Nikko is one of the most popular daytrips from Tokyo and among Japan’s best-known tourist attractions. The shrines and the temples in the city, and above all the splendid Tosho-gu complex are often considered some of the best sights in the country. Many Japanese and foreigners familiar with the country recommend including Nikko in any first-time visit to Japan.
The main attraction is the Tosho-gu shrine, built in the early 17th century as a mausoleum piece for the founder of the shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. More Chinese than Japanese in style, the complex’s elaborate ornamentation is the result of Ieyasu’s grandson, Iemitsu, who deemed the old structures insufficient for his grandfather’s legacy. The complex was restored in 1818 and has seen additional work done in recent years. Other attractions include the comparatively austere Rinno-ji and Futarasan-jinja, and the mausoleum of Iemitsu himself, Taiyuin-byo, basically a smaller, less gaudy version of Tosho-gu. The recently reconstructed Shin-kyo bridge (originally built in 1636) marks the entrance to Nikko National Park and the shrine and temple complex.
Around an hour’s bus ride deeper into Nikko National Park is the popular lake of Chuzenji-ko. Beautiful scenery, good hiking and a 100-meter high waterfall (Kegon Falls – well-known as a site for suicides) are the main attractions. Further up in the mountains is the hot spring resort village of Yumoto, a relaxing place to end a day of heavy sightseeing and/or hiking.