōkyō’s Asakusa Station and Tōbu-Nikkō Station, so it’s simple to make your way from the bustle of the city to the tranquillity of Nikkō. All the trains mentioned here are limited express services with on-board WiFi and all take under two hours to complete the journey.

The Revaty Kegon service started operation in 2017. The six-carriage train’s sleek, modern design includes useful touches like power outlets at each seat, plus several wheelchair spaces and accessible bathrooms. You can turn each pair of seats around, forming a set of four. Trains depart Asakusa frequently each day for Nikkō.

Tōbu’s SPACIA Kegon trains, named after Nikkō’s famous waterfall, depart Asakusa each day to Tōbu-Nikkō Station. As well as standard seats – all of which are roomy and comfortable, and can be turned to make four-person groupings – the train has six four-person compartments.

The luxurious SPACIA X carriage launched in 2023. The train’s design incorporates Edo-era aesthetics you’ll see in Nikkō, from hexagonal windows and fabric motifs inspired by Kanuma fretwork to patterns and colours reminiscent of Tōshō-gū. The Cockpit Lounge, with its comfortable armchairs and sofas, is inspired by NIKKO KANAYA HOTEL; in the same carriage you’ll find the café, serving Nikkō craft beer, coffee and snacks. Alternatively, you could book spacious standard or premium seats, which can be turned to make groups of two or four; two different types of compartment; or the seven-person Cockpit Suite, a truly memorable way to enjoy the scenic journey.


The NIKKŌ ALL AREA PASS is perfect for this trip. For under ¥5000 (half that for children), the four-day pass covers both the return train fare between Asakusa and Tōbu-Nikkō and all Tōbu buses in Nikkō, as well as giving you a discount at some shops, attractions and restaurants.

If you take a limited express train to Nikkō, you’ll need to book a seat and pay a limited express fee. The upgraded seating options also come with an additional charge. On the SPACIA X, for example, you’ll pay ¥1940 for a one-way trip in a standard seat with the NIKKŌ ALL AREA PASS, rather than ¥3340, plus an additional ¥500 (from mid-March 2024) for a seat in the cockpit lounge.

You can buy a NIKKŌ ALL AREA PASS and the limited express train tickets in advance, online via Klook. There’s a digital and a physical version; pick up the latter at Asakusa Station’s Tōbu Tourist Information Center.

Feeling inspired?

For more information and to start planning your own adventure to Nikkō, head to the official Tōbu and Klook websites.