Nikko is just an easy 2-hour journey from Tokyo, making it an ideal quick getaway for Tokyo-based travelers. Located in the Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is about 160 km (or almost a 3-hour non-stop drive) from Tokyo. The 2-hour journey from Tokyo is possible if you take a Shinkansen (bullet train) from the city center.
Since we’re coming from Tokyo, a Nikko day trip is easy to do. We took a bullet train from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya Station (50min), then a regular JR train going to Nikko Station (45min). That’s roughly 1.5 hours of train ride then add some allowance for walking and waiting, hence 2 hours. I will share more detailed commuting instructions and JR pass info later in this post!
Watch our Japan winter escapade!
Nikko: A Day Trip from Tokyo
Our recent Japan visit is mainly focused on the winter experience while being based in its amazing capital city, Tokyo. That’s why Nikko easily became our target destination as it’s a winter dreamland that can simply be reached from the city.
Our Nikko day trip itinerary includes Shinkyo Bridge and Tamozawa Imperial Villa (morning), then Kegon Falls, Daiya River, and Chuzenji Lake (afternoon). Nikko is most famous for its religious temples and shrines which are something we’re not very interested in personally hence skipped them.
Moving further, we were late in our itinerary, and let me explain. It was our first day in Tokyo and we were going in circles inside the Tokyo Station, exchanging JPY, claiming the JR pass, reserving our seats, looking for our train car, etc. It was confusing at first, although we got used to it as we went on.
From Nikko Station, we purchased unlimited bus tickets for 2,300 JPY / 879 PHP each. The buses go back and forth between Nikko Station and Chuzenji. The ticket is valid for 2 days, and we availed it even though we only intend to do a one-day trip as it would still be cheaper. What more if you use it for 2 days? It will be so much more worth it!
Originally, we only planned to walk from Nikko Station to Shinkyo Bridge and walk again to Tamozawa Villa then ride a bus going to Chuzenji (for Kegon Falls, Daiya River, and Chuzenji Lake) then ride a bus going back to Nikko Station, so that it consists only 2 bus rides. But again, we came late so we did not have enough time for walking trips.
We took an 8-minute bus ride from Nikko Station to Shinkyo Bridge. It was already 11 am when we got there, and a lot of tourists were flocking to the viewing spot (which is also a bridge). Gladly, it did not take so much time for the place to get empty of tourists so we were able to appreciate the views and take decent photos. We did not need to wait until an Instagrammer is done with 100 shots of photos from one angle (hyperbolic).
It was cold (about 8°C), although there were still no snow. Nonetheless, it was a nice view of a crimson bridge over the river framed with withered/withering trees.
For reference, our travel date is January 20, 2024. Maybe the best time to visit for winter is from the last week of January onwards if you want to see the bridge surrounded by snow, making it pop up in red. Also, this is a great spot to witness the autumn foliage as well!
Shinkyo Bridge is a historical bridge and is considered a World Heritage Site. Formerly, it was used only for religious ceremonies and eventually became open to the general public. You can cross the bridge (for a fee), but you cannot cross completely to the other side and must return. It has something to do with its mystical legend, but allow me to skip that part.
Since we started late, we failed to visit the Tamozawa Villa which was scheduled in the morning after Shinkyo Bridge. We just went on with our lunch break and afternoon schedule.
Lunch at Mikui Dokoro Aki Restaurant
We had our lunch at Mikui Dokoro Aki Restaurant which is within a 10-minute walk from Nikko Station. They have set meals for lunch and soba dishes offered on the menu. We were just looking to have a quick cheap lunch, then we saw this restaurant and we did not quite expect that we could have a sumptuous lunch that’s as affordable as this. Not to mention that the food is great in terms of taste and quality!
Jec and I ordered the Beef Bowl and Pork Cutlet with Egg on Rice, while Sel and Gel had Chicken Cutlet and Beef Bowl. All are priced at 1,200JPY / 458PHP each. Considering the amount and quality you get, that was such a steal! In our home country, twice the price and you’ll get just the same amount with inauthentic taste.
With a little bit of research, I found them on Google! Here’s their website Mikui Dokoro Aki, and just go find them on Google Maps (Aki).
While writing this, I’m craving for their Beef Bowl. It’s just me complaining invalidly, why do they need to be too far from me?!
