Thinking of making a trip from Tokyo to Nikkō? With awesome nature year-round, grand shrines, and waterfalls, it’s a no-brainer for a day trip or overnight adventure.
We’ve got a whole guide to Nikkō ready for you, but first you’ve got to get there. Located in Tochigi Prefecture about 120 km north of Tokyo, Nikkō is best accessed via rail. Read on to find out more about these options, including which trains are the fastest and cheapest.
How to get from Tokyo to Nikkō
By far the simplest, cheapest (and most popular) way of getting from Tokyo to Nikkō is by train. The area is served by JR and Tobu lines, with trains leaving Tokyo at least once an hour. The trip takes about two hours and discount passes are available to knock the trainfare down.
The Nikkō World Heritage Pass is a two-day pass that costs just ¥2,120. It includes round-trip travel from Asakusa Station to Tobu-Nikkō Station and unlimited train rides within the Central Nikkō area — including up to Edo Nikkō Wonderland. Considering most other rail options cost at least ¥1,400 one-way (for the slowest trains), this pass is undeniably good value.
Note: The Nikkō World Heritage Area Pass does not cover bus travel to Nikkō’s mountainous area where you’ll find Lake Chunzenji and Kegon Falls, and you’ll have to pay extra to get on the limited express trains.
Comparing Tokyo to Nikkō transport options
|Tobu Limited Express Train Route||★★★★★||¥3,050 or partly incl. in Tobu Pass||1 hour 50 mins (from Asakusa St.)||2.9kg CO2||From Viator or Klook: pick-up / digital ticket|
|Tobu Local Train Route||★★☆☆☆||¥1,400 or inc. in Tobu Pass||2 hours 43 mins (from Asakusa St.)||2.9kg CO2||From Viator or Klook: pick-up / digital ticket|
|Spacia X||★★★★★||¥3,540 (Standard seating)||1 hour 50 mins (from Asakusa St.)||1.22kg CO2||Book here|
|JR Train Route||★★★★☆||¥5,150 (unreserved) or inc. in JR Pass||1 hour 55 mins (from Tokyo St.)||1.8kg CO2||Japan Rail Pass (via Klook)|
|Tours||★★★★☆||¥7,500 and up||8 – 11 hours (travel + sightseeing)||CO2 Undetermined||Top rated tours on Viator and Klook|
|Private Driver||★★★★★||¥64,000 for 4||8 – 11 hours (travel + sightseeing)||CO2 Undetermined||Book with Viator|
Discount passes for Nikkō
Tobu offers two main passes to save you a few yen:
- The Nikkō World Heritage Area Pass — a two-day pass for ¥2,120. It includes a round-trip train ride (though you need to pay extra for the limited express trains), unlimited train rides in the Nikkō area, and unlimited rides on designated local buses. Available to buy online from Viator and Klook.
- The Nikkō All Area Pass — a four-day pass for ¥4,780 (slightly less in the off-season). It includes the train and bus bits, plus unlimited rides on a bunch more bus routes so that you can max out the sightseeing.
The above passes need to be picked up from Asakusa Station, so allow yourself extra time to do this. Alternatively, you can now buy digital versions of the same passes. The price is the same, however, you won’t need to pick up physical tickets. Instead, just show the digital ticket to the station staff when boarding.
What is the difference between the two Nikkō passes?
Apart from the amount of days each covers — The Nikkō World Heritage Area Pass covers two days and the Nikko All Area Pass covers four — there is also a difference in what destinations you can visit on each.
Both provide round trip tickets from Asakusa Station to Tobu-Nikko Station, plus access to the World Heritage loop bus. The 2-day World Heritage Pass is useful for those whose primary interest is the shrines and temples of Nikkō, but if you are planning on going further afield to Lake Chūzenji and Kegon Falls, then you’ll need the Nikko All Area Pass or a separate bus pass. This is the Tobu Bus Chūzenji Onsen Pass (¥2,300) and can be bought online or at the station when you arrive.
Different types of trains from Tokyo to Nikkō
Two railway companies have services between Tokyo and Nikkō. One is Japan Rail (JR), which has a Shinkansen line that will get you part of the way to Nikkō. The other is the Tobu Railway company which operates the Tobu-Nikkō Line — this can get you from Asakusa to Nikkō without the need for a transfer.
