Soothe Your Body and Calm Your Mind at Nikkozan Onsenji Temple

Venture off Nikko’s beaten path to Nikkozan Onsenji Temple, a secluded Buddhist temple tucked away in the Okunikko area of Nikko National Park. As its name suggests, the temple has on-site hot springs (onsen) open to the public, which draw water from the same springs that supply nearby Yumoto Onsen hot spring resort. After a relaxing soak, try your hand at shakyo, the practice of copying Buddhist sutras (ancient scriptures), for a moment of quiet contemplation that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

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Enjoy Nikko’s natural beauty

Stroll a section of Nikko Suginamiki Kaido (Nikko Cedar Avenue), lined with towering cedar trees, for the ultimate immersion in Nikko’s nature. The avenue extends 35 kilometers to the World Heritage Shrines and Temples of Nikko. Nikko Suginamiki Koen Park surrounds and protects Nikko Suginamiki Kaido, and features an old-fashioned water mill once used in the production of cedar incense sticks. Enjoy seasonal flowers, including Japanese primrose at Senjugahama Beach on Lake Chuzenji (June), and the bright yellow Nikko kisuge, a type of daylily, at Kirifuri Highland (late June–early July). Rafting and canyoning on the Kinugawa River provide hours of fun and an adventurous way to escape the heat. For an even greater physical challenge, hike up Mt. Nikko-Shirane (2,578 m) for panoramic views of Lake Chuzenji and Mt. Nantai, while enjoying the cooler air at high altitudes.

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Starry summer skies

The stars have played an important role in Nikko’s history and for the Tokugawa Shogunate. Several of the temples and shrines in Nikko have connections to the stars. Nikko Toshogu Shrine’s Yomei-mon Gate is positioned directly below the North Star, which is considered the supreme deity of the universe. It is believed that Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) hoped to reign as “Japan’s North Star” and bring peace to the world. The shrines and temples spread out around the Sannai area of Nikko are arranged according to the constellation Orion, positioning the area as a “place of prayer” to the heavens. In summer, visitors can see many constellations from vantage points around Nikko, including the Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb, and Altair), Scorpius, Libra, and many more. Yumoto Ski Resort, Nikko Onsenji Temple, and Kirifuri Highlands are excellent places to stargaze. Camping is another great way to enjoy Nikko’s night sky. The Shobugahama Campground on the northern shore of Lake Chuzenji is a peaceful spot to watch the stars while listening to the sound of water lapping the lakeshore.

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Festivals and fireworks

Japanese summers are celebrated for enthralling festivals and fireworks displays. The Ryuo Festival is one of the Kinugawa Onsen area’s great summer spectacles, centering on solemn Shinto rituals followed by parades of illuminated portable shrines through Kinugawa Onsen, and impressive firework displays. In July and August, the night skies are lit up with bursts of color during the Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen fireworks. In 2021, fireworks will be set off over Kinugawa Onsen to commemorate the 330th opening of Kinugawa and Kawaji Onsen hot spring resorts every Saturday from July to December. The displays will start at 9:00 p.m., lighting up the sky for around 8 minutes.

Areas of Nikko