We can never get tired of Japan, can we?? From its vibrant cities like Tokyo and Osaka to breathtaking nature spots, there's just a never-ending list of things to see and do in the Land of Rising Sun.
On our last visit to Japan, we took a few day trips from Tokyo to explore more of Japan's scenic spots and one of the places which stole our hearts was the mountain town of Nikko. Located just 2 hours from Tokyo in Tochigi prefecture, Nikko makes for a perfect short trip.
Credit: @tobu_japan_trip on Instagram
If you're wondering why you should visit Nikko, its picturesque natural sights and World Heritage shrines are good enough reasons! And we've prepared this handy guide of 7 useful and Muslim-friendly tips you'd need to conquer Nikko ?
P.S. Looking for more day-trip ideas from Tokyo? We've got 10 amazing places you'd be interested in!
1. Getting There (from Tokyo)
There are several ways of getting to Nikko from Tokyo but the best way is by taking the Tobu railway from the Tobu Asakusa station to Tobu-nikko station. The journey will take you 2-3 hours depending on the type of train you choose. We'd recommend getting the Nikko Pass All Area (JPY 4520) as it gives you unlimited travel around Nikko and the onsen town of Kinugawa.
#HHWT Tip: We bought the pass online on Klook and got it at a discounted rate!
The good thing about the pass is that you can choose to spend up to 2 or 4 days in Nikko. Although we did a day trip, we wished we had more time in Nikko! But if you're on a tight schedule and spending just a day in Nikko, do leave early (first train is at 6.30am).
#HHWT Tip: You'll have to collect the pass at Tobu Tourist Information Centre at Asakusa station before using it. Do note that the operating hours are from 7.20am - 7pm so collect a day or two in advance if you intend to set off for Nikko early!
There are different train types and we highly recommend taking the limited express trains (1h 50 min) as they take 50 minutes shorter than the local train service (2h 40 min). But do note that you'll have to buy a separate ticket (JPY 1440) for reserved seating. As there are certain timings for the limited express trains, you can either choose to arrive earlier to reserve your seats at the ticketing machines or reserve them online. If you have the Nikko Pass, the staff at the Tobu Tourist Information Centre can help you book your reserved seats at a discounted rate!
P.S. If you're not getting the pass, the cost of a one-way ticket from Asakusa to Tobu-nikko station is JPY 1360 (add JPY 1440 for limited express trains).
Credit: Brett Burridge on Facebook
Another option of getting to Nikko from Tokyo is by using the JR train system. For this option, you can take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station to Utsunomiya station and transfer to the JR Nikko Line. Although this takes around 1h 40 min, it costs around JPY 5500 one-way so it's only worth it if you have certain types of JR passes, so do check before you plan your route!
2. Accessibility (getting around Nikko)
It's easy to mistake Nikko as a small town but the truth is the sightseeing spots are spread out over a large area and the only way to get around is by taking the bus. There are 2 main areas that most travellers would likely visit - Nikko town, where all the cultural sights are located and Okunikko, where most nature spots are. To get from Nikko town to Okunikko would take you around 45 minutes or more by bus.
You can purchase any of the individual bus passes (from JPY 600) from Tobu-nikko station and they are mostly valid for up to 2 days. But for those of you who have the Nikko Pass All Area, you can get on the bus for free ?
P.S. Before you start exploring Nikko, make sure you grab a copy of the Nikko Guide Map for Muslims at the Tobu-nikko station. It’ll give you the Muslim-friendly dining options and prayer spaces around Nikko! You can also refer to the guide here.
3. Picturesque Spots
Now that we've covered how to get to and around Nikko, it's time to dive right into its famous sightseeing spots!
It's hard to miss the sight of the iconic Shinkyo Bridge when you're in Nikko. Known as “sacred bridge,” it’s one of Japan’s three finest bridges and was built in 1636.
With the lush foliage which changes with seasons and beautiful river as the bridge's backdrop, admiring the bridge from a distance will feel as though you’re staring at a gorgeous painting ? If you’d like, you can get on the bridge too for a small fee of ¥300, but it’s only open till 5pm (Apr – Sep) and 4pm (Oct – Mar).
