Autumn leaves season brings a lot of joy to every resident of Nikko knowing that its economy fully depends on tourism. They welcome the fall season, and start preparing for hunting momiji, especially the areas that are located outside the main town of Nikko.
You never know how beautiful it could be unless you pay your attention to it and plan to have a great trip on a sunny autumn day.
Being one of the best four-season destinations in Japan, many foreign visitors eagerly set their minds to explore Nikko’s divine beauty. Something special awaits you anywhere you go in Nikko. You must enjoy a day or two in Nikko when you search for the perfect day trip destination from Tokyo.
The distance between these two places is not that far away, fortunately, Nikko is located just about 125 km away from north Tokyo.
Tobu Railway is the best option because it comes with free passes for foreign tourists. So when you are offered something special like that, don’t hesitate to take it. Tobu Railway would be pleased to assist you in terms of transportation to get to Nikko’s famous places.
If this is your very first visit to Japan and you want to enjoy a hassle-free trip to Nikko, I highly recommend you experience a 1-day sightseeing bus tour. It’s reliable and convenient, especially if you are planning to visit Nikko from Tokyo.
This 2-day Nikko itinerary can be useful for you before planning a trip to Nikko this autumn.
The Best Time to See Autumn Foliage in Nikko
In order to see stunning fall leaves in Nikko, you have got to find out a period of time that could help you organize your whole trip.
Just like you, who is interested in visiting Nikko during the fall season, I was pretty concerned about the best time to see autumn leaves, though my parents managed it wisely by making a phone call to one of our relatives there.
Do it as I say here; I mean if you have relatives or friends there, make a phone call right away and ask him or her this question: “When is the best time for autumn leaves in Nikko”? Even though it seems I am babbling here, I better tell you the information that you are searching for.
Between mid-October and late-October is the best time when fall colors in Nikko reach their peak. According to my experience, I warmly welcome you to visit Nikko in the third week of October. Is that clear?
Please note that visitors to central Nikko can still enjoy the autumn foliage during the first week of November.
Where to View Autumn Leaves in Nikko?
The question seems to be the number two concern, while the first one forecasts you about the best time to see autumn foliage. Suppose you know the perfect time to catch beautiful momiji in the area, but you have no practical ideas about the best places to view autumn foliage.
I know this could happen to anyone. Since you are on this site, I will make you aware of this, and so you can leave the site by putting a smile on your face.
I always prefer hunting momiji in the wild rather than seeing them in urban areas. Here in Nikko, I tell you to discover the sight of Okunikko region which is best for its autumn colors.
Beautiful lake, valleys, waterfalls, wide marshlands, trails, sightseeing roads, temples and gardens get dressed up with colorful leaves all over Nikko.
The wide range in elevation from the mountains of the Okunikko region to the Nikko town area down in the valley makes Nikko have the longest coloring season in Japan. It is constant, it hardly changes. The below are the best places to view colors:
1) Lake Chuzenji:
This is one of my best autumn leaves viewing spots in Nikko. Surprisingly, it is my number one spot while on the other hand many people awfully believe that Ryuzu falls is the best one. I shall bring my reasons to have a peaceful debate.
Here it goes! As I like mountainous regions filled with tons of trees that turn colorful in fall season and lakes with blue water, here I strongly believe Lake Chuzenji is what gives everything I want from a beautiful sunny autumn day.
The surrounding areas of this lake are stunning with those colorful forested slopes of the Mount Nantai. There are two ways of enjoying autumn colors, either you walk around the lake or get on a sightseeing cruise.
I think most of you would go with option number two which is time consuming and relaxing but I walked down the paths of the lakes and all of a sudden I lost my mind in the divine autumn nature. You can follow my travel idea if you are adventurous.
In fact, there is another way you can enjoy your time there which is from the Hangetsuyama Observation Deck. Get a nice binocular to see the far autumn foliage across the lake. The best time to see beautiful autumn colors there is from mid October to late October.
2) Ryuzu Falls:
If you enjoy viewing waterfalls, this place is for you. Put this in the first place, and that’s non of my business. Please don’t think I am rude. In fact, I like visiting waterfalls just like you do. I don’t know if Niagara Falls gets covered with autumn colors, but Ryuzu Falls does.
According to my travel experience, most of the Japanese waterfalls look lovely during autumn. It is actually the first spot where the surrounding trees of the waterfall change color in early October in Nikko. The shape of the fall looks like a dragon’s head; as a result, this waterfall was named Ryuzu which simply means ‘the head of a dragon.’
You can follow the upstream along an impressive walking trail to enjoy autumn nature there. Though there is a nice-looking observation deck from which you can witness the mystic autumn colors at no cost.
I think this waterfall is a real pride of Okunikko region. I also request that you visit two other prominent falls: Kirifuri Falls and Urami Falls. These amuse and show you some hidden beauty of Nikko’s autumn nature.
3) Senjogahara Marshland:
Before I was familiar with this spot I was very keen to hear a local’s view of this marshland. I was in a restaurant having my lunch and luckily I got company with a local guy.
He actually made me visit this amazing vast marshland telling that ‘when I was a kid I used to go to the marshland area with my grandfather in the fall season to witness the spectacular view of yellow and reddish color foliage’.
Hearing such I almost was going to offer him to take me there but he himself had offered me the opportunity that I really want! How lucky I was! It is a part of Nikko national park and offers the best hiking experience for real hikers.
We hiked through the beautiful Senjogahara plateau nature trail seeing the yellow golden reddish foliage and surrounding mountains. That time I felt like nature was trying to grasp us! Hey, you come on over here in October and have fun!
4) Irohazaka Winding Road:
Astonishing views of autumn foliage along with waterfalls can be seen here. Irohazaka winding road consists of a pair of roads that are connected with the lower elevation of central Nikko to the higher elevation of Okunikko region.
