Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Tochigi 2017.10.12

Oku-Nikko, with Lake Chuzenji and the impressive Kegon Falls, is a beautiful area which used to be the favorite retreat of imperial princes and ambassadors. This itinerary allows you to enjoy the best sights and cuisine of Oku-Nikko!

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While many Japan travelers know of the beauty and culture of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, especially Toshogu Shrine or Shinkyo Bridge, not many realize that even more history and nature await them a short bus ride away - in Oku-Nikko!

With scenery that enlivens the eyes and cultural structures maintained since Japan’s Meiji Era, Oku-Nikko is a great place to add to any Nikko trip.

Satisfy your historical curiosity and your craving for nature. Let’s go on a day-trip to Oku-Nikko!

7:30 -- Taking the Spacia Express from Tobu Asakusa Station

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

The trip begins a little early, with a 7:30 train ride on the Spacia Express from Tobu Asakusa Station. It costs 2,700 yen and we’ll arrive at 9:20, which will give us plenty of time to enjoy our day. At the Tobu Ticket Office located within Asakusa Station, you can also purchase the Nikko All Area Pass, a discount pass available only for foreign visitors to Japan. From a 20% discount on the ride with Spacia Express to various other discounts at sightseeing spots, shops and restaurants, this pass is extremely convenient.

Once you get off the train at Tobu Nikko Station, buy the Chuzenji Onsen Free Pass for 2,000 yen, which can be used on Tobu Bus lines. This pass provides unlimited bus transportation to our fascinating sites and is an even better value if you plan on staying overnight since it’s good for two days.

We’ll be getting on the bus toward Chuzenji Onsen (stop 2C) at 9:35, so get in line at the bus terminal in front of the station. Our stop is the Nikko Tamozawa Goyotei Kinen Koen Bus Stop.

9:45 -- Visit the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

If you appreciate architecture and beautiful gardens, you will love this facility.

Originally constructed in 1899 as a retreat for the prince who later became Emperor Taisho, of the Taisho Era (1912-1926), the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa is a master study of the history of Japanese architectural technique.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Following Emperor Taisho, the Villa was used, and added to, by three subsequent Emperors and three Princes up to 1947. This means that the Edo-style structure was added to in Meiji and Taisho, collecting together the best architectural styles of three different eras.

The current structure within the Memorial Park was restored by the Tochigi Prefectural Government to provide all visitors with an experience like no other: a walk through the halls of Japanese history, shifting from one architectural era to the next. The garden outside is also a treasure and is particularly beautiful in the fall.

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Entrance costs 510 yen for an adult, and a self-guided tour takes about 30 minutes to one hour. You can rent an audio guide in English, along with other languages, and can check any heavy bags into free lockers in the front lobby.

Take your time, and then head back to the bus stop to catch the 11:18 bus onward. Be careful about which bus you board, because some do not go far enough to reach our next destination.

We’re headed to Fune no Eki Chuzenjiko bus stop, and will arrive around 12:00 pm. It’s time to eat!

12:15 Lunch at Chez Hoshino

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Near the bus stop, down the hill, and across the street, is where we’ll eat lunch at Chez Hoshino. Not only will you enjoy a delicious western-style course meal, but you’ll realize that Oku-Nikko originally flourished as a retreat area for various European countries at the turn of the century. Just ask the restaurant master, who is glad to welcome his guests with well-seasoned food and stories of Oku-Nikko’s history.

The A-Course Menu at 2,200 is highly recommended - Rainbow Trout Meuniere.

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

The fish is so rich and fulfilling! You can enjoy it while gazing out at the garden or the art on the walls, which changes periodically to display local works. According to the master, there are events held at the restaurant as well, such as music performances, so you might get lucky and enjoy some piano accompaniment to your meal.

For more information, be sure to visit the restaurant website at http://www.chez-hoshino.net/menu/index.html

After lunch, head to the dock! We’re getting on a cruise ship to go to the old British and Italian Embassy Retreats, restored recently, and a boat ride is a perfect way to let our lunch settle!

