We only had the pleasure of one nights stay in this Unesco World Heritage site, but it gave us our taste of Ryokan hospitality and an afternoon of fresh air exploring amongst the beautiful historic Shrines.
One experience we absolutely wanted for our Japan trip was to stay in a traditional Japanese accommodation (a Ryokan), and if possible to find a Ryokan that offered an Onsen experience.
We stayed at Koduchi no Yado Tsurukame Daikichi after finding it on Trip Advisor, with excellent reviews, and a perfect location to conveniently walk to the Tosho-gu Shine.
You can arrange with the Ryokan to collect you or catch a taxi from outside the rail station. Upon arrival to the Ryokan you are greeted with refreshing towels and hot herbal tea, and asked your preferred time for service of dinner and breakfast (yes they are both included in the room rate!). And, yes, you are provided with traditional Yukata (cotton robes to be worn about the Ryokan) which you can wear down to the restaurant for your meals. Great fun!
The dinner is a traditional Kaiseki meal – a multi course dinner of perfectly presented small dishes. Ranging from soup, sushi, pickled vegetables, a hot plate for cooking your own Kobe beef fillet, and a freshly steamed whole fish of your choosing. If you are not full after all that there is also fresh brewed green tea and sweets to compete the meal! It was an exceptional amount of food and of an exceptional quality. A truly great way to experience traditional Japanese culture and hospitality, especially in the privacy of your own dining room within the restaurant.
Our room had a private balcony Onsen which overlooked the gushing river below. You can open the windows on the balcony, sit in the steamy hot Onsen and just listen to the sound of the river below (all whilst sipping on cold beers and chomping on rice crackers from the local 7-11). After being an inner-city dweller for so long, hearing the sounds of nature is a truly relaxing and beautiful thing.
See / Do
Tosho-gu Shrine is Japan’s most lavishly decorated Shrine and it did not disappoint. It is quite a big complex of temples scattered amongst a cedar forest, and at 400 years old, there is something magical about the moss covered walls and stone lanterns that line the walkways. We took our time exploring, taking photos, enjoying the peacefulness of this beautiful place.
There are many other nearby Shrines, however as we were short on time, we just wanted to focus on doing the one – and doing it well.
Shin-kyo Bridge is the postcard image of Nikko. Expect to take many many photos of this beautiful view (as we did!). With the gushing river beneath and the stunning forest backdrop I am sure this vista has inspired a painting or two in its lifetime.
For such a small town, I was pleasantly surprised to find a seriously good (and seriously trendy) coffee shop. Nikko Coffee was only a 5 minute walk from our Ryokan in a lovely wooden building. Did i mention the coffee was great?!
From Tokyo Station take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station where you can then change platforms for the JR Nikko Line. Both are covered with a JR Pass.
We departed Tokyo Station at midday, and with a 10-15 minutes transfer time at Utsunomiya Station, we arrived in Nikko just before 2pm.