Japan: The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko

We woke up late that day. We were supposed to leave at seven in the morning but all of us were perfectly molded on our snuggly bed, the 10-degree weather was pampering our lazy bones too much. The four of us were excited as we rushed to the train station going to Nikko in spite of the stormy weather. It wasn’t our best day in Japan so far, but we could always turn a setback into a blessed opportunity.

It was our third day in Tokyo and our short jaunt to Japan coincided with a super typhoon. Our overcoats were always wet and our boots soaked, it wasn’t the perfect weather that we were expecting.

Earlier this year, I went into an adventure as I embarked on my first ever solo and winter trip in Seoul. It sparked an interest in me to visit other countries in East Asia because of their unique culture.

Six months prior the trip, a friend got a good deal on a roundtrip Manila to Tokyo flight. It was supposedly an early autumn trip for me and my favorite travel buddies—I was the only Japan first-timer (Check out my Guide on Japan Tourist Visa Application for Philippine Passport Holders).

Autumn Nikko Japan Blog
Getting used to the cold and wet weather, we intentionally got lost on Tokyo’s famous spots and did a quick day trip in Hakone during our first two days. Originally, I wanted to just relax on our last remaining days but I was captivated by the early autumn photos of Nikko as I was browsing Klook app on my smartphone. I was checking the options for our five-day trip and was amazed on the great deals they offer.

Autumn Nikko Japan Blog
Autumn foliage
Nikko, located in Tochigi Prefecture, is the home of the UNESCO Heritage Site of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko. The complex is composed of 103 religious buildings within two Shinto shrines and one Buddhist temple in a natural setting covering a 50.8-hectare property. Nikko has religious and historical significance and is one of the famous spots for stunning autumn foliage so we included it in our itinerary.   

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Nikko town
Me and my buddy were having our morning coffee at Wired Hotel Asakusa when our two other buddies showed up. They overslept that morning that our original plan of leaving at 7:00 am didn’t come about. To cut it short, we were at Tokyo Metro’s Asakusa Station at 9:00 am.

Asakusa Station was our jump-off point. We exchanged our Klook voucher (together with our passports) at TOBU Sightseeing Service Center for Nikko Travel Pass tickets.

Autumn Nikko Japan Blog
Drizzle. Rain. Wet. Cold.
The 2 or 4-Day Nikko all-you-can-ride pass is a must-have if you want to visit Nikko as this will allow you to have a one roundtrip train ride between Asakusa and Shimo-imaichi Stations and unlimited bus and train rides in Nikko and Kinugawa areas. Take note that entrance fees to the Shrines and Temples of Nikko are not included.

We arrived at Shimo-imaichi Station in Nikko around noontime. It was raining incessantly and we were given a guide at the Sightseeing Service Center on the itineraries we could take. We opted to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of “The Shrines and Temples of Nikko” (inscribed in 1999).

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
UNESCO World Heritage Site of "The Shrines and Temples of Nikko"
While my friends were busy checking the map, I went outside and noticed that it was raining incessantly. Not the kind of all-day drizzle for two straight days in Tokyo but a typhoon-kind of rain. They devised a simple route that would allow us to wander around the heritage sites given our limited time.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Futarasan shrine
Armed with our transparent rain umbrellas, we queued on the dedicated bus stop and waited for our shuttle to arrive.

Just by flashing our Nikko Travel Pass to the driver, we inched our way inside the bus and off we went to our first destination. The pass saved us tons of money as the fare is at JPY310 (USD2.73) each way for bus.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Futarasan shrine
It was still raining when we got off the bus. I didn’t have any clue on where we were going so I followed their lead.

We hiked a bit on a muddy stony path that was lined with century-old trees. The rain doesn’t seem to tire at that time. Our coats were drenched and our boots were soaked in rainwater but our spirits are high. We pushed through with our exploration in spite the stormy weather.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
There are 103 religious structures around this beautiful natural setting in Nikko
We wandered around Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine, and Shinkyo Bridge for almost four hours. The sacred shrines were filled with both tourists and devotees amidst the rain. Typical Japanese umbrellas covered the frontage of the temples and queues were longer than those of Tokyo’s subway during rush hour.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
There are entrance fees on some of the shrines
The exorbitant fees (entrance fees range from JPY 200 to JPY1,300 (USD1.76 to USD11.45) and the long queue prevented us to get inside the sacred shrines of Nikko. We chose to have a leisurely rainy stroll along the old paths that lead to nowhere, literally.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Incessant rains
Our saunter led us to a parking lot where the autumn foliage was starting to get noticed. We were like kids who were trying to search for that perfect autumn leaf which we usually just see on movies. Tropical creatures who were used to two seasons were frolicking under the cold and rainy milieu.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Wet. Cold. Happy.
We had to surrender our Nikko Travel Pass when we got back to Tokyo Metro’s Asakusa Station. A friend brought home with him some leaves in shades orange, yellow and red. I asked him what he’d do with those and he didn’t give me an exact answer. He just shrugged and told me that he just wanted to take it home with him to the Philippines for whatever reason.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Japan Blog
Shinkyo Bridge
From another man’s point-of-view, it may be a disaster day trip—having been soaked all day and not having the chance to get inside even one out of a hundred shrines in Nikko. But if you’re with the company of great friends, you’d value the moment of being together on a strange place rather than sulking on what could’ve beens. It may not be the perfect day trip but we still had fun.

Check here for discounted accommodations in Nikko.

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