In the fall, the roads get busier with heavy traffic since no one wants to fall behind you and miss the autumn beauty.
As a foreign tourist you can avoid it by not getting there on weekends or on public holidays. You can enjoy viewing the valley and Irohazaka autumn colors from the observation deck of Akechidaira Plateaus.
If you are serious enough to visit this spot then don’t forget to get here from late October to early November.
5) Yumoto Town:
This area in Nikko is famous for autumn colors and ryokan that have some great hot springs bath facilities. It is another gorgeous landmark of the Nikko National Park. Yumoto could be a small town but you don’t underestimate it when it comes to onsen.
Yumoto town hot springs are a real example of great Japanese onsen. Though, I believe you won’t ever forget the autumn beauty of Yunoko lake and Yudaki waterfall.
Yumoto onsen town, Yunoko lake and Yudaki waterfall are tremendous when surrounding trees’ leaves change their colors. Enjoy three different autumn color spots in a single town in mid October.
6) Kegon Falls:
You have experienced some awesome looking waterfalls so far in Nikko but here is another one that is considered to be one of the best three waterfalls together with Nachi waterfalls and Fukuroda waterfalls in Japan. Wouldn’t it be great to see autumn foliage there then?
It is an approximately 100-meter-tall waterfall that can be enjoyed from a free observation deck, or if you want to see it from a nice spot for an impressive look, then take the elevator. Just don’t forget to pay when you take the elevator.
Being one of the autumn leaf viewing spots in Nikko, it is packed with a lot of crowds in mid October. I think it is a great photogenic spot in Japan! In fact, I am not exaggerating this because I know this place well enough.
7) Shoyoen Garden:
Could we get back to the main town of Nikko now?
I think we could! Here, there is a popular spot for enjoying autumn colors that is called Shoyoen Garden and part of the famous Buddhist temple Rinnoji.
It would certainly be avoided if you make your Nikko trip in early and mid October.
But I request you to stay there a few days to experience this spot in early November. Your time will be gone if you meet locals and decide to hike in the woods. The temple ground has many maple trees that turn red when fall rolls around.
8) The Shinkyo Bridge:
This is one of my favorite places on earth. I adore Japanese style bridges very much, and when it comes to koyo season Japanese Bridges look very gorgeous. Shinkyo bridge is considered one of the most notable bridges in Japan. In general, it is an important asset of Futarasan Shrine.
You can enjoy the autumn color just by walking across the bridge as many times as you want. It features a beautiful scenery of traditional looking Japanese autumn atmosphere. As it is located in central Nikko, getting to this spot is very easy from Shinkyo bus stop. You are advised to come here in early November.
I have described to you the best autumn leaf spots of Nikko. Now, I expect you to visit at least some of these and this is how you would imagine the beauty of Nikko’s autumn colors.
Where to Stay in Nikko?
Nikko offers its visitors high quality of accommodation, many in hotels and ryokans. Nikko’s ryokans offer the best onsen, where you can relax your body and mind after having a long day trip. Everything is in order, whenever you make a call for any help, they are ready to serve you at once.
I could recommend two of my best hotels, they are as follows:
Hotel Shikisai: This is a quite nice ryokan (Japanese inn) with both indoor and outdoor hot springs baths. The hotel itself has a restaurant from where you could have your breakfast and dinner.
It is situated just a 35-minute drive from Nikko Toshogu and Futarasan Shrine. It is a 10-minute drive from the Kegon Waterfall and a 15-minute drive from the Senjo-ga-hara Plateau.
Oyado Ichifuji: When you are in Japan, there is nothing better than staying in a ryokan. In fact, it is a must thing to do for foreign visitors. To make your dream come true you can stay a night at Oyado Ichifuji.
It is located a 5-minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Ropeway. Here visitors hardly leave Nikko without visiting Kinugawa Onsen area that is often considered to be one of the best hot springs resorts in the city of Nikko.
Well, you can find popular hotels and Ryokan around Nikko, so visit here. I hope you find the best deal!
How to Get to Nikko?
I have already informed you that Nikko is located not that far away from central Tokyo.
Nikko is linked with Tokyo by Tobu Railway and Japan railway. If you have Tobu Pass then you would easily get to Nikko from Tokyo covering all the spots I have mentioned here.
Tobu railway offers various free passes for tourists which make it possible to take unlimited train and bus rides.
Useful Travel Tips for Nikko Visitors
1) Don’t lose your passes, always put them in your hand bag, just show them when you are asked.
3) Have local foods because they await you to taste them.
4) I think having a Japanese word book would help you a lot from unexpected trouble. For you I have found a nice Japanese picture dictionary here.
5) Collect the address and phone number of the hotel you are going to stay overnight.
6) Buy unique souvenirs for someone you know back in your home country.
7) Charge your camera battery fully on the night before your trip begins on the next day.
8) Keep your eyes open while you hike.
9) Be polite when meeting local strangers there.
10) Bring all necessary stuff that you need on a daily basis.
I Feel Like I Belong to Nikko
Sometimes I really feel like I belong to beautiful Nikko. You would find a peaceful autumn atmosphere there that sounds to you very relaxing and peaceful at the same time. I know you have your own business in your home country.
Some of you may not have much time to spend time with your family members. But when you are in Nikko just feel like you are free from your daily activities that usually keep you busy.
Beautiful autumn foliage there makes me happy, but it does also make me sad, especially when it’s time for leaving the area. Even though my heart wants to belong to Nikko my body simply pulls me where I really belong.
Enjoy your autumn leaves season in Nikko and if you have been to Nikko before, then share your experience with us by leaving a comment below.