Forests, temples, stairs – this is Nikko, Japan. Scenic, mountain views house an array of grand temples and detailed shrines, a day trip to The Temples of Nikko has so much to offer. But get your walking boots on to see them all, it’s to be a long trek.
So, how to get to the temples? Well, the UNESCO heritage site is 125km north of Tokyo and took us around 1.5 hours to get there. Using our Japan Rail Pass (JR pass), we got a train from Tokyo Station to Utsomiya. From here, you transfer onto the Nikko line (still covered by the JR pass). Once we reached Nikko, we walked up the hill for just under 2km from the station where you will reach Shinkyo Bridge, the first shrine on this tour. You can take a bus along the main road to the bridge if you wish.
Head up into Nikko National Park opposite the bridge to explore the numerous temples, pagoda’s and shrines including Toshogu Shrine and Taiyuinbyo Mausoleum. Note: Rinnoji Temple is under major renovation works until March 2019.
…the smell of fresh pine fills your lungs
Beyond the temples, the park itself is a stunning place to explore. High up within the mountains, the smell of fresh pine fills your lungs whilst the sunshine breaks its way through the canopy and onto your shoulders. You will need comfy shoes to explore this national park as there are a lot of steps take. Worth it though, the higher you go, the quieter it gets.
We spent a few hours hiking the hills and touring the temples. After we left the park, we went on another mini trek to find the Statue’s of Jizo at Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Over 70 majestic statues live here, all lined up over-looking the water. Wearing their cosy red hats and scarves to symbolise protection, people have donated money left in their palms.
This was not an easy one as there is a lack of signposts and directions. To get there, once you are back at Shinkyo Bridge, head left (with the bridge being on your left). Follow that road and you will cross a bridge over the river, keep going along the road. Do not go down onto what looks like a walkway along the river, it’s not, your path will be blocked by giant, slippery boulders. I can say this from experience – unfortunately. The walk will take you through a really quiet, residential street, and soon you’ll reach a little pit-stop where you’ll find a cafe and toilets. Keep following the path with the field to your right, and bob’s your uncle, you will reach the abyss and see the statues. The walk should take around 20-25 minutes. It is 100% worth the detour, it’s a great photo spot and it’s away from the popular tourist sites of the other shrines.
Japanese temples have a different look, feel and atmosphere…
The Temples of Nikko was a great day trip away from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo and I hope this post has helped with directions on how to get there. Japanese temples and shrines have a different look, feel and atmosphere to that of the ones we visited in elsewhere in Southeast Asia and although my knees may have aged ten years after walking 8 miles (like Eminem), Nikko was worth every step.