Monday, April 22, 2013

NIKKO - A Beautiful Hill Station for all Seasons

Nikko , is a small town situated to the north of Tokyo . This place is a popular spot for visitors , being one of the World Heritage sites in Japan and the most beautiful region of the country comprising of centuries old shrines and temples together with their natural surroundings.Closely asoociated with the Tokogawa Shoguns, the place is know as a sacred site with its architectural and decorative masterpieces. Nikko National Park offers a scenic beauty of the mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails. A famous Japanese saying proclaims Nikko wo minakereba "kekkō" to iu na. Most tourist literature translates this as "Don't say 'magnificent' until you've seen Nikko" Nikko and the Okunikko area around Lake Chuzenji, in particular, are well known for their beautiful autumn colors(koyo)

Lake Chuzenji

Lake Chuzenji (Chuzenjiko) is a representative lake of Nikko and is about 25Km in circumference. The Lake was It is situated at the foot of Mt Nantai, which is known as Nikko`s sacred volcano. About 20,000 years ago the volcano erupted and blocked the valley below, and this led to the formation of Lake Chuzenji. Hiking around the Lake potrays the scenic beauty of the mountains and valley in and around the town of Nikko Japanese oak, beech and maple trees are seen in the forest areas and visitors can enjoy the seasonal landscape and many wild animals as well. Chuzenjiko is the most beautiful during the autumn season in late October when the leaves are at the peak of their colour change. The lake can be enjoyed from sightseeing boats that depart from Chuzenjiko Onsen.

Chuzenji Lake was discovered in 782 by a priest named Shōdō when his group succeeded in climbing Mt. Nantai. Considered sacred, the mountain was closed to women, horses, and cows until 1872.A remarkable turning point came in 1872, when women were allowed to go inside the mountainous area. They climbed Mt. Nantai and the first delivery in that area was recorded in 1884. Also, Meiji Emperor came to Nikko and named "Lake of happiness" for the Lake Chuzenji.

Other sites around the lake include Futara Shrine built in 790, Chuzenji Temple, and Kegon Falls

Chuzenji Temple

Tachiki Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy and Hashiri-daikokuten , the God of Wealth are enshrined in the Chuzenji Temple.. There are 33 spiritual places in Kanto region, where monks visit. Chuzenji Temple is one of the 33 spiritual places in Kanto region, where monks visit, being the 18th place in order. An amulet of Hashiri-daikokuten hall here, is believed to bring luck, safe delivery, returning of runaway and fickleness prevention to its visitors. Aizen-doh hall is the small shrine, which enshrines Aizen-myouou Buddha and is located at the lakeside of Chuzenji. The Godai-doh hall is established on the cliff side, back of the main hall of Chuzenji temple.This is a memorial building for celebration of 1200 years from Priest Shoto's achievement.

Kegon Waterfalls

Kegon waterfall is the most famous among the 48 waterfalls that can be visited in Nikko. It is 97 meter high with an eye capturing view of the dashing water and the sometimes occurring small frozen falls called blue ice. The fall was formed when the Daiya River was rerouted by lava flows. People could not get close to the fall until 1900 when Gorobei Hoshino built a teahouse near the basin of the fall. Kegon Waterfall in combination with Lake Chuzenji can be enjoyed from Akechidaira Observatory, which is accessible by ropeway from Akechidaira Plateau. The paid platform can be accessed via a 100 meter deep elevator and offers an impressive view.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine

The Toshogu Shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for over 250 years until 1868. Initially the shrine was built in 1617 , by Ieyasu's son Tokugawa Hidetada the then , shogun and later on it was enlarged during the time of the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. okugawa Ieyasu is enshrined here, and his remains are entombed here.
The shrine complex consists of a number of Shinto and Buddhist buildings set in the midst of a beautiful forest. The famous buildings at the Tōshō-gū include the richly decorated Yōmeimon, a gate that is also known as "higurashi-no-mon." People are not tired of looking at the gate all day long because of its excellence in carvings and painting in rich colors. Karamon Gate is located after passing through the Youmeimon Gate. This gate is small, but is the front gate of the most important building, Honsha (Main shrine.) Worshippers were limited to feudal lords, or higher class people in Edo period. Even today, only national guests can enter during the festival seasons.
The gate is painted with white powder, and dragons are decorated on the pillars.

