A small city lying at the foot of Mount Nyoho, north of Tokyo, Nikko is a picturesque heritage-rich destination located in the Tochigi Prefecture of Japan. If you are looking for a holiday destination where the whole family will be able to immerse in the surreal nature and traditional culture, yet not spend too much time travelling from Tokyo, Nikko is your best bet. Why? Because Nikko is an awesome UNESCO World Heritage Site accessible within a convenient 2-hour train ride from Tokyo. Here’s how you can enjoy Nikko as a family with these useful tips:
How to travel to Nikko
As there is no international airport in Tochigi Prefecture, the best way to access Nikko is via Haneda (HND) or Narita (NRT) International Airports that serve Greater Tokyo.
If you are heading to the city straight from Narita Airport, the most fuss-free way is to take the limousine bus from Narita Airport to Nikko Station, which costs 4,500 JPY (43.35 USD) each for a direct 3.75-hour ride. There are two scheduled departures at 8.50 am and 11.05 am starting from Terminal 3 daily.
Other modes of transport from both international airports will require transfers of a few train lines, which may be troublesome especially if you have young kids in tow. You can find more information on the Nikko Travel website.
However, if you are already in Tokyo, take the 2-hour rapid train ride on the Tobu Railway Line from Asakusa Station to Tobu Nikko Station. It costs about 1,360 JPY (13.40 USD) one way. For transport cost savings, purchase an All Nikko Pass for a round-trip train ride to and from Tokyo, as well as unlimited bus rides within Nikko.
1. Take a convenient round-the-world tour at Tobu World Square
We understand travelling with little ones may not allow you to roam around as freely as you may like. Hence, to save you the hassle of travelling to various sightseeing spots, view them all in one convenient location at Tobu World Square. Located in the Kinugawa Onsen area, just a short bus ride from Tobu Nikko Station, Tobu World Square is a miniature theme park exhibiting replicas of famous landmarks from around the world at a scale of 1:25. The park is divided into six zones, starting with the Japan Zone, where iconic cultural sites like ancient Kyoto temples and the famous Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama can be seen.
Next, move to the Asia Zone, where you will be transported to places like Korea, India, and China to check out heritage sites such as the magnificent Great Wall of China. You can also find the Europe Zone, Egypt Zone, America Zone, and finally Modern Japan Zone in the large park. Marvel at the ancient monuments and cultural treasures reproduced with great detail all the way down to vehicles, gardens with seasonal colour changes, and miniature people populating the sites. Have an eye-opening round-the-world experience without having to travel to all these famous sites.
Tobu World Square (東武ワールドスクエア)
Address: 209-1 Kinugawa Onsen Ohara, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Price: 2,500 JPY (24.10 USD) per adult, 1,200 JPY (11.60 USD) per child. Advanced ticket purchases at convenience stores, Tobu Nikko Station, and Tobu Kinugawa Onsen Station: 2,200 JPY (21.20 USD) per adult, 1,000 JPY (9.60 USD) per child
Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm daily. Dec 1 to Mar 19: 9.30 am - 4 pm daily. Last admission: 1 hour before closing
Duration: around 2 hours required
Access: 5-minute bus ride (210 JPY / 2 USD) from Kinugawa Onsen Station, covered by the Kinugawa Themepark Pass
Contact: +81 288-77-1055
2. Explore Kinugawa Onsen area with a river boat ride
After touring the awesome miniature theme park, it’s time to soak up some beautiful scenery of the charming hot spring town. Take a 40-minute boat ride along the calm Kudari River, where you can enjoy idyllic views of the valley. Depending on the season you visit, you may come up close to wild cherry blossoms and azaleas in spring, hear the chirpy sounds of kingfishers and see ayu fish swimming in summer, or witness the gorgeous red leaves in autumn. Immerse yourself in the rustic surroundings as you pass through unique rock formations on this traditional wooden boat ride. Check with the Tobu World Square ticket counter staff for the discount combo pass for some good savings.