Address: Sannai, 上鉢石町 Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1401, Japan
Directions: Take any bus from Tobu-nikko station and alight at Shinkyo bus stop.
Did you know that Nikko is home to 48 waterfalls? And Kegon Falls is the most famous of them all, at a towering 97 metres. No matter which season you visit, Kegon Falls is bound to take your breath away! During winter, the water turns to ice, which makes for a picture-perfect moment ?
Credit: @this.celine on Instagram
You can choose to admire Kegon for free or pay a small fee of JPY 550 to go down all the way to the foot of the waterfall.
#HHWT Tip: As Kegon Falls is a popular spot, you can expect a lot of travellers here but if you want to get away from the crowds, we recommend heading over to Ryuzu Falls instead which is known for its autumn colours.
Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1661, Japan
Directions: Take the Y, YK or C bus bound for Yumoto Onsen via Chuzenji Onsen and alight at Chuzenji Onsen bus stop. Walk for 5 minutes to reach Kegon Falls.
Located at the foot of Mt Nankai, Lake Chuzenji was created after a volcano erupted 20 thousand years ago, giving it its natural beauty ? During autumn, you'll be able to witness the different shades of autumn foliage over the mountains surrounding the lake.
To take in all of the calmness and beauty of the lake, we recommend taking a sightseeing cruise around the lake. Do note that the cruise only operates hourly from 9.30am - 3.30pm (only from 14 Apr - 30 Nov). Good news for those of you with the Nikko Pass - you can get on the cruise for free!
Address: Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture 321-1661, Japan
Directions: Take the Y, YK or C bus bound for Yumoto Onsen via Chuzenji Onsen and alight at Tachikikannoniriguchi bus stop.
For a stunning bird's eye view of Nikko, there's no better place to head to than Akechidaira! To enjoy this view, you have to take a ropeway all the way up and as you make your way up, you'll be treated to a spectacular view of endless mountains, with an overview of Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls too.
Credit: Toon Panupat on Facebook
It takes 3 minutes to get to the top of the mountain and a round-trip ticket costs JPY 730 but if you have the Nikko Pass, admission is free! The ropeway is opened from 9am to 4pm (longer during the peak of autumn), so do take note.
#HHWT Tip: Head to Akechidaira in autumn when the landscape is covered in hues of yellow, red and brown autumn leaves. It's definitely a sight to behold ?
Address: 709-5 Hosoomachi, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1445, Japan
Opening hours: 9am - 4pm (longer hours during autumn foliage season)
Admission fee: JPY 400 (one-way), JPY 730 (round trip)
Directions: Take the Y, YK or C bus bound for Yumoto Onsen via Chuzenji Onsen and alight at Akechidaira bus stop.
P.S. Visiting Japan in winter? Make sure you bookmark these essential tips to help you brave the cold!
4. Local experiences
Other than its abundant nature, many travellers flock to Nikko to visit its World Heritage Shrines and Temples. Visiting these gems is truly one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the Japanese people.
Known for its lavish decorations which are uncommon in other temples across Japan, Tosho-gu is where the founder of Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate (ruled Japan from 1600-1868), Tokugawa Ieyasu has been laid to rest.
Credit: @devora_7 on Instagram
When you step into the shrine, be sure to observe its elaborate wood carvings and golden motifs. Even though Tosho-gu is undergoing renovations, you can still visit the shrine!
#HHWT Tip: Tosho-gu closes at 4pm and it gets really crowded near closing time, so do plan an early visit!
Address: 2301 Sannai, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431, Japan
Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (until 4pm from Nov to Mar)
Admission fee: 1300 yen (shrine), 1000 yen (museum), 2100 yen (shrine and museum)
Directions: Take any bus from Tobu-nikko station and alight at Shinkyo bus stop. From there, walk about 15 minutes to Tosho-gu.
Futarasan may not be as lavishly decorated as Tosho-gu but it has a lot of religious importance to the Japanese, having been established since the 8th century. Although it was founded by a Buddhist monk, Futarasan preserves an ancient Shinto practice of worshipping mountains.
