Feb 12, 2018
The pheriphery of Tokyo harbour a range of Japanese delights just waiting to be explored, from the hot springs and tranquil lakes of Hakone, to the seaside promenades of Yokohama’s Minato Mirai, right over to the Mickey Mouse-inspired corners of Chiba. If you’re curious to venture beyond the capital, consider extending your Tokyo adventure and hopping on a train to one of these fascinating destinations.
The gorgeous ancient town of Nikko is located 150km north of Tokyo. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with intricate temples and shrines, set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountains, lakes and waterfalls. While the area provides picture-perfect scenes all year round, it is especially stunning in autumn, when the leaves of its luscious forests turn to warm shades of gold. October is, therefore, the optimum month to visit Nikko, but it gets busy at weekends.
Said to be one of the three finest bridges in Japan, the Shinkyo Bridge can be found at the entrance to Nikko’s shrines and temples. Nestled further into the woods, Toshogu Shrine (above) is one of the most lavishly decorated shrines you’ll ever see. The buildings are decorated with gold leaves and demonstrate phenomenal craftsmanship. It is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years.
Kanmangafuchi Abyss is another must-visit site, formed by an eruption of nearby Mount Nantai. The gorge is surrounded by a beautiful riverside walking trail, lined with over 70 stone statues of Jizo, a bodhisattva who cares for the deceased. Each statue looks out on to the river, and it is said that each time you count them, the numbers change. Come here on a quiet evening for a romantic stroll, but head back before the sun sets – there are no street lights.
Lake Chuzenji is the famous scenic lake in the mountains, accessed by a local bus. A walk around it is absolute bliss, and there are decks and seating for the perfect picnic. The area is also home to Nikko’s most famous waterfall, Kegon (above). At 100m tall, it is ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful waterfalls.
How to get there: Nikko is accessible from Tokyo by Tobu Railway and Japan Railways (JR). The journey takes between two and three hours depending on the train you select, as they include a mix of local, express and limited express trains.