These rail options all take around 2 hours, but there is quite a lot of variance in price, with the Tobu-Nikkō Line the most affordable option. Tobu Railway also has a few different discount passes available, making it stand out as the better option.
Tobu-only routes: The cheapest option¥3,050
1 hour 50 mins
Tobu Railway operates several different services between Asakusa Station and Tobu-Nikkō Station. The Limited Express trains will get you there the fastest in just 1 hour and 50 minutes, for ¥3,050 one-way. You’ll have a choice between the Kegon, Revaty, and Kinu; opt for the Kegon or Revaty if your schedule allows, as it’s faster and more direct (the Kinu requires a quick transfer at Shimo-Imaichi Station, but is slightly cheaper at ¥2,850).
Note that seats need to be reserved on the Limited Express trains and you’ll have to pay extra if you have one of the Nikkō passes (as this only covers ¥1,400 each way of the price). You can do that at the station or here.
You can opt to take a local or express train instead — this slashes the price to only the basic fare of ¥1,400 but can add 30+ minutes to the journey.
The Spacia X: Limited Express luxury and speed¥3,540
1 hour 50 minutes
For a unique experience, a few times a day you can take the Tobu-operated Spacia X train, which runs along the same route as their other limited express routes. While pricier than other limited express services, you’re looking at no transfers and a beautifully designed series of train carriages. While we’ve listed the price for the standard seats, you can also book box seats, sofas, or even the entire cockpit car for a special occasion.
The Spacia X is popular, and seats need to be booked in advance. Two outbound trains are available on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings, while four are available for the rest of the week.
JR-only routes: For JR Pass holders¥5,680
Just under 2 hours
If you want to use your JR Pass to get from Tokyo to Nikkō, take the JR Tōhoku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya Station. Then transfer to the JR Nikkō Line, which will deposit you at JR Nikkō Station (a short walk from Tobu-Nikkō). The whole trip takes just under 2 hours and costs around ¥5,680 for reserved seating without the JR Pass, making it a poor choice for other travelers.
Pro tip: It’s also possible to take local or rapid trains on the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku to Utsunomiya, then transfer to the JR Nikkō Line. This takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to 3 hours and costs ¥2,750 one-way.
JR + Tobu routes: For Tokyo-Wide and JR East Pass holders¥4,090
Just under 2 hours
You can also take a train from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro to Tobu-Nikkō Station. JR East runs direct limited express trains on this route, partnering with Tobu Railway for part of the journey. Because of the line sharing, the JR Pass doesn’t cover 100% of the fare — but if you have a JR Tokyo Wide Pass or one of the other JR East regional passes, you’re all sorted.
The Limited Express trains run just once a day at 9:34 am (with a second on weekends at 7:31 am), and get you to Nikkō in just under 2 hours. The fare is approximately ¥4,090 one way and seats need to be reserved.
Guided tours from Tokyo to Nikkō
A number of guided tours take you from Tokyo to Nikkō. For example, this top-rated Nikkō tour includes a visit to Tōshōgū Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, and Kegon Falls. Prices start from ¥15,000 per person.
If you’re in a group, a private Nikkō tour with an English-speaking driver (not guide per se) is recommended.
You get to hit up all the famous spots like Tōshōgū Shrine and Lake Chūzenji, but in the quiet comfort of a private vehicle. A group of up to four people costs ¥64,000 all in, while a group of up to 13 can be accommodated in a minivan for ¥71,795 total.
If you would prefer a driver who can be more of a guide, this private English-speaking driver tour costs ¥90,000 – ¥150,000 for up to 13 passengers.
Where to stay: Accommodation in Nikkō
You’ll find lots more suggestions for overnight accommodation in our guide to Nikkō, but quick picks include Nikkō Akarinoyado Villa Revage (mid-range) or the very popular Nikkō Park Lodge (cheap-cheap) near Tobu-Nikkō Station.
If possible, spending the night in Nikkō is recommended — it gives you more time to explore the highlights (and hidden areas) of Nikkō and makes for a more relaxing experience overall.
Pro tip: There’s more to Tochigi Prefecture than just Nikkō! Ashikaga City is well worth adding to your itinerary.
While we do our best to ensure information is correct, it is subject to change. Post first published in October 2017. Last updated in September 2023.