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The following is a suggested, average paced full day itinerary taking in the attractive historical and religious sites around Nikko's town area. Note that access to Nikko is not included in this itinerary.

Start
Start at JR or Tobu Nikko Station
Take a bus or walk 20-30 minutes to Shinkyo Bridge.
5 minutes
Shinkyo Bridge
Sacred bridge near Nikko's shrines 10 minutes
The Shinkyo Bridge stands at the entrance to Nikko's shrines and temples, and technically belongs to Futarasan Shrine. The bridge is ranked as one of Japan's three finest bridges together with Iwakuni's Kintaikyo and Saruhashi in Yamanashi Prefecture.
Walk to Rinnoji Temple
10 minutes
Shoyoen Garden
Garden of Rinnoji Temple known for autumn colors 30 minutes
Shoyoen is a small garden located across from Rinnoji's main hall. It is a popular autumn color spot around the first half of November, with its many maple trees standing photogenically around its central pond. Admission includes entry to the adjacent treasure house.
Walk over to Rinnoji Temple
1 minute
Rinnoji Temple
Main building of Nikko's most important temple 30 minutes
Rinnoji is Nikko's most important temple and was founded in the eighth century. The temple's grand main building, the Sanbutsudo, houses three large Buddhist statues that represent Nikko's three sacred mountains.
Walk To Toshogu Shrine.
5 minutes
Toshogu Shrine
Spectacular mausoleum of the first Tokugawa shogun 60 minutes
This lavish shrine is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. The shrine is set in a beautiful forest, with countless wood carvings and large amounts of gold leaf used to decorate the buildings in a way seldom seen in Japan.
Walk to Futarasan Shrine.
10 minutes
Futarasan Shrine
Shrine dedicated to Nikko's sacred mountains 20 minutes
Founded in 782, Futarasan Shrine is dedicated to the deities of Nikko's three most sacred mountains. Similarly surrounded by forest, this shrine is more understated than its neighbor, Toshogu Shrine.
Walk to Tamozawa Imperial Villa
15 minutes
Tamozawa Imperial Villa
Former Nikko residence of the Imperial Family 45 minutes
The Tamozawa Imperial Villa blends traditional Edo and early modern Meiji Period architecture throughout its 106 rooms. The villa was erected in Nikko in 1899, using parts of an imperial residence that originally stood in Tokyo.
Walk to nearby Tamozawa bus stop from where a bus can be taken back to the station.
1 minute
Finish

Recommended Additions

Taiyuin

Taiyuin is the beautiful and atmospheric mausoleum of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. This complex resembles nearby Toshogu Shrine (dedicated to Iemitsu's grandfather and the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu) in its layout and architecture, but it was intentionally built somewhat more modest than the Toshogu, due to Iemitsu's deep respect for his grandfather.

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

The Kanmangafuchi Abyss near central Nikko is only a few hundred meters long and can be enjoyed from a pleasant riverside walking trail. Along the trail is a row of about 70 stone statues of Jizo, a deity who cares for the deceased.

Hotels around Nikko

Recommended Hotels
Chuzenjiko Kanaya Hotel
Upscale mountain lodge style hotel in rustic log cabin buildings set in the forest.
Book:
Agoda Japanican Booking
Nikko Kanaya Hotel
This historic hotel was one of the first Western style hotels in Japan. It is conveniently located across the street from the temples and shrines of Nikko.
Book:
Agoda Japanican Booking
Turtle Inn Nikko
Inexpensive inn popular among foreign tourists, conveniently located 15 minutes walk from Nikko's temples and shrines.
Book:
Agoda Booking