20 Things To Do In Nikko

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A small city in Japan’s mountainous Tochigi Prefecture to the north of Tokyo, Nikko feels a world away from the hyper modern streets of the capital. Nikko is the perfect blend of small-town culture, filled with historic sites and more than its fair share of natural scenic spots. From hot springs and delectable local delicacies to picturesque lakes and vibrant fall foliage, there is so much on offer. Here are the best things to do in Nikko.

Nikko, Japan

Top Tours

If you don’t have time to stay longer, it’s possible to visit Nikko from Tokyo as a day trip. Check out these:

20 Things To Do In Nikko

1- Explore Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Nikko Japan
Exploring Nikko Tosho-Gu Shrine is one of the things to do in Nikko Japan.

Toshogu Shrine is a memorial to the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate (which ruled Japan for 250 years), Tokugawa leyasu.

It was originally a simple mausoleum but overtime it has been enlarged into the striking shrine you see today.

During the first half of the 17th century, leyasu’s grandson added to the shrine and there are now more than a dozen buildings surrounded by tranquil forest.

As opposed to many other temples in Japan, where modesty is encouraged, Toshogu is covered in gold leaf.


This shrine has features of both Shinto and Buddhism despite Shinto being separated from Buddhism during the Meiji Period.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine is at 2301 Sannai, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1431.

2- Eat Nikko’s Yuba Tofu

Tofu Skin
Eating Yuba tofu is one of the interesting things to do in Nikko Japan.

Look at the shop fronts in Nikko and you will quite often see the word yuba.

Yuba is made from soy and is strongly associated with Nikko and the surrounding area.

It is made from the skin that forms on the top of soy milk when it is boiled.

Yuba is loved in Nikko because of its spongy texture (like tofu).

You can eat it as a whole meal or if you aren’t sure if it’s for you then you can buy it as a snack from street vendors.

3- Ride The Akechidaira Ropeway

Cable Car In Akita With Autumn
Riding the Akechidaira Ropeway is one of the best things to do in Nikko Japan.

The Akechidaira Ropeway is an incredible way to see Nikko’s beautiful natural landscapes.

The Akechidaira Plateau bursts into colour in autumn and if you head to the Irohazaka Winding Road then you will be able to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area.

The Akechidaira Ropeway takes three minutes to carry passengers to a vantage point that has truly spectacular views of Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chuzenjiko.

If you want to really feel the reward of this view, then in the warmer months you can reach the upper observation deck by hiking from Lake Chuzenjiko.

Akechidaira Ropeway is at Hosoomachi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1445.

4- Step Back In Time At Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura

Edo Wonderland is Nikko’s theme park without the stomach-turning roller coasters.

It’s a historical theme park about feudal Japan, showing visitors what life was like during the Edo Period (1603-1868).

Buildings are styled like those during the Edo Period and townspeople wander around in period costume.

If you really want to dive into the Edo Period, you can dress in period costumes that can be rented free of charge.

There’s plenty to do at the park, including shopping, visiting the museum, participating in traditional games, watching live shows and theatre performances.

Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura is at 470-2 Karakura, Nikko, Tochigi 321-2524. Skip the lines and book your tickets here.

5- Explore The Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park

Tamozawa Imperial Villa is another interesting place to visit to learn more about local Japanese culture and history.

This villa was the former residence and summer retreat of the Imperial Family.

The villa is a blend of Edo and modern Meiji Period architecture and has a whopping 106 rooms.

Built in 1899, the villa is a mix of western and Japanese influence.

Some rooms are carpeted for example and others have elaborate chandeliers. Sliding paper doors and tatami flooring are common across the villa.

You can also explore the beautifully manicured Japanese garden that surrounds the villa.

Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park is at 8-27 Honcho, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1434.

6- Go Kayaking On Lake Chuzenji

Chuzenji Lake
Kayaking on Lake Chuzenji is one of the active things to do on the Nikko day trip.

Lake Chuzenji and the peaks that surround it are an iconic part of Nikko’s scenery.

This scenic lake is also known as the Sea of Happiness, and is within Nikko National Park.

The lake was created around 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai erupted and blocked the river.

The lake has a circumference of 25 km (15 mi) and is surrounded by forest, except at the eastern end of the lake where you can find Chuzenji Onsen, a hot spring town.

Chuzenji Onsen is home to the lovely Kegon Waterfall.

One of the best ways to explore the lake and the surrounding landscape is by kayak.

There are several companies offering kayaking rental as well as kayaking tours around the lake.

Lake Chuzenji is at Nikko, Tochigi.

7- Take A Trip To Nikko National Park

Ryuyo Gorge Canyon Nikko, Japan
Exploring nature his is one of the things to do in the Nikko National Park.

Nikko National Park is a truly beautiful place to visit and no trip to Nikko is complete without spending some time in nature.

Nikko National Park is spread across three prefectures – Gunma, Fukushima and Tochigi covering an area of 114,908 hectares.

Most of the park is covered in mountains that are within the Nasu volcanic zone.

Three of the peaks in this zone are Mt. Shirane (2,578m /8458 ft), Mt. Nantai (2,496 m / ft 8,188 ft) and Mt. Nasu (1,917m / 6289 ft).

Surrounding these tall peaks are waterfalls, marshes, lakes and forest.

There are many exciting things to see inside the park, including Kegon Waterfall, Yudaki Falls, Nikko Toshogu, Ryyzy Falls and Shinkyo Bridge.

Nikko National Park is at Yumoto, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1662.

8- Spend The Day At A Traditional Onsen (Hot Spring)

Onsen In Japan
Spending the day at a traditional onsen (hot spring) is one of the things to do in Nikko winter.

In Japan hot springs are often referred to as onsen. Nikko has a variety of Onsen’s around the city and which one you choose depends on what you are looking for.

  • Kinugawa Onsen includes two hot springs – Taki Onsen and Fujiwara Onsen.
  • For something historical head to Kawaji Onsen, which was first discovered in the Edo Period. The waters at this spring are said to heal wounds.
  • During the Genpei War (1180-1185) warriors fled the battlefield and stopped by a hot spring along the riverbank. The mineral rich water was said to have healed the warriors’ injuries and they decided to settle by the spring. Today this hot spring is known as Yunishigawa Onsen.

No matter which Onsen you choose you will be relaxing and unwinding in no time.

9- Try Kakigori (Flavoured Shaved Ice)

Kakigori - Japan's Ancient Fluffy Shaved Ice Dessert
Trying Kakigori (flavoured shaved ice) is one of the things to do in Nikko in summer.

Kakigori is Japanese shaved ice.

This popular refreshing desert is famous in Nikko.

The fresh water is frozen in Nikkos icehouse (which is one of only five in Japan).

People say that because the water is so pure it doesn’t matter how quickly you eat it you won’t get a brain freeze!

Japan is a nation of fun and inventive flavours and Kakigori is no exception.

Different shops serve different flavours but some of the most popular are ujikintoki (matcha and sugar syrup) and azuki (red bean jam).

You can also get more traditional western flavours like strawberry.

10- Gaze At The Fall Folliage At Kirifuri Falls

Kegon Falls In Autumn Season ,Nikko ,Japan
Gazing at fall foliage at Kirifuri Falls is one of the spectacular things to do in Nikko in autumn.

The beautiful Kirifuri Falls is an impressive 75 metres (246 ft) high and is below the Kirifuri Highlands.

This beautiful two-tiered waterfall is especially beautiful in autumn when the surrounding forest is a mix of green, orange and red hues.

You can view the waterfall from an observation deck built at a high vantage point, which is a 10-minute walk along a paved trail from the parking lot and bus stop (Kirifuri-no-taki).

Kirifuri Falls is at Tokorono, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1421.

11- Admire The Mighty Kegon Falls

Kegon Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Nikko and is ranked by many as one of the top three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan.

This waterfall is almost 100 m (328 ft) and there are two ways to access this waterfall.

One from the free observation deck or from a paid platform located at the base of the waterfall.

Believe it or not you can access the lower viewing platform via an elevator!

You can see views of both Kegon Waterfall and Lake Chuzenji from the Akechidaira Observatory which is accessible by the Akechidaira Ropeway in the Akechidaira Plateau.

Mighty Kegon Falls is at 2479-2 Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661.

12- Go Hiking At Senjogahara Field

Golden Field Of Senjogahara
Hiking at Senjogahara Field is one of the things to do in Nikko.

Senjogahara Field or the Senjogahara Marshland is a beautiful hiking area that stretches along the plateau between Lake Chuzenji Yumoto Onsen.

During autumn the grasses of Senjogahara bursts vibrant red and yellow colours and the larch trees turn shiny gold.

You can wander around the Senjogahara Plateau Nature Trail which follows the Yukawa River between Yumoto Onsen and Ryuzu Waterfall close to the shores of Lake Chuzenji.

This hiking trail takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to complete.

Senjogahara Field is at Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661.

13- Try Nikko’s Take On Kobe Beef (Tochigi Wagyu)

Medium Rare Premium Kobe Beef, Japanese
Trying Nikko’s take on Kobe Beef (Tochigi Wagyu) is one of the best things to do in Nikko.

Chances are you’ve heard of Kobe beef but what about Tochigi Wagyu?

Kobe beef is (or wagyu beef) from Japanese Black cattle while Tochigi Wagyu beef is a local Nikko brand name that only allows the finest quality meat mixed fat.

Tochigi Wagyu is the highest-level beef brand in Japan.

This means that it has a yield grade of A or B and a meat quality grade of 4 or 5.

This specific beef brand has won the highest accolades and prizes in national competitions.