Kinugawa Line Kudari River Cruise (鬼怒川ライン下り)
Address: 1414 Kinugawa Onsen Ohara, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture
Price: 2,700 JPY (26 USD) per adult, 1,200 JPY (11.60 USD) per child
Opening Hours: 9 am - 3.45 pm daily from late November to early April. Boarding 20 minutes before the cruise start time
Duration: around 1 hour required
Access: 5-minute bus ride (210 JPY, 2 USD) from Kinugawa Onsen Station, covered by the Kinugawa Themepark Pass
Contact: +81 288-77-0531
3. Travel back in time to ancient Japan at Edo Wonderland
You have treated yourself to a visual feast round the world at Tobu World Square upon arrival in Nikko. Now, let’s travel back in time to the Edo period to see how life was for the Japanese back then at Edo Wonderland (Nikko Edomura). Nikko is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its sacred shrines and temples. Thus, to save you the trouble of moving around from one historical site to another in the city, you can visit the one-stop historical theme park, Edo Wonderland, instead.
Tour around the park filled with Edo-style architecture and villagers in period costume. If you like, you can join in the fun by dressing up in period costumes as well by renting them for a fee. Alongside the restaurants and shops selling traditional souvenirs, participate in games at the Haunted Temple filled with Japanese spirits and demons, and the House of Illusion, where everything seems to defy the laws of gravity. Of course, don’t miss a traditional sword battle and magic performance at the popular Grand Ninja Theatre. With so much to see and do in Edo Wonderland, the whole family can be entertained for the whole day while gaining more insights about the Edo period!
Address: 470-2 Karakura, Nikko-city, Tochigi Prefecture
Price: please refer to official website
Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm (March 20 to November 30); 9.30 am - 4 pm (December 1 to March 19). Last admission is one hour before closing time
Duration: around 6 hours required
Access: 20-minute bus ride (410 JPY, 3.95 USD) from Kinugawa Onsen Station, covered by the Kinugawa Themepark Pass
Contact: +81 288-77-1777
Stay overnight in the alluring hot spring city of Nikko
Although Nikko is relatively near to Tokyo and is a great day-trip destination, do consider staying at least one night to relish the breathtaking nature and architectural landscapes. Furthermore, there are plenty of fabulous hot spring (onsen) baths in the city where you can relax and soak your fatigue away. It really would be a waste if you rushed through the trip without staying overnight! Read on for three recommended family accommodations located around the above-mentioned attractions:
Located only a 4-minute walk from Tobu World Square, Maru’s cosy Japanese home with 2 bedrooms is a wonderful choice for those travelling with kids. Not only do your little ones aged 5 or below stay for free, you also enjoy free rental bicycles to roam around the town. In addition, you can find all the amenities you need, just like in your own home. There are also two onsens in the neighbourhood for a relaxing Japanese public bath experience. Live like a local by staying at Maru’s!
Maru’s cosy Japanese home
Area: Nikko city, Tochigi Prefecture
Price: from 71.70 USD
Access: 10-minute walk from Kosagoe Station on Tobu Kinugawa Line
If it’s hard for you to make your way to the public baths around Kinugawa Onsen area before they close for the day, Lu’s spacious 1-bedroom apartment for up to 6 guests may just be the ideal accommodation for you. Within the apartment building, there is a 24-hour onsen facility that you can enjoy anytime, especially late at night after you have settled your kids. Enjoy a stay in the quiet neighbourhood that is just 6 minutes’ walk from Kinugawa Onsen Station. The amicable host will also prepare a sumptuous breakfast to perk you up for the day.
Lu’s 1-bedroom apartment
Area: Nikko city, Tochigi Prefecture
Price: from 117.60 USD
Access: 6-minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Station on Tobu Kinugawa Line
Perhaps you feel like splurging a little to experience a luxurious overnight experience in a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) with onsen? Then book a ryokan that can accommodate up to 5 guests at Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura, near to Kinugawa Station. All rooms are in a traditional Japanese style, but equipped with modern furnishings, such as a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and an en suite bathroom.
After a long day out, retreat to your comfortable room with a scenic mountain view. It is also great to know that the public onsen operating hours are not only long, but also boast lovely valley views. Or book the private open-air bath for a reasonable fee (2,000 JPY /19.30 USD) to enjoy a rejuvenating soak. In addition, wake up to a delectable breakfast made using fresh local ingredients.
Hotel Shirakawa Yunokura
Address: 483 Kinugawa Onsen Taki, Nikko city, Togichi Prefecture
Price: from 300 USD
Access: 15-minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Station on Tobu Kinugawa Line
Head to Nikko for a nice family retreat
Nikko is a charming destination that will keep everyone, young and old, captivated by its natural rustic beauty. Particularly, it is a fascinating place where you can snap away for all those photogenic moments with your loved ones. Make your way to Nikko for a fantastic family retreat that you will remember for a long time!
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