Monkeying around in Nikko

By on November 28, 2009

Photo © Elena Derevstova

 

Has Tokyo’s version of a white Christmas – or lack thereof – gotten you down? Well, there’s only one thing to do: Go up!

 

Snugged within Tochigi Prefecture’s high mountains is Nikko (literally “sunlight”). Located a mere 135 kilometers north of our concrete jungle, the city is home to some unique landmarks, majestic wildlife, and magnificent sceneries. There’s never a dull moment to be had in Nikko, so prepare to do some serious walking (or driving, if you so desire)!

 

SPIRITED AWAY

Nikko is famed for its shrines and temples. Among the popular destinations is the extravagant Tosho-Gu Shrine, which now serves primarily as the mausoleum of founder and legendary shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. According to the history books, Ieyasu wished himself to be enlisted the shrine’s god, thereby acting as Japan’s perpetual peacekeeper. And while the shrine started out humble per Ieyasu’s requests, Tosho-Gu is now a mammoth area housing several gates (one decked in gold), a five-storey pagoda, and famous wall carvings – such as that of the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” monkeys.

 

Another one to see is the Futarasan Shrine. Erected in the 8th century to worship three Shinto deities, the shrine is as zen as it gets. With its formidable architecture and breathtaking natural surroundings, this is a place for photographers to get snap-happy. Do take a walk across the shinkyo (“the sacred bridge”); it feels magical.

 

SPRINGTIME IN WINTER

A quintessential Japanese vacation during colder seasons always involves a dip in an onsen (“hot springs”). So while in this proverbial Rome, doing as the locals could prove quite gratifying! Most onsens are located in Nikko’s many ryokans (Japanese inns). So if you’re planning on spending the night, a stay at one of these inns may be a good investment.

 

If you’d rather skip the ryokan experience, check out the independent local hot springs scattered around town. These places are usually low-key and reasonably priced, with admission fees rarely surpassing ¥500.

 

For an experience like no other, visit Nikko Yumoto. About an hour’s drive from Nikko Station and its surrounding hotels, Yumoto’s streets are lined up with hot springs, and as such has been dubbed “onsen street.”

 

Be aware, however, that in outdoor onsens, unexpected visitors may drop in on you. No, not the other tourists; some particular residents of Nikko’s are notorious for loving a warm splash: The monkeys. While they frequently bathe near the park’s natural hot springs, they will occasionally venture in human territory. It may make for a cute photo, but be careful being around them – the mischievous things have a tendency to pickpocket.

 

…AND ACTION!

Fight off the inner couch potato that winter tends to bring out, as Nikko is a great place to break a sweat. Avid walkers will rejoice at the hiking paths on site. Lakes Chuzenji, Kirikomi, Karikomi and the Kirifuri trail near the waterfalls are favorite courses, each taking the journeyman a full day’s stroll to get through.

 

Of course, Nikko also caters to the skiers and snowboarders in the family. Near the aforementioned “onsen street” are the Nikko Yumoto Ski slopes. Although the services are in Japanese, there’s something for everyone here. The variety of slopes will cater to beginners and pros alike; younger kids can also have their share of snowy fun in the children’s playground near the lifts.

 

A WORLD TOUR

Before preparing for the trip back home, why not do something outrageous and, say, travel the world? Tobu World Square is a large park featuring intriguingly accurate small-scale recreations of famous landmarks from around the globe. Tour through New York’s skyscrapers and its miniscule pedestrians, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, and even good old Tokyo Station, complete with working trains. While you may feel like Godzilla here, please refrain from wreaking any havoc!

 

TIME TRAVEL

But if you’ve already seen the world and are looking for one final venture, travel back to the era of samurais at Nikko Edo Mura. No, DeLoreans aren’t necessary. As its name suggests, the park is a full-scale village revisiting Japan’s Edo period, making history come alive through theater, acrobatic performances, and special tours. Geishas and ninjas are everywhere to greet you. You can also get in the action by donning some old school costumes!

 

With enough activities to keep you warm amid the winter chill, why not go monkey around in Nikko?

 

INFO

Tobu World Square

Hours: 9am-4pm until March 19; 9am-5pm thereon, until Nov 11.

Fees: Adults ¥2,500, children ¥1,200.

Tel: 0288-77-1055

E-mail: info@tobuws.co.jp

www.tobuws.co.jp/

 

Nikko Edo Mura

Hours: 9:30am-4pm until Mar 19; 9am-5pm thereon, until Dec 1.

Fees: Adults ¥4,500 (day pass) or ¥3,900 (half-day pass); children ¥2,300 (day pass) or ¥2,000 (half-day pass).

www.edowonderla
d.net/nikko_e/index.html

 

Nikko Yumoto

Ski Hours: 10am-12pm & 1:15pm-3:15pm.

Ski Fees: Adults ¥2,800 (half-day pass), ¥3,500 (day pass), or ¥5,500 (two-day pass); children ¥2,000 (half-day pass), ¥2,500 (day pass), or ¥4,000 (two-day pass); senior citizens ¥2,500. Rental fees separate.

Tel: 0288-62-2570 (General; Japanese only) or 0288-62-2532 (Ski; Japanese only)

 

Nikko Tourist Information Center

Tel: 0288-54-2946

 

How to get there?

By train: From Asakusa Station, take the Tobu Nikko Line to Tobu-Nikko Station (¥1,320). Alternatively, from Shinjuku Station, take the Direct Shinjuku-Nikko Limited Express (¥3,900). These trips take two hours.

 

Where to stay?

Forest Inn: Nikko Teddy Bear House

Inexpensive teddy bear-themed western- and Japanese-style inn.

Seven-minute drive or fifty-minute walk from Nikko Station; can drive you to and from Tosho-Gu Shrine or the station.

Tokorono 1543-507, 

Nikko, Tochigi

Tel: 0288-54-0234

http://nikko-teddybear.dohome.net/en/

 

Nikko Cottage Inn Fu-Sha

Inexpensive Japanese cottage; must prepare own meals.

Seven-minute drive or thirty-minute walk from Nikko Station.

8-22 Takumi-Cho, 

Nikko, Tochigi

Tel: 0288-54-2206

nikkocottage@fu-sha.co.jp

www.fu-sha.co.jp

 

Nikko Green Hotel Fuwari

Upscale Japanese ryokan with hot springs and a karaoke bar.

Eight-mintue drive or ten-minute walk from Nikko Station.

9 Honcho, Nikko, Tochigi

Tel: 0288-54-2002

www.nikko-fuwari.com/word/index_e.html

 

Nikko Park Lodge

Moderately-priced Western lodge offering yoga classes and guided tours.

Five-minute drive or twenty-minute walk from Nikko Station.

28285 Tokorono, Nikko, Tochigi   Tel: 0288-53-1201

info@nikkoparklodge.com

www.nikkoparklodge.com

 

Turtle Inn Nikko

Inexpensive inn with western- and Japanese-style rooms.

Seven-minute drive or forty-minute walk from Nikko Station.

2-16 Takumi-cho, Nikko, Tochigi   Tel: 0288-53-3168

www.turtle-nikko.com/turtle/index_en.html

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