Thinking of making a short trip from Tokyo to Nikko? With awesome nature (which is particularly picturesque in spring and autumn), grand shrines and waterfalls, it’s a no-brainer for a day trip or overnight adventure. For more information on Nikko itself, check out our cheapo-oriented post on the place. For the lowdown on ways to get there, just scroll down!
Tokyo to Nikko: The basics
By far the simplest, cheapest (and most popular) way of getting from Tokyo to Nikko 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 train fare down to cheapo-friendly amounts. For those not keen on taking a train, there are a few bus and private tour options—see below for deets.
Tobu is the dominant name in the Tokyo to Nikko rail network, ferrying huge numbers of tourists from Asakusa to Tobu-Nikko (and Kinugawa) in fancy limited express trains. These depart about twice an hour and cost close to ¥2,700 one way. You’ll have a choice between the Kegon and Kinu; opt for the former if your schedule allows, as it’s faster and more direct (the Kinu requires a quick transfer at Shimo-Imaichi Station). Note that seats need to be reserved on the limited express trains.
Cheapos can opt to take local and express trains instead—this slashes the price in half, but can add 30+ minutes to the journey.
Tobu offers three different passes to save you a few yen:
- The Nikko City Area Pass – a two-day pass for ¥2,670 that includes a round-trip train ride (though not on the limited expresses), unlimited train rides in the Nikko area, and unlimited rides on designated local buses
- The Theme Park and Nikko City Area Pass – a two-day pass for ¥8,010 that includes all of the above, plus tickets to Tobu World Square and Edo Wonderland
- The Nikko All Area Pass – a four-day pass for ¥4,520 (slightly less in the off-season) that includes the train and bus bits, plus unlimited rides on a bunch more bus routes, so that you can max out the sightseeing
You can buy the discount passes from Tobu tour outlets, or get them through GoVoyagin to save time.
JR + Tobu
You can also take a train from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro to Tobu-Nikko. JR runs direct limited express trains on this route, partnering with Tobu 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 expresses run just four times a day (the first one leaves JR Shinjuku at 7:30am, the last one at 5:32pm), get you to Nikko in just under two hours, and cost close to ¥4,000 one way. Seats need to be reserved.
JR only (for JR Pass holders)
If you want to use your JR Pass, the best way to get from Tokyo to Nikko is to take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Utsunomiya Station, then transfer to the JR Nikko Line, which will deposit you at JR Nikko Station (a short walk from Tobu-Nikko). The whole trip takes about 100 minutes, and costs around ¥5,320 without the JR Pass (making it a poor choice for other travelers).
Cheapo 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 Nikko Line. This takes 2.5 – 3 hours and costs ¥2,590 one way.
Highway buses from Tokyo to Nikko are rumored to have once existed, but we haven’t been able to get reliable information on these alleged services. If you look up buses from Tokyo to Nikko, what you’ll find is a basic sightseeing bus operated by Tobu’s bus division. It starts and ends at Tokyo Station and takes in Kegon Falls, Toshogu Shrine and a couple of other shrines and temples, and includes a Western-style lunch. Before booking a seat, though, take a look at the other tour options below.
There are a couple of other good tours which take you from Tokyo to Nikko. One is a small minibus tour that comes complete with a multilingual guide (English, French and Japanese) and takes you to Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls, with scenic walks and a lunch break included (though the meal is extra). Prices start from ¥8,355 per person.
Another is this private van tour that also includes multilingual guide and takes you to the sights mentioned above, as well as the Edo Wonderland theme park or more waterfalls, a historical battlefield, hot spring or sake brewery—all depending on what you’re interested in. Prices start at ¥11,000, but lunch and entrance fees for the attractions are extra. Road tolls and parking fees may also need to be budgeted for in both of these tours—but they work out to be pretty economical for groups.
You’ll find a few suggestions for overnight accommodation in our guide to Nikko, but you can also stay at Nikko Akarinoyado Villa Revage (mid-range) or the very popular Nikko Park Lodge (cheap-cheap) near Tobu-Nikko Station. If possible, spending the night in Nikko is recommended—it gives you more time to explore the highlights (and hidden areas) of Nikko, and makes for a more relaxing experience overall.
Cheapo tip: There’s more to Tochigi Prefecture than just Nikko! Ashikaga City is well worth adding to your itinerary.
Connect with Tokyo Cheapo on social media! Tag posts about your Nikko trip with #tokyocheapo—we’ll keep an eye out!
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