Thinking of making a short trip from Tokyo to Nikko? With awesome nature (which is particularly picturesque in spring and autumn, though wonderful in winter and summer too), grand shrines and waterfalls, it’s a no-brainer for a day trip or overnight adventure. For more information on the place itself, check out our cheapo-oriented guide to Nikko. For ways to get there, scroll down.
Quick Comparison of Tokyo to Nikko Transport Options
|Tobu Train Route||★★★★★||¥2,750 or inc. in Tobu Pass||1 hour 50 mins (from Asakusa St.)||2.9kg CO2||Tobu Nikko Pass|
|JR Train Route||★★★★☆||¥5,150 (unreserved) or inc. in JR Pass||1 hour 55 mins (from Tokyo St.)||1.8kg CO2||Japan Rail Pass|
|Bus||★★★★☆||¥2,500||3 hours 30 mins (from Toyko St.)||6.5kg CO2||Search Buses|
|Tours||★★★★☆||¥6,600 and up||8 – 11 hours (travel + sightseing)||CO2 Undetermined||Suggested Tours|
1. 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 trainfare down.
2. Trains from Tokyo to Nikko
There are a mix of different train combinations to take between Tokyo and Nikko, allowing you to make the most of different passes and choose cheaper or faster options depending on your plans.
Tobu-only Routes: Express Trains and Discount Passes
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 ¥2,750 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.
Pro tip: You 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 two different passes to save you a few yen:
- The Nikko World Heritage Area Pass – a two-day pass for ¥2,120 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 Nikko All Area Pass – a four-day pass for ¥4,780 (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
JR + Tobu Routes: For Tokyo-Wide and JR East Pass Holders
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-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 Express trains 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 Routes: 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 just under two hours and costs around ¥5,150 for unreserved 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 Nikko Line. This takes 2.5 – 3 hours and costs ¥2,640 one way.
3. Buses from Tokyo to Nikko
Highway buses from Tokyo to Nikko are rather limited, but you can take one from Tokyo Station, with tickets starting at ¥2,500. If you look up other 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…
4. Tours from Tokyo to Nikko
There are a couple of other good tours which take you from Tokyo to Nikko. One is a group tour that comes complete with a multilingual guide and takes you to Toshogu Shrine and Kogen falls. Depending on the season you’ll also go to either Lake Chuzenji or some hot springs. Prices start from ¥10,500 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 Toshogu Shrine and Lake Chuzenji, but in the privacy and comfort of a private vehicle. A group of up to three people costs ¥90,000 all up, while a group of up to five can be accommodated in a minivan for ¥102,000 total.
5. Accommodation in Nikko
You’ll find suggestions for overnight accommodation in our guide to Nikko, but quick picks include 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.
Pro tip: There’s more to Tochigi Prefecture than just Nikko! Ashikaga City is well worth adding to your itinerary.
While we do our best to ensure that everything is correct, information is subject to change. Originally published in October, 2017. Last updated in May, 2022.