Credit: @tkhappinesstk on Instagram
If you're here in April, don't miss out on the famous Yayoi Matsuri festival where the Japanese will bring in carts with altars and dedicate them to the gods of the mountains. You'll definitely be greeted with a colourful and immersive cultural experience!
Address: 2307 Sannai, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431, Japan
Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (until 4pm from Nov to Mar)
Admission fee: Mostly free except for JPY 200 for a small area
Directions: Take bus Y, YK, C or HY from Tobu-nikko station and alight at Nishisandoiriguchi bus stop. From there, walk about 10 minutes to Futarasan Shrine.
Founded by the same monk as Futarasan, Rinnoji's charming temple grounds will draw you in. Did you know that it was once a spot for Buddhist monks to seek solitude? Today, you'll find wooden statues dedicated to Nikko's three mountain deities in the temple's Main Hall.
Note: The Main Hall is currently closed for renovations till Mar 2019.
Credit: @toshiworth on Instagram
Other than the Main Hall, you can also head to the Treasure Hall and marvel at a collection of Buddhist art, sculptures, paintings, calligraphy and more. Don't forget to take a walk in the temple's Japanese-style garden too which is a prime spot during the peak of autumn.
Address: 2300 Sannai, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-1431, Japan
Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (until 4pm from Nov to Mar)
Admission fee: 400 yen (Main Hall only), 300 yen (Treasure Hall and garden)
Directions: Take bus Y, YK, C or HY from Tobu-nikko station and alight at Total Kaikanzen bus stop. From there, walk about 3-5 minutes to Rinnoji.
5. Must-do activities
If you're spending at least 2 days in Nikko, your time here doesn't have to be limited to just sightseeing. Nikko also has a bunch of activities which are perfect for you and your travel buddies!
Experience Edo-period Japan
Ever wanted to step into the past and experience how the Japanese lived in the 16th century? Then head over to Edo Wonderland! This theme park was built in Edo-style architecture and all the staff here are dressed in Japanese period costume. The best part is, you can join in the fun too by dressing up as one of the villagers or a samurai ?
Credit: @kuro_mamaa on Instagram
There are many activities here for you to participate in such as going through a ninja maze, learning how to be a swordsman, visiting an Edo-era prison and more. Besides that, you can also catch some entertaining performances from ninja shows to traditional Japanese theatre and courtesan processions. With so much to do, you can easily spend half or a whole day here!
Address: 470-2, Karakura, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-2524, Japan
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm (mid-Mar to Nov), 9.30am - 4pm (Dec to mid-Mar)
Admission fee: JPY 4700 (one-day pass), JPY 4100 (afternoon pass)
Take the Tobu Nikko line from either Asakusa (Tokyo) or Tobu-nikko station and transfer at Shimo-imachi station. Change to the Tobu Kinugawa line and alight at Kinugawaonsen station. From there, take a bus to Edo Wonderland.
If you're from the Nikko town area, you can take a free bus from the Fujiya Kanko station to Edo Wonderland. Find out more about how to get there here.
If you're up for a little sweat and adventure, why not go hiking to uncover some really epic views of Nikko? There are many well-known hiking trails and one of the famous ones is climbing up Mt Nantai to get a breathtaking overview of Lake Chuzenji and other mountains around it ?
#HHWT Tip: Do note that the climb up is steep and you can expect to take around 6-7 hours for this hike.
Credit: @cubtabi on Instagram
Looking for an easier trail? Then hiking around Lake Chuzenji is your best bet! With mostly flat ground along the way, rest assured your hike will feel like a leisurely stroll. The best part is, no matter where you stop along the 13 km trail, you'll get a postcard-perfect shot. The hike will take you around 4-5 hours.
Tochigi prefecture is known for its famous tochiotome strawberries which are small, sweet and fragrant, so you won't want to miss out on tasting them ? Thanks to the region's cooler climate, travellers to Nikko can pick strawberries from early December all the way to mid-June.
