With talks of travel to Japan to recommence in 2021, now is the time to plan your next trip. After flying in and enjoying the sights of the busy capital cities, you might feel the need to slow down, take a breath of fresh air and experience some ‘Zen’ vibes.
Just a two-hour train ride on the Tobu Railway from the hustle-bustle of Tokyo, you can find the small town of Nikko sitting on the edge of a giant national park. The area is known for a surplus of natural hot springs and lush nature, as well as housing some of Japan’s most historically significant temples and shrines.
Meditational forest walks
If you are looking for a real Zen experience, why not try Shinrin-yoku – literally meaning forest bathing, is a unique Japanese meditation experience which helps us to use the healing abilities of nature. It simply requires us to surround ourselves in nature and take it in with all of our senses.
With a history of ancient pilgrimage trails, Nikko is the perfect place to do so. One of Nikko’s many hiking trails lead to the Senjogahara Marshlands, a plateau located 1400 metres above sea level is a perfect place for you to take in the surroundings of the Nikko National Park. To forest bathe, all you need to do is switch off your phone and savour the nature around you.
For those who prefer to stay on a path, you can also get lost (in thought) and find yourself again along Nikko’s 37km cedar avenue. The avenue was created by a feudal lord somewhat 400 years ago as a pathway leading to UNESCO World Heritage site Toshogu Shrine. The cedar avenue is lined with around 13,000 cedar trees and has earned the Guinness world record’s title of ‘The longest tree-lined avenue in the world’.
Indulge your senses with the historic cuisine of warriors
On the northern banks of Nikko’s iconic Lake Chūzenji, the small hot springs town Yunishigawa Onsen is said to be the settling place of the legendary clan of warriors. Known as the Heike Clan, they went into hiding after losing a large battle and made their new home within the secluded mountains.
Making use of the natural flora and fauna, the Heike caught fish from the rivers and gathered the mountain’s natural bounties. Their unique way of cooking meals over open fires became a local cuisine which has come to be known as ‘Heike Ochudo Ryori’.
Nowadays, Yunishigawa Onsen has many restaurants and inns that serve these course meals in the unique style at the traditional hearths. The extravagant courses are similar to the well-known Kaiseki courses, however, usually include a luxurious assortment of locally caught freshwater fish and other seasonal ingredients grilled over the open fire.
A relaxing soak at a new resort
Luxurious hot spring resort FUFU Nikko has opened on October 2nd, just in time for the autumn season. Surrounded by greenery, the property boasts a 14,000 sqm site with 24 guest suites each measuring over 50 sqm. The suites come equipped with private hot springs for prime relaxation. The hotel has a fully equipped bar, a lounge overlooking a Japanese garden and a fine dining restaurant serving meals prepared using seasonal ingredients from Tochigi Prefecture.
FUFU Nikko is the perfect place to base yourself for a relaxing stay as guests will be surrounded by Nikko’s main attractions. UNESCO World Heritage Site Toshogu Shrine, Nikkosan Rinnoji Temple and Furutasan Shrine sit just over a 15-minute walk away. Other attractions such as the Kanmangafuchi Abyss – a canyon lined with religious statues only 20 minutes by foot, while Nikko’s iconic Kegon Falls and Lake Chūzenji can be reached in a 25-minute drive or around 40 minutes on a ride on Tobu Bus.
The Tobu Railway offers special discount passes only for foreign visitors visiting Nikko from Tokyo which include a round trip from Asakusa in Tokyo to Nikko, as well as unlimited travel on trains and busses in the Nikko area.