The "Sleeping Cat"which was made by Jingorou Hidari, and it is the most famous sculpture in the Toshogu Shrine., exists at the entrance of Okusha Inner Shrine. There is a sparrow behind the cat and they co-exist, meaning that nation wide chaos is over and peaceful society has come. The Honsha is the most important and central building of Toshogu Shrine. It consist of the Haiden oratory, Ishinoma middle room and the Honden main hall all are arranged in a certain pattern. This construction is called Gongen-zukuri. the Gongen being the divine name of Leyasu. The Honden is treated as the most sacred place in Toshogu Shrine. The Honden consists of three rooms such as Gejin (Outer room), Naijin (Inner room) and Nainaijin (Inner room of the Naijin).

Other famous sites here are the five-story pagoda , the Kitouden also is used for wedding ceremony, the sculptures of monkeys that are put on the Shinyosha (Sacred Stable) that bears a carving of the three wise monkeys, who hear, speak and see no evil and the the Karadou-torii which was the first bronze Torii in Japan and is 6m high.

It is recommended to visitors to purchase a combination ticket while visiting Nikko Toshogu Shrine which also includes admission to Rinnoji, Taiyuinbyo and Futarasan Shrine. But this ticket does not cover access to the nemuri neko carving and Leyasu's tomb.

Ryuzu no taki

Ryuzu-no-taki gets its name from the fact that the falls look like a dragon’s head from near the basin of the falls. The fall divides in to two sides and seems like the whiskers and the rock between them resembles the head of a dragon. The falls begins from the Yukawa River and is around 20, 000 years old , formed as a result of eruption of MtNantai.It flows in to the Lake Yunoko and Lake Chuzenji. The best seasons to watch this fall is the are early summer when it is adorned with pink azaleas, and autumn with its gorgeously decorated colorful leaves.

Futara Shrine and Shinkyo Bridge

Situated on the top of Nantai-san is Futarasan-jinja . Ancient people here believed that this whole area was a place where God was sitting. In total, it covers 3400 hectares—equivalent to around 34,000 square meters. There are three shrine buildings related to and called Futara-san Shrine in Nikko: Hon-sha, Chugu-shi, and Oku-miya.
Priest Shodo established a small shrine in 766 near where Hon-sha is now standing. When Shodo and his disciples finally succeeded in reaching the summit of Mt. Nantai in 782, he erected Oku-miya at the top of the mountain. Later, Chugu-shi was built in 784 for the people who couldn’t go and worship Oku-miya.
The famous red bridge near the rear approach to Rin-noh-ji temple and Tosho-gu shrine is called Shin-kyo .It means “bridge of God”. This Sacred Bridge crossing the Daiya River belongs to the Futarasan Shrine. This beautiful vermilion lacquered structure is known as one of the three most beautiful bridges in Japan and is a perfect gateway for Nikko. The bridge was registered as a World Heritage in December 1999. Shinkyo measures 28 meters long, 7.4 meters wide, and stands 10.6 meters above the Daiya River. The red colour of the bridge makes a beautiful contrast with the surrounding green leaves and mountainside.

Yumoto Hot Spa

The Yumoto Hot Spa is located in deep Senjogahara Plateau. History of Yumoto Hot Spa goes back to 1200 years ago. Priest Shoto found the hot spring in 788, and named it Yakushiyu (Hot spring of Yakushi). That was the beginning of Yumoto Hot Spa. Many visitors enjoy not only bathing in the hot spa, but also hiking to Lake Kirikomi and Lake Karikomi, fishing, camping and skiing. The nature of water in the the hot spring is a hydrogen sulfide. The source of the spring is located in Yunodaira Marshland. The spa is said to have great curing affects on neuralgia and muscular pain, cold nature and diabetes.

Nikko Tobu WorldSquare

Nikko Tobu World Square is a theme park which depicts perfect models of ancient monuments , buildings, cultural treasures and World Heritage in and around the world. The replicas are in great detail that it shows cars, trains and people on streets.The park is divided in to zones based on regions of the world . Some of them are Japan zone, Asia zone,Europe zone.Egypt zone and America zone. The part has also facilities like restaurants and souvenir shops

Tobu World Square is a ten minute walk from Kosagoe Station.
Tobu operates buses between Kinugawa Onsen Station and Tobu World Square. The trip takes five minutes, costs 200 yen one way, and buses depart every 20-30 minutes.

includes admission to the Toshogu, the Rinnoji's Sanbutsudo and Futarasan Shrine. See details below.

