Nikkō [日光(にっこう)]

Nikkō[日光(にっこう)] is a city located in the north-west of Tochigi Prefecture. And Nikkō is one of the most popular sightseeing area in the eastern Japan and has rich nature & historical spots.

In 2006, old Nikkō City merged with Imaichi[今市(いまいち)] City, Fujiwara[藤原(ふじわら)] Town, Ashio[足尾(あしお)] Town and Kuriyama[栗山(くりやま)] Village to form new Nikkō City. The population is about 80,000 and the area is 1,449.83 km² (2016 survey). The area of Nikkō City is the third largest in the cities of Japan.

The history of Nikkō started when Shihonryū-ji Temple[四本龍寺(しほんりゅうじ)](present Rinnō-ji Temple[輪王寺(りんのうじ)]) was founded by a Buddhist monk, Shōdō[勝道(しょうどう)] there in 782. After that, Nikkō became a secret place for mountain worship.

Rinnō-ji Temple.jpg
Rinnō-ji Temple

In 1617, Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine[日光東照宮(にっこうとうしょうぐう)] was built as a mausoleums of Ieyasu Tokugawa[徳川家康(とくがわいえやす)](1543-1616) who was the founder and first Shōgun[将軍(しょうぐん)](the ruler of Japan) of Tokugawa Bakufu[徳川幕府(とくがわばくふ)](Tokugawa shogunate that was the government ruled by Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period). And many roads such as Nikkō Kaidō[日光街道(にっこうかいどう)] were built for pilgrimage to Nikkō. Thereby, many pilgrims became to visit Nikkō and that was prosperous.

Yōmei Gate of Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine.jpg
Yōmei Gate of Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine
Three monkeys of Shinkyū-sha, Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine
Three monkeys of Shinkyū-sha(sacred stable), Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine:
That is a famous sculpture of Tōshō-gū. Three monkeys express teachings, "see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil".

An old road to Nikkō.jpgNikkō Kaidō.jpg
Left: An old road to Nikkō;
Ciders were planted both sides of roads to Nikkō.
Right:"Nikkō Kaidō" by Hasui Kawase

In the Meiji Period(1868-1912), Nikkō developed as a summer resort for foreigners and many hotels such as Kanaya Hotel[金谷(かなや)ホテル] were built. And many villas of embassies were built on the shore of Lake Chūzenji[中禅寺湖(ちゅうぜんじこ)] that has beautiful scenery and is located on high altitude, therefore that is the best place for escaping from the muggy summer in Japan.

Old villa of the Italian embassy
Old villa of the Italian embassy on the shore of Lake Chūzenji

In 1999, Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine, Rinnō-ji Temple and Futarasan Shrine[二荒山神社(ふたらさんじんじゃ)](This shrine enshrines three mountains of Nikkō as gods.) were designated as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Futarasan Shrine.jpg
Futarasan Shrine

The center of the Nikkō is located on the east side of the city. Nikkō Tōshō-gū Shrine and Rinnō-ji Temple is there.

The western Nikkō has rich nature such as lakes, waterfalls and mountains. Lake Chūzenji is named after Chūzen-ji Temple[中禅寺(ちゅうぜんじ)] that is on the shore of Lake Chūzenji and that was founded by Shōdō.

Lake Chūzenji
Lake Chūzenji

That lake is located on 1,269 meters above sea level. A pair of winding roads called "Iroha-zaka[いろは坂(ざか)]" connects the center of city and the shore of Lake Chūzenji. Iroha-zaka is famous for its beautiful colored leaves in autumn. Nihon-zaru[ニホンザル](Japanese monkey) lives there.

Colored leaves from Iroha-zaka
Colored leaves from Iroha-zaka

Kegon Falls[華厳の滝(けごんのたき)](about 97m) flows down from Lake Chūzenji. Kegon Waterfalls is one of three great waterfalls in Japan. There are many other waterfalls in Nikkō such as Kirifuri Falls[霧降の滝(きりふりのたき)] and Ryūzu Falls[竜頭の滝(りゅうずのたき)].

Kegon Falls.jpg
Kegon Falls
Kirifuri Falls

Kirifuri Falls at Mt. Kurokami, Shimotsuke Province.
Left: Kirifuri Falls
Right: Kirifuri Falls by Hokusai Katsushika

In the highlands, you can enjoy many flowers. A flower, "Nikkō-kisuge[ニッコウキスゲ]" which includes the name "Nikkō" lives in Kirifuri Highland[霧降高原(きりふりこうげん)]. Senjyōgahara[戦場ヶ原(せんじょうがはら)] is a marshland that is registered as a wetland under the Ramsar Convention and many alpine plants live there.

Kisugedaira, Kirifuri Highland.jpg
Nikkō-kisuge flowers at Kisugedaira, Kirifuri Highland


And there are many Onsen[温泉(おんせん)](hot springs) around Nikkō such as Nikkō-yumoto[日光湯元(にっこうゆもと)] Onsen, Kinugawa[鬼怒川(きぬがわ)] Onsen, Yunishikawa[湯西川(ゆにしかわ)] Onsen and you can heal the fatigue of trip.

Nikkō-yumoto Onsen.jpg
The hot spring source of Nikkō-yumoto

Nikkō has the specialty such as Yuba[湯葉(ゆば)](a food made from soy milk) and Nikkō-bori[日光彫(にっこうぼり)]( lacquer carving craft of Nikkō).



Nikkō can be easily visited from Tokyo. How about you visit Nikkō.

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