The next stop is Kegon Falls. From Nikko Station, we took a bus and alighted at Tobu Bus Station (Chuzenji). Travel time was about 45 minutes.
It was our first time to see and experience snowfall! We were still at the bus station but we were already taking photos and filming non-stop. For a little time, the kid inside of us temporarily forgot our itinerary and we were like so very extremely happy that we could now go back home if we need to!
Our wandering feet then took us to the outside grounds of Nikko Science Museum which is just along the way to Kegon Falls. Of course, the kids (us) played in the snow, ran, and wandered around. Kegon Falls is just a short 5-minute walk from the bus station, but for us, it took almost half an hour of walking and playing!
I was actually expecting a giant icicle. But since the winter just got started, it was still a “water” fall. The views surrounding the waterfall were something we don’t see in our home country. All covered in white, it was such a memorable sight to behold! We also enjoyed taking photos while admiring the wondrous views.
The waterfall is almost 100 meters tall and the water is from the Daiya River which comes from Chuzenji Lake. I’m really loving this place. Waterfall, river, and lake all in one place! This is among the reasons why Nikko is a great day trip from Tokyo!
Before going to Chuzenji Lake, let’s first admire the beauty of the Daiya River as seen from the bridge!
From Kegon Falls, we walked for about 5 minutes to reach the bridge over Daiya River.
From the bridge, you will see both Daiya River and Chuzenji Lake if there’s no fog and snowfall.
I didn’t know withered trees lining up along the riverside could be this beautiful. Then add the snow falling from the sky, wondrous indeed!
From the bridge over Daiya River, we walked for another 5 minutes going to Chuzenji Lake.
It may look a bit gloomy and unwelcoming, but for us, this was our goal. It’s something new to us as we don’t see this kind of scenery in our home country. We’re so used to bright sunny days and wet seasons, but we never experienced chilly snowy times.
The lake was foggy, and the sky was covered with clouds.
We did not spend so much time in the lake area since water activities are suspended during winter. Not to mention it was getting really really cold! We walked back to the Bus Station and gladly, there’s a designated indoor waiting area with a heater. We waited for the next bus which arrived after about 15 minutes.
Back to Tokyo
The bus ride from Chuzenji going back to Nikko Station took about 45 minutes. Then from Nikko Station, we took the JR train going to Utsunomiya Station and from there, we rode the bullet train bound for Tokyo Station.
All our train transports are covered in our JR Tokyo Wide Pass, except the unlimited bus ride within Nikko.
Dinner at Hidakaya Ningyocho
Now that our Nikko day trip from Tokyo has just ended, time to cap off the day with a hearty meal.
From Tokyo Station, we walked to Hidakaya Ningyocho to have our dinner. We could take a train to Ningyocho Station but we opted to walk.
Jec and I ordered 1 Set of Vegetable Ramen + 6 pcs Gyoza (830 JPY / 314 PHP) and Angus Beef Minced Meat Cutlet (270 JPY / 102 PHP). For a total of a little over 400 PHP, we got all of these plus side dishes and soup! It’s just like (or even cheaper than) eating in a Japanese restaurant in the Philippines, but this is authentic!
Hidakaya Ningyocho is also just a few minutes walk from our hotel in Tokyo which is Hotel Horidome Villa.
It is a comfortable budget hotel at the heart of Tokyo. We scored this for around 2,700 Php per night for a double room (good for 2 persons).
You can book the same hotel here: Hotel Horidome Villa
Travel Guide: Nikko Day Trip from Tokyo
If you already have a JR Tokyo Wide Pass, you can proceed to the commuting directions (end part). But if you don’t have a JR Tokyo Wide Pass yet, it’s gonna be really expensive so better secure your pass first.
Where to buy a JR Tokyo Wide Pass?
Here are links where you can purchase your JR Tokyo Wide Pass.
BONUS: JR Pass for the Whole of Japan – If you intend to visit multiple areas of Japan for at least 7 days
Each JR Tokyo Wide Pass costs 15,000 JPY / 5,700 PHP
You can enjoy unlimited rides in all JR-East Lines and Shinkansen valid for 3 days.
TIP: Pick at least 2 destinations via Shinkansen to better utilize your pass. For example, we used the JR Tokyo Wide Pass for our JR-East line and Shinkansen trips to Nikko, Karuizawa, and Mt. Fuji. All in all, we rode a shinkansen at least 4 times, and the JR-East line at least 4 times as well.
Shinkansen from Tokyo to Utsunomiya
JR-East Line from Utsunomiya to Nikko
JR-East Line from Nikko to Utsunomiya
Shinkansen from Utsunomiya to Tokyo
Shinkansen from Tokyo to Karuizawa
Shinkansen from Karuizawa to Tokyo
JR-East Line from Tokyo to Otsuki
JR-East Limited Express from Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
Day 4-5: Unlimited Tokyo Subway for city tour (separate from JR Tokyo Wide Pass)
This is just to show an example of a fully utilized pass.
Still, take note that even if you pick only one Shinkansen destination plus one regular JR-East destination, it’s still worth it. It depends on your itinerary and it’s up to you which destinations will fit within 3 days of the pass validity.
Claiming your JR Tokyo Wide Pass
- Look for the Ticket Vending Machine inside any JR-East station
Tip: Better if you have a printed copy of the QR code sent to you via email so that it will be easier to ask for help in case you can’t find the ticket vending machine.
- Scan the QR code sent to you via email and your passport’s information page
Tip: Prepare these two first before using the ticket-vending machine.
There’s an English language option so don’t be too anxious. Just follow the instructions on the screen.
- You’ll get your JR Tokyo Wide Pass within seconds!
- If you purchased multiple passes in one transaction, you will only need to scan the passport info page of the lead passenger along with the QR code. No need to scan all the passports of all passengers.
For example, I booked 4 passes in one transaction. I scanned the QR code and my passport, and I got all 4 passes for our group.
- The 3-day validity of the pass will start on the claiming date.
Another thing, you will be issued another ticket together with the actual JR Tokyo Wide Pass. Keep it too, as it can also be used for tracking. In our experience, our friend accidentally left her JR Tokyo Wide Pass at the automatic ticket gate. Good thing, she kept this ticket and she was able to retrieve back her JR Tokyo Wide Pass.
- Go to any JR-East Ticket Office
Every JR Station has a Ticket Office where you can reserve your train seats. You will usually find them beside the ticket gates before you enter the train platform.
- Present your JR Tokyo Wide Pass and passports
This time, you will need to present the passports of each passenger.
1 JR Pass : 1 passport
- Give your preferred destination and departure time
The staff will give you the exact time of the next train departure. Assess if you can come on time. If in case it’s too early, you can pick another schedule. The staff will show the succeeding train schedules available.
- Pick your seats
The staff will show on the screen the available seats on your specified train schedule.
- Take your Reserved Seat Ticket
Keep it together with your JR Tokyo Wide Pass. The details of your reservation are indicated here (e.g. car number, seat number, departure date & time, destination, etc.)
- Board the train
Go to your designated train car as shown on your ticket. Look for your seat, then sit back and relax.
In our experience, no one asked for our Reserved Seat Tickets. It is just for your own reference, and it will also be useful if in case someone else (usually passengers with non-reserved seats) is sitting on your reserved seat. So that you can politely show them your Reserved Seat Ticket and they can transfer to other unoccupied seats.
You can also board the train without seat reservations as there are designated cars for non-reserved seats. If it gets full, you can take seats from the reserved cars but you will need to transfer to an unoccupied seat every time the reserved passenger arrives.
It is still advisable to reserve your seats unless you are in a hurry. This also happens to us every time we travel back to our place of origin. Good thing, the train was not always full.
Commuting Directions: Nikko Day Trip from Tokyo
Here are the commuting instructions for traveling from Tokyo to Nikko (day trip).
- Take a Bullet Train (Shinkansen) from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station.
Note: If you are near Tokyo Station or Ueno Station, you can walk and directly take a Shinkansen.
If not within walking distance, you will need to ride a regular JR train or subway train going to Tokyo Station or Ueno Station, then take a Shinkansen ride.
- Alight at Utsunomiya Station.
- Transfer to a regular JR-East train bound for Nikko.
- Alight at Nikko Station.
From Nikko Station, you can purchase unlimited bus ride tickets. The buses go back and forth between Nikko Station and Chuzenji.
You can start your tour right away at Shinkyo Bridge which is just an 8-minute bus ride or 25-min walk from Nikko Station.
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Arigatō! Til our next Japan posts!
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