Nikko National Park in Japan
Nikko national park is a great place to visit with many things to do. It is home to some of Japan’s most famous shrines, mountains, rivers and lakes.
It is a popular destination for hikers because it offers many trails. Some are more challenging than others, but there are plenty of options for all abilities.
Nikko national park is home to a series of UNESCO World Heritage-designated buildings including Toshogu Shrine. These ancient buildings are largely built of wood and decorated with beautiful lacquer and gold leaf.
Toshogu is the final resting place of the first shogun (daimyo) of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu Tokugawa, and is considered one of Japan’s most significant religious sites. Located in Tochigi prefecture, it’s a great place to visit for its spiritual significance and pristine environment.
Inside, there are plenty of attractions to look at. Among them are the Omotemon Gate, a building covered with complex carvings and paintings.
Another highlight is the Yomeimon Gate, a lavish gate covered with 508 sculptures. This is also a National Treasure and a must-see for visitors.
The Yomeimon is topped with the famous monkey trio “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” and the Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru, an 8 panel satire of human existence that illustrates how to lead a safe and happy life.
Often a forgotten part of Nikko national park, Okunikko offers a quiet retreat from the bustle of the city. This secluded area includes World Heritage-listed marshlands and towering mountains, as well as traditional hot spring retreats and inns.
For a relaxing stay, check into Park Lodge Okunikko Miyama, which offers ski rentals and a natural hot spring bath. Located near Yumoto Onsen, it’s an ideal base for a day of sightseeing and hiking in Nikko.
You can take a hike around Lake Chuzenji, or if you’d prefer something a little more challenging, the Akechidaira Ropeway provides access to the highest peak in the national park, Mount Nikko. The hike is quite steep and rocky, so you’ll want to bring plenty of water and snacks along for the ride.
In addition to the pristine scenery, Nikko is also home to many different types of wildlife. Deer and Japanese macaques are common, while Asiatic black bears can be spotted from time to time.
Kegon Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in Nikko National Park and a popular sight for visitors. It was formed about 15 to 20,000 years ago when volcanic eruptions blocked the Daiya River.
The 97-meter main drop cascades into a rocky plunge pool surrounded by a lush green landscape. Its water is a magnet for birds in summer, and its trees are usually most colorful in autumn as the leaves turn a golden brown and red.
There are two ways to view the falls: a free observation platform and a paid platform that is accessible by an elevator. The elevator began operating in 1930 and takes about 1 minute to take visitors down 100 meters through solid bedrock to the waterfall basin.
The waterfall and nearby Lake Chuzenji are popular throughout the year, but summer is most likely to be enjoyed as the weather warms and there’s a wealth of food stalls and boat tours. Autumn, when the trees are most colorful, is also a good time to visit.
As the second mountain in Nikko’s volcanic chain, Mount Nantai is a sacred mountain for two major Japanese religions – Buddhism and Shintoism. It appeared 23,000 years ago and last erupted 7,000 years ago.
It is a steep but well maintained volcano with stunning views over Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Shirane, and it also offers great opportunities to climb.
The route to the summit starts from Futarasan shrine by Lake Chuzenji-ko, and is quite a popular one that sees plenty of traffic. It is a fairly strenuous hike that takes around 3-4 hours for an average person.
At the top of the mountain is an iron sword pointing at the sky and a shrine area with facilities including Okumiya (shrine office) and shelter huts. You can take the path less ventured across the north flank of the mountain to Senjogahara if you would like a shorter trek or just want to get a better view of the summit and Lake Chuzenji.