Credit: @magnum112 on Instagram
The nearest farm to Nikko is the Nikko Strawberry Park. Here, you can enjoy a 30-minute all-you-can-eat strawberry picking session in their greenhouse, which has several varieties of strawberries. Each session also allows you to dip your strawberries in condensed milk for free!
Address: 3581 Serinuma, Nikkō-shi, Tochigi-ken 321-2405, Japan
Opening hours: 10am - 4pm (last admission 3.30pm)
Admission fee: JPY 1500-1700
Contact No: +81 288-22-0615 (reservations will be given priority)
Directions: Take the Tobu line to Shimo-imachi station. From there, take a cab to Nikko Strawberry Park.
Enjoy a hot spring bath at Yumoto Onsen
There's nothing like soothing your muscles after all that walking during your vacation. Up north from Nikko is the onsen town of Yumoto where you'll be able to enjoy a rejuvenating bath. The hot springs here are loaded with sulphur and are believed to beautify the skin and cure fatigue ☺️
Credit: Jenne Chrisville on Facebook
As many onsens in Japan require you to take off your clothing, we recommend booking a private 40-minute session at Spa Village Kamaya (JPY 600). Alternatively, you can also take a footbath at Annyo-no-yu, a free hot spring located in the middle of Yumoto Onsen.
Directions to Yumoto Onsen: From Tobu-nikko station, take any of the buses bound for Yumoto Onsen and alight at Kohanmae bus stop. The journey takes about 1h 30min.
6. Muslim-friendly food and prayer spaces
Finding halal food and prayer spaces while on vacation is always a concern for Muslim travellers. Fortunately, there are Muslim-friendly eateries and facilities in Nikko so you don't have to worry!
#HHWT Tip: Don't forget to take a Muslim-friendly map of Nikko at Tobu-nikko station or you can refer to the guide here.
Masuya is the perfect place to fill your tummy after sightseeing at Lake Chuzenji. Here, you have the option of slurping soba or udon in hot broth with tempura (JPY 650-1500). As the restaurant is located by the lake, you'll be able to dine with a view too ?
Another specialty of Masuya is their fresh fish from Lake Chuzenji - it's definitely a unique dining experience you shouldn't miss.
What's great about Masuya is that you can request to do your prayers here too. Just let the friendly staff know and they will prepare the prayer mats for you in the private room. Do remember to bring your own prayer garments though!
Halal status: Seafood options available, Prayer facilities in establishment
Address: 2482, Chugushi, Nikko
Opening hours: 11am - 3pm (Mon - Fri), 10am - 4pm (Sat-Sun/PH)
Directions: Take the Y, YK or C bus for Yumoto Onsen via Chuzenji Onsen and alight at Nikko Lake Side Hotel bus stop. From there, walk about 15 min to Masuya.
For a taste of healthy Japanese cuisine, head over to Shizensaryo Meguri. This vegan restaurant serves your favourite Japanese dishes like curry using only natural and organic ingredients.
Credit: @urara.fujita.topir on Instagram
They also serve deep-fried tofu which is a specialty of Nikko. Shizensaryo Meguri is located in the main area of Nikko town so it's really accessible too.
Halal status: Vegan, no alcohol served in the establishment
Address: 909-1, Nakahatsuishimachi, Nikko
Opening hours: 11.30am - 6pm, closed on Thur
Directions: Take any bus from Tobu-nikko station and alight at Nikko Shisho Mae bus stop.
Kamaya Cafe du Reverbere
Located very near to Tobu-nikko station, this cafe has a separate menu for Muslims and they serve fusion Western cuisine. Take your pick from their Roasted Chicken Bowl (JPY 1500) with a side of Nikko Yuba salad, Mushroom & Chicken Curry (JPY 1500) or Shrimp Pasta (JPY 1200) ?
Credit: Akihiro Shugo on Facebook
Kamaya Cafe also serves non-alcoholic sweets and desserts like their Shaved Ice with chopped frozen Tochigi strawberries, so make sure you try them!
