Thinking of making a short 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 cheapo-oriented 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 are the fastest, and — of course — which are the cheapest.

nikko bridge
Nature awaits you in Nikkō. | Photo by

Options for getting 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.

In particular we recommend the Nikkō World Heritage Area Pass, 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 Nikkō area. Considering most other rail options cost at least ¥2,750 one-way, this pass is undeniably good value.

Quick Comparison of Tokyo to Nikkō Transport Options

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TransportComfortPriceTimeEmissionsBooking Links
Tobu Train Route★★★★★¥2,750 or inc. in Tobu Pass 1 hour 50 mins (from Asakusa St.)2.9kg CO2Tobu Nikkō Passpick-up/digital ticket
JR Train Route★★★★☆¥5,150 (unreserved) or inc. in JR Pass 1 hour 55 mins (from Tokyo St.)1.8kg CO2Japan Rail Pass
Tours★★★★☆¥6,600 and up8 – 11 hours (travel + sightseing)CO2 UndeterminedSuggested Tours

Trains from Tokyo to Nikkō

Tokyo to Nikko train
A Tobu-Nikkō Line train. | Photo by

There are two railway companies that have services between Tokyo and Nikkō. The first of course 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 who operate the Tobu-Nikkō Line — which 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 few different discount passes available, making it really stand out as the better option.

Tobu-only Routes: The cheapest option

1 hour 50 mins

Tobu Railway operate several different services between Asakusa Station and Tobu-Nikkō Station. The Limited Express trains will get you there fastest, in just 1 hour and 50 minutes and costing ¥2,750 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.

You can opt to take a local or express train instead — this slashes the price in half, but can add 30+ minutes to the journey.

Discount passes

Tobu offers two different 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 not on the limited expresses), unlimited train rides in the Nikkō area, and unlimited rides on designated local buses.
  • 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. Alterntively, you can now also 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 station staff when boarding.

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However, if you do opt for the digital ticket, we recommend getting a Japanese SIM card or pocket WiFi so that you can easily access your ticket.

JR-only Routes: For JR Pass Holders

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

Just under 2 hours
The direct Limited Express route is currently unavailable — hopefully it will be back soon!

You can also take a train from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro to Tobu-Nikkō Station. JR 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 four times a day (the first one leaves JR Shinjuku at 7:30 a.m., the last one at 5:32 p.m.), get you to Nikkō in just under 2 hours, and cost close to ¥4,000 one way. Seats need to be reserved.

Nikko shrine UNESCO
Nikkō Tōshōgū Shrine | Photo by

Tours from Tokyo to Nikkō

There are some good tours which take you from Tokyo to Nikkō. One is this guided day trip that includes a visit to Tōshōgū Shrine, Kogen Falls, Lake Chūzenji and the relaxing Nikko Hot Springs. Prices start from ¥12,800 per person.

If you’re in a group this private tour with an English speaking driver is perfect. You get to hit up all the famous spots like Tōshōgū Shrine Shrine and Lake Chūzenji, but in the privacy and comfort of a private vehicle. A group of up to five people costs ¥80,600 all up, while a group of up to eight can be accommodated in a minivan for ¥88,400 total.

Accommodation in Nikkō

You’ll find 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 it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated in May 2023 by Maria Danuco.

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