Day-tripping from Tokyo to Nikko and its World Heritage sites is now practical by the new “Limited Express SPACIA” Tobu Railway train that cuts traveling time to less than two hours from the capital’s Shinjuku, Asakusa, and Skytree stations.
Nikko’s World Heritage shrines and temples are a 10 minute bus ride (310 yen one way, 500 yen day pass, covered by optional Nikko passes) from the Tobu and JR Nikko Stations. The Toshogu shrine contains the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan (1603-1867). Toshogu’s most famous carving is of the three wise monkeys, Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, hears no evil; and Iwazaru, who by covering his mouth, speaks no evil.
Lunch, tea or a cocktail at the historic Nikko Kanaya Hotel, the first Western style hotel in Japan (five years ahead of the Fujiya in Hakone), located across the street from the main temples and shrines of Nikko, is a journey back to the dawn of modern Western tourism in Japan. It combines the atmosphere of a classic ryokan with Western furniture and Japanese architecture.
Day-trippers can either start or end their Nikko journey at the 318-foot Kegon Waterfall, ranked as one of Japan’s three most beautiful falls (along with Nachi Waterfall in Wakayama and Fukuroda in Ibaraki). It can be seen from a free observation area at the top of the waterfall or more dramatically from its base from a platform reached by an elevator that descends through bedrock for 550 yen.
Nikko is approximately 90 miles north of Tokyo but centuries away from the capital, in part because it was spared Allied bombs during World War II. It can be a respite from the humid summers of Tokyo, a showcase of beautiful foliage in autumn, and a mystical destination covered in a blanket of snow in the winter.
For those who have a flexible travel schedule, a night or two in this magnificent part of Japan is well worth the investment of time. Part of that can be relaxing in one of the areas onsens (hot springs) such as the one at the Nikko Astraea Hotel. Its magical waters are high in sulfur, calcium, and sodium, minerals that are good for treating neuralgia and soothing muscle and joint pains. They’re also, and perhaps most importantly for many bathers, sublimely relaxing.
All Photographs Are © Mark Edward Harris
Mark Edward Harris Photographer Bio
Mark Edward Harris’ assignments have taken him to 97 countries on six continents. His editorial work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, LIFE, Time, GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, AFAR, Wallpaper, Casa Vogue, GQ Thailand, Money Magazine, Architectural Digest, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The London Sunday Times Travel Magazine as well as all the major photography and in-flight magazines. His commercial clients range from The Gap to Coca-Cola. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO, ACE, Aurora Gold, and Photographer of the Year at the Black & White Spider Awards. His books include Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work, The Way of the Japanese Bath, Wanderlust, North Korea, South Korea, and Inside Iran. North Korea was named Photography Book of the Year at the International Photography Awards. Mark’s latest book, The Travel Photo Essay: Describing a Journey Through Images was released by Focal Press/Routledge in the fall of 2017.
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