Visiting the magnificent Shrines and Temples of Nikko
If you want to spend a day immersed in Japanese culture, Nikko might just be the place for you.
One summer day, I decided to hop on the train and head north to Tochigi Prefecture for a solo day trip. I wanted to see the famous Shrines and Temples of Nikko, which are collectively recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Shrines and Temples of Nikko consist of a total of 103 religious structures - all known for their wonderful architecture and stunning natural surroundings. They were designated a World Heritage Site in 1999.
Traveling to Nikko
Getting to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture is fairly quick and easy.
From Tokyo Station, I took a 50-minute Shinkansen ride to Utsunomiya Station. Once in Utsunomiya, I then transferred to the JR Nikko Line bound for Nikko. After another 45 minutes on the train, I finally arrived at Nikko Station.
The first stop on my itinerary was Shinkyo Bridge, which is about 30 minutes away from the station on foot. If you are coming during the summertime, I suggest bringing a UV umbrella to protect yourself from the harsh sun while walking. There is also a bus available for those who would rather get there faster.
Shinkyo Bridge, literally meaning "sacred bridge", is said to be the gateway to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko as it is located right at the entrance. This black-and-red bridge is recognized as one of the three finest bridges in Japan, and is best viewed in autumn when the leaves add color to the scenery.
You can walk across the bridge for a small fee but I personally did not feel the need to do so. I merely stood across the bridge, admired the astounding view, and listened to the calming sound of the flowing river.
Just a few minutes away from the bridge is Rinnoji Temple, my second stop. This Buddhist temple is claimed to be Nikko's most important temple for the reason that it was founded by the monk who introduced Buddhism to the area. The temple also has a treasure house on site that showcases exhibits on Buddhism.
A few steps to the left of Rinnoji Temple is Toshogu Shrine, the Shinto shrine where Tokugawa Ieyasu of the Tokugawa shogunate is enshrined. Inside the ornate shrine complex is the renowned wood carving of the Three Wise Monkeys that portrays the proverbial saying of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
And finally, following a path on the left of the entrance to Toshogu Shrine led me to Futarasan Shrine, which was my last stop for the day. It is believed to be dedicated to the deities of Nikko's three most sacred mountains.
Since this shrine is free to enter (aside from a small area that requires an admission fee), I spent most of my time here. My favorite part was probably the wind chimes that were installed at the entrances as they made lovely sounds every time the wind blew.
After this trip, I am now able to say that I have seen the impressive World Heritage Site that is the Shrines and Temples of Nikko with my own eyes. Although I did not spend a lot of time here, simply traveling to a place with a peaceful atmosphere and surrounding myself with nature was more than enough to recharge my batteries and feel grounded again.
I highly recommend taking the same trip if you are also looking for a brief escape from your daily routine.
Have you been to Nikko? Share your experience in the comments below!
Originally from the Philippines, I've called Japan my second home for more than 10 years now. I love traveling, enjoying good food, and conquering extreme roller coasters. Always up for new adventures and experiences, I seek to share my knowledge of Japan through writing.
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