13:30 -- Lake Chuzenji Steamship Cruise

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

It's beautiful here beside the lake, and cooler with the wind. Make sure to have a jacket with you as you head down to the dock. A 50-minute cruise ride to Tachikikannonmae (our stop) around Lake Chuzenji costs about 1150 yen. Purchase your fare at the dockside ticket office and hop on the steamship.

Lake Chuzenji was created 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai, the large mountain you can see from the boat, erupted. The water is clear, but surprisingly there are no native fish to the lake. The fish now prospering here were introduced to the lake, and are fished for sport.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Riding on the top of the boat is so freeing, with wind tugging at your hair. If it gets too cold, you can always rest in one of the cushioned sheet viewing areas on the 1st or 2nd level while listening to the audio tour.

Our stop is Tachikikannonmae. Once off the boat, it’s a 10 minute walk, pleasant beside the lake and under the trees, to the restored Embassy Villas. The path is an easy one to follow.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing
Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Turn to your right once you leave the boat dock and follow the signs over wood, brick, and pavement.

14:20 -- Italian and British Embassy Villa Memorial Parks

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

You’ll come upon the British Embassy Villa first at the end of the path. Here you’ll buy a 300 yen pass that allows you entrance to the restored Italian Embassy Villa down the road as well.

The British Embassy Villa was built in the 19th century. This long, two-story structure faces the lake with a gorgeous view. The Villa really takes advantage of this through wall to wall sliding doors.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

The Italian Embassy Villa, found by a path at the far end of the British Villa, was constructed in the early 20th century.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

It is a work of wooden architectural art, and will immediately suck you in with its sense of comfort.

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Both Villas were originally intended as retreats for their respective ambassadors, who were said to have enjoyed Oku-Nikko because the scenery and weather felt similar to their home countries. They have now been returned to the prefecture, and Tochigi has recently restored them for public viewing and enjoyment.

Oku-Nikko--Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Once you’ve had your fill of lake views and luxury, head back. Our last stop for today is one of Japan’s most beautiful, and famed, waterfalls: Kegon Falls.

If you are visiting in July, August, October, or early November, you can catch the bus there by the stop near the boat dock. If not, it’s an easy stroll of about 35 minutes in that direction down the road.

16:20 -- Kegon Falls

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

A waterfall of approximately 97 meters that branches off into smaller waterfalls, Kegon Falls is a sight to behold.

For a 550 yen ticket, you can ride an elevator constructed in 1930 down to the falls’ base. From here there is a platform of three levels to enjoy various viewing angles. (Please be careful about time, because the elevator closes at 16:30 or 17:00 depending on the season.)

You can really feel the immenseness of the falls as they roar and sprinkle you from the platform. No picture is a bad picture from this distance.

There is a souvenir shop here, but there are also a number of shops you may have noticed around the elevator facility up top. Once you do go back up, don’t forget to check out the view from the top, free of charge, to the left after exiting the building.

If you have time before the bus, why not eat a delicious strawberry sundae from Restaurant Nikko’s food stand?

Oku-Nikko - Architectural Wonders You Didn't Know You Were Missing

Local strawberries, homemade sauce, and ice-cream made from Tochigi dairy, it’s fresh, tart, and sensory-exploding.

16:50 or 17:27 -- Take the Bus Back to Tobu Nikko Station

There’s a bus stop right across the street from Kegon Falls. Hop on and head back to Tobu Nikko Station. The train back to Asakusa leaves at 18:39. Speak to the station staff at the ticket gate to buy your tickets, which should be about 2700 yen. You may receive two tickets, as you will change trains at Shimo Imaichi to an Express Train.

After an adventurous day of history, architecture, and beautiful scenery, you'll be back in Tokyo at 20:45.

Oku-Nikko Route Summary
Tokyo (Tobu Asakusa Station) → Nikko → Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa → Lunch at Chez Hoshino (Oku-Nikko) → Lake Chuzenji → Italian and British Embassy Villa Memorial Parks → Kegon Falls → Tobu Nikko Station → Tobu Asakusa Station

Tokyo to Nikko round-trip fare: 5400 yen
Chuzenji Onsen Free Pass: 2000 yen
Lake Chuzenji Steamship Cruise: 1150 yen
Lunch and other expenses: around 3000 yen

Supported by Nikko City

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