Rinnoji Temple

Rinnoji is a complex of 15 Buddhist temples and the most important in Nikko. It was established by the Buddhist monk, Shodo in the year 766. The central building of Rinnoji Temple is the Sanbutsu-doh Hall. The Sanbutsu-doh Hall was built by Ennin Saint Jikaku and it enshrines three images of Buddha. These images are representatives of Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nyohou and Mt. Tarou showing the immense importance of mountain worship. These images are 8m high, and it is the foremost seated wooden image in Japan. All of these three are coated with gold leaf. The principal images of Sanbutsu-doh hall are Senju Kannon (1000-armed Kannon), Amida Nyorai and Batou Kannon. Also, there are three images of saint such as Saint Denkyo, Saint Jie and Saint Jigen. In addition, fire is burned every morning for rite. The Gohoh-tendoh is located on the backside of Sanbutsu-doh hall.Visitors can see that in here burns a holy fire for invocation. Yakushidoh Hall enshrines the Crying dragon inside. The Syouyoen is a typical Japanese garden, which was made in Edo period. Visitors can walk around the pond. This style of garden is called Chisen Kaiyu Shiki (Short excursion around the pond). Futatsu-doh twin halls are located in front of Taiyuin Mausoleum. This hall is for Buddhist training. Priest pray for national peace and people's happiness on the New Year's day.

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

The area of the Bake Jizou and Jiunji Temple is located in a small valley of the river of Daiya. That area is called Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Landscape of the abyss was made by lave of eruption of Mt. Natai. There are giant rocks on the riverside. There are stone statues of the Jizo on the bank of the Daiya River. The statues are called Narabijizo (Jizo in a line), Hyakujizo (100 Jizo), or Bakejizo (Ghost-jizo). The Jizo is the guardian deity of the deceased infant. The Jizo’s face is affectionate looking monk-child with a Buddha smile.

Tamozawa Imperial Villa

The Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park (Former Tamozawa Imperial Villa) was built in 1899 for the purpose of the Emperor of Taisho's rest. It is 4500 square meters, has 106 rooms Tamozawa Imperial Villa is one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan. The interior of the villa is a beautiful culmination of Japanese and Western styles architecture.The decoration s and paintings inside the villa reminds the visitors of the great cultural values of Edo times. It now functions as a museum and memorial park, and is well equipped with multilingual displays for visitors.

Travelling to Nikko

Tobu Railways offer various passes to visit Nikko from Tokyo . The passes are available at Tobu Travel" travel agency in Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Kitasenju Stations , Keisei ticket counters in the arrival lobby of Narita Airport, Tourist Information Center outside the Nihonbashi Exit of Tokyo Station The information on passes are as follows:


Name of Pass

Sites covered

Marugoto Nikko Free Pass

 Round trip from Tokyo

Unlimited travel on buses from central Nikko to Okunikko. ( Lake Chuzenji, Yumoto Onsen and the Kirifuri Heights. )

The pass is valid for four consecutive days.
4400 yen
Marugoto Nikko Kinugawa Free Pass
Round trip from Tokyo

Unlimited travel on trains between Nikko and Kinugawa and Yunishigawa area and on buses from central Nikko to Okunikko and in the Kinugawa and Yunishigawa area. . ( Lake Chuzenji, Yumoto Onsen and the Kirifuri Heights,Yunishigawa onsen ) 

The pass is valid for four consecutive days.

5980 yen
 World Heritage Pass
Round trip from Tokyo: 
Entry  to  Toshog Shrine Futarasan Shrinean  Rinnoji Temple,  
Unlimited travel on buses in central Nikko and on trains between Nikko and the Kinugawa Onsen area.

The pass is valid for  two consecutive day

3600 yen
All Nikko Pass 
Round trip from Tokyo:

Unlimited travel on buses between Nikko and Okunikko and on trains between Nikko and the Kinugawa Onsen area. ( Lake Chuzenji, Yumoto Onsen and the Kirifuri Heights. Shimo-Imaichi and Shin-Fujiwara.)

 The pass is valid for four consecutive days.

4400 yen
Kinugawa Theme Park Pass 
Round trip from Tokyo

Unlimited travel on trains between Nikko and the Kinugawa Onsen area, using buses to the theme parks, including

Entry to Tobu World Square

Entry to Nikko Edomura

Entry to both theme parks




Reduced rates apply for children aged 6-11.

Nikko More Photos

Nikko Station

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