The secret to the incredible melt in the mouth taste is its long fattening period of around 30 months.

They also refuse to budge on feed quality.

14- Enjoy The Yumoto Onsen Snow Festival

Yumoto Onsen Snow Festival is held in the small town of Yumoto Onsen in Tochigi Prefecture just outside of Nikko.

This festival is very much a labour of love that the local residents and businesses get heavily involved in.

This festival is all about ice sculptures and is held in an igloo-like snow dome called kamakura.

The sculptures are mightily impressive in themselves and then you remember they are made from ice!

There are a myriad of ice sculptures from mythical mermaids and fairies to unicorns and dragons.

You can visit the sculptures during the day but for the best experience visit at night.

LED lights and music make for a magical festival.

The Yumoto Onsen Snow Festival is held between mid-January to late February, and you can visit up until 10pm.

Yumoto Onsen Snow Festival is at 温泉 Yumoto, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1662.

15- Tuck Into Some Locally Grown Soba Dishes

Soba Noodles Japanese Food
Tucking into local soba is one of the tasty things to do in Nikko.

Soba is a traditional buckwheat-based noodle enjoyed with a simple dipping broth or more complex soups.

Nikko is a popular place to tuck into soba because the climate and natural water make for the perfect growing conditions for buckwheat.

This means the soba noodles in Nikko is super fresh and of excellent quality.

There are many soba shops across Nikko.

From traditional broth to noodles topped with nori seaweed and tempura there’s a soba dish for everyone.

One of the traditions when eating soba in Nikko is that the chef will bring the water the noodles were cooked in and pour it into your broth!

You can then enjoy more warm broth as well as the benefits of the water’s vitamins and minerals.

16- Stroll Along The Shinkyo Bridge

Shinkyo Bridge In Autumn Season ,Nikko
Strolling along the Shinkyo Bridge is one of the things to do in Nikko.

Shinkyo Bridge is a picture-perfect iconic Nikko landmark.

Shinkyo means “sacred bridge” in Japanese, and it marks the entrance way to Nikko’s shrines and temples.

Its bright red colour with the Daiya River flowing beneath it is eye catching.

The bridge you see today was constructed in 1636 but there was a bridge that stood there long before that time.

It wasn’t until 1973 that Shinkyo Bridge was open to the public.

Shinkyo Bridge is at Kamihatsuishimachi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1401.

17- Eat Some Awesome Street Food

Traditional Grilled Fish At Street In Japan
Eating street food is one of the top things to do in Nikko.

If you love street food, then Nikko is an excellent place to visit.

And with all that hiking in the national park you will have surely earned you fair share of food when you get back to the city.

From Tochigi Wagyu beef and soba to yuba there’s so much to try.

Nikko has a range of street food style shops where you can grab a variety of interesting dishes as you walk.

How about trying yakitori, which is Japanese skewered chicken, it’s super delicious! Round off your savoury Nikko food delicacies with Kakigori (sweet, shaved ice).

18- Visit The Quirky Tobu World Square

Tobu World Square is a theme park with 1/25 scale replicas of famous landmarks from around the world.

The park is split up into zones based on regions.

There is of course the Japan Zone, which includes sites like Himeji Castle and famous temples from Kyoto.

Their Asia Zone includes China’s Forbidden City.

There’s a Europe Zone where you can see the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum.

Head to the Egypt Zone for pyramids and sphinxes.

Then there’s the America Zone with the White House and New York City.

There’s even a mini airport.

It’s a rather strange experience, but one which children will especially love.

Tobu World Square is at 209-1 Kinugawaonsen Ohara, Nikko, Tochigi 321-2522.

19- Take A Picnic To Enjoy At Ryuzu Falls

Ryuzu Falls Near Nikko
Picnicking at Ryuzu Falls is one of the things to do in Nikko Tochigi.

Ryuzu Falls translates as “dragon head waterfall” in Japanese because of the shape of the waterfall.

This waterfall on the Yukawa River is located just before the place where the river discharges into Lake Chuzenji.

The dragon shaped waterfall is surrounded by a plethora of trees which burst into vibrant colours in fall, only adding to the fiery dragon aesthetic.

You can view the waterfall from a small observation deck or walk alongside the river for 300 m while and enjoy views towards the lake.

If you continue along the trail, you will reach the Senjogahara Marshlands.

Ryuzu Falls is at Chugushi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661.

20- Go Hiking in Ryuokyo Canyon

If you are searching for an excellent hiking spot, then check out the Ryuokyo Canyon near the upper stream of the Kinugawa River.

The canyon was formed around 22 million years ago when underwater volcanic activity destroyed rocks.

Craggy walls and the meandering river make for a beautiful place to go hiking.

Hike along the 7km long trail that runs from Kawaji Onsen to Kinugawa Onsen, and you will not be disappointed.

At the end of the hike, you can relax at the hot spring.

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!