How to travel between Tokyo and Nikko
By Tobu Railway from Asakusa Station
The Tobu terminal station in Tokyo for trains to Nikko is Tobu Asakusa Station, which can be accessed by subway (Ginza and Asakusa Subway Lines). Travelers have the option between the fast and expensive limited express trains and slower but cheaper express and local trains.
There are one or two limited express trains per hour between Asakusa and Tobu-Nikko Station, which take about two hours and cost around 2700-2900 yen one way. Some connections require a transfer at Shimo-Imaichi Station. By express and local trains, the one way journey costs only 1390 yen, but takes at least half an hour longer and requires one to three transfers of trains along the way.
Tobu is offering various passes, which include the round trip from Tokyo to Nikko and unlimited use of buses in the Nikko area. Note that the passes do not cover the supplement fee required on limited express trains (1360-1470 yen one way). The Japan Rail Pass and other JR passes are not valid on these Tobu trains.
By limited express from Shinjuku Station
Direct limited express trains, cooperated by Japan Railways (JR) and Tobu Railway, connect JR Shinjuku Station with Tobu Nikko Station. The one way journey takes two hours and costs 4080 yen. All seats are reserved.
Because the trains between Shinjuku and Nikko partially use the tracks of Tobu Railway, the Japan Rail Pass does not fully cover the expenses of the journey. However, thanks to a special agreement, the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass and JR East South Hokkaido Pass do cover the entire trip.
By Japan Railways (JR)
Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station and transfer to the JR Nikko Line. With a good connection at Utsunomiya, the one way trip takes about 100 minutes. Due to its high cost (about 5500 yen one way), this option is attractive to holders of a JR pass.
From Narita Airport
There are a small number of direct highway buses between Narita Airport and Nikko, taking about 3.5 hours and costing 4600 yen for the one way trip. Alternatively, take a bus from the airport to JR Utsunomiya Station (about 3 hours, 4100 yen one way, departures every 60-90 minutes) and then the JR Nikko Line to Nikko (45 minutes, 770 yen, 1-2 departures per hour). Otherwise, travel between the airport and Nikko leads via Tokyo.
Between Gunma Prefecture and Nikko
From May until late October, there are a few bus connections between Nikko and Oze, allowing tourists to combine the two destinations or enter/leave Nikko through the backdoor via Gunma Prefecture. Buses operate between Yumoto Onsen in Okunikko and Kamada at the entrance to Oze. The one way ride takes one hour and costs 1950 yen. At Kamada it is possible to transfer to buses to Numata or Oze.
Above fees and schedules are subject to change. For the current yen exchange rate, click here.
All of Nikko's famous shrines and temples are clustered together in one area, about two kilometers from the Tobu and JR Nikko Stations. You can access them by bus (10 minutes, 320 yen one way or 500 yen for a day pass) or on foot in about 30-40 minutes by walking up Nikko's main street.
Two bus lines can be used to access the shrines and temples:
Buses in the direction of Lake Chuzenji stop at "Shinkyo" and "Nishisando" bus stops along the way, from where the shrines and temples are a 5-10 minute walk. Furthermore, there is the World Heritage Meguri loop bus, that circles around town every 15 minutes and stops a little bit closer to the shrines and temples. Get off at the "Omotesando" stop for Toshogu and Rinnoji or the "Taiyuin-Futarasanjinja-mae" stop for the Taiyuin and Futarasan Shrine.
Buses connect central Nikko with the Okunikko area, including Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen in Nikko National Park. A one way trip to Lake Chuzenji takes about 50 minutes and costs 1150 yen; to Yumoto Onsen it takes about 80 minutes and costs 1750 yen. A 2-day pass for unlimited bus rides between Nikko and Lake Chuzenji is available for 2100 yen at Tobu Nikko Station, while a 2-day pass for unlimited rides between Nikko and Yumoto Onsen is available for 3000 yen.
Be aware, that during the autumn leaf season in October, traffic between central Nikko and Okunikko (Lake Chuzenji and Yumoto Onsen) can be very heavy, and buses can incur heavy delays, especially on weekends. If possible, avoid visiting Nikko on weekends and visit during the week.
Map of Central Nikko: