Nikko is a small town, located not far from Tokyo (hundred and thirty five kms) and one of Japan's best tourist destinations. The town lies at the entrance of the Nikko National Park and is the most famous for the generously decorated Toshogu Shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
The Toshogu Shrine is popular due to its detailed and colorfully painted wooden sculptures. A symbol of Nikko are three monkeys, hiding each respectively their ears, eyes and mouth, representing the Buddhist doctrine "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". Souvenir shops, situated next to the shrine, have plenty of goods, displaying the monkeys. The Toshugu has no parallel anywhere in the world and consists of hundred heritage buildings and the woods, which encloses them.
There is also Taiyuin-byo, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson, Iemitsu (1604-1651). Taiyuin-byo is a smaller copy of the Toshogu and combines extravagantly Shinto, Buddhist and Chinese elements in its architectural and decorative design.
The Shinkio or the Sacred Bridge is set gracefully over Daiya. Many years ago, people could cross it only on festival occasions, but now, everyone can cross it on any day for a small fee indeed.
The Nikko Edo village is a captivating attraction of the town of Nikko that is a peculiar recreation of the Edo era village, mostly destined for children. There are samurai quarters, ninja displays and a "temple of hell" in the village.
The Nikko National Park features spectacular mountainous landscapes, blue transparent lakes, grandiose waterfalls, healing hot springs, lovely wild monkeys and diverse hiking trails. The Nikko National Park has been considered a sacred place since the eighth, when the Buddhist priest, Shodo Shonin, established a hermitage there. The park is home to many species of wild birds and rare alpine plants. Activities in the park include hiking, camping, skiing, skating and fishing. At the Lake Chuzenji-ko you can take an elevator down to a platform to see a full force of the hundred meters Kegon Waterfalls, which is one of the three greatest waterfalls in Japan.
The roads to and from the Lake Chuzenji are famous for a number of sharp curves and are called Iroha-zaka. The Lake Chuzenji's circumference is about twenty eight kms. and there are hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants and Japanese style inns with hot spring baths around the lake. The cruise by a sightseeing boat gives the best sights, while the lake area is especially beautiful in the middle of May for its rich pink-to-white cherry blossoms and in October for its colorful gold and crimson foliage.
Hence, the beauty of the Nikko National Park reveals the harmony of human artistry, employed in such architectural wonders, as the Toshugu Shrine and Taiyuin-byo, and the grandiose natural setting of rivers, lakes and wildlife. Nikko is fairly an excellent year-round resort place.
The Nikko National Park is easily accessible from Tokyo. You should take the Tobu-Nikko line from the Tobu Asakusa Station under the Matsuya Department Store. There are accommodations in Nikko and nearby towns.