Halal status: Halal meat available, halal utensils and kitchenware are separated from non-halal ones
Address: 12-6, Matsubara-cho, Nikko-shi, Tochigi 321-1406
Opening hours: 11am - 5pm, closed on Wed
Directions: Kamaya Cafe is a 2-minute walk from Tobu-nikko station
Tobu World Square Heian
For those of you who are heading to Edo Wonderland, make sure you pop by the nearby Tobu World Square to have a halal meal at Heian.
Credit: Kaiji Wada on Facebook
Try their individual Udon or Soba sets with tempura or opt for their lunch sets for a satisfying meal!
Halal status: Halal menu available
Address: 209-1, Kinugawaonsenohara, Nikko-shi, Tochigi, 321-2522, Japan
Opening hours: 9.30am - 7.30pm
Directions: Take the Nikko-Kinugawa line to Tobu World Square station
BONUS: Yuba Manju
If you're looking for some light nibbles near Tobu-nikko station, we recommend getting a Nikko specialty, Yuba Manju.
Red bean paste is wrapped in tofu skin and then deep-fried and lightly salted, this dish has an interesting mix of flavours to it but we tried it and thought it was really yummy ?
The shop is right in front of Tobu-nikko station and its signboard is in Japanese but you can easily identify it by its long queue.
Note: We've checked with the stall that its Yuba Manju does not contain any animal by-products or alcohol but do dine at your own discretion!
Prayer room at Tobu-nikko station
Need to do your prayers? No problem! Just head over to Tobu-nikko station's prayer room on the second floor. Do note that it's only opened from 9am - 4.30pm and you'll need to inform the station staff before praying too.
7. Muslim-friendly accommodation
For those of you who are looking to stay in Nikko for a few days, there are hotels which provide Muslim-friendly meals and private onsens. Here are some of the options:
Nikko Tokanso Hotel
You can't visit a charming Japanese town like Nikko and not stay in a ryokan (Japanese-style inn)! Located near the World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikko, staying here will let you fully immerse yourself in a traditional Japanese atmosphere.
Credit: @satohitochan on Instagram
At Nikko Tokanso Hotel, you can reserve a Muslim-friendly kaiseki meal at least 3 days in advance. For travellers who aren't staying here, you can request to do your prayers at their prayer room too.
Address: 2335, Sannai, Nikko
Reservations: Book online or call +81 288540611
Price: from JPY 24,200
Directions: The hotel provides a free shuttle bus for guests but you have to call them to book at least 1 day in advance.
If you're on a tight budget, don't worry - Guesthouse fete's got you covered! With rates for dorm rooms starting from JPY 3200, you'll still enjoy a comfortable stay without burning a hole in your wallet.
Credit: Guesthouse fete
Those in a group can also choose to stay in their Japanese-style or Western-style rooms, with rates starting from JPY 10,000. They have a halal/vegan menu and prayer room for Muslim travellers too ?
Address: 786 Shimohatsuishimachi, Nikko
Reservations: Book online
Price: from JPY 3200
Directions: Guesthouse fete is around a 12-minute walk from Tobu-nikko station.
Kinugawa Park Hotels
Looking to indulge in a private onsen bath during your short stay in Nikko? Then spend a night or two at Kinugawa Park Hotels. With 4 different accommodation types, you can choose to stay in a traditional Japanese-style inn or Western-style room.
Credit: @chanksters on Instagram
Staying promises you an undisturbed break and the best part is, you can also request for a halal kaiseki meal. Some rooms come with private onsen. Alternatively, you can also book a session at one of the hotel's 4 private onsens ☺️
Address: 1409 Ohara, Kinugawa-onsen, Nikko
Reservations: Book online
Price: from JPY 21,180
Directions: Take the Nikko-Kinugawa line to Kinugawaonsen station. From there, walk 5 minutes to the hotel.
#HHWT Tip: Check out the full list of Muslim-friendly accommodations here.
With these 7 useful tips, you're now ready to conquer Nikko! Located just 2 hours away from Tokyo, who says you need to travel far to spend an undisturbed time with nature?? The next time you're in Japan, add Nikko to your list and explore a different side of this amazing country!