The shrines and temples of Nikko National Park have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Thus, the small city in Tochigi Prefecture has become one of the two most popular side-trips outside of Tokyo. The other is Hakone and the Mt. Fuji National Park area.
Due to its cultural significance and historical sites, the area was absolutely mobbed with children on school trips when I visited. One kid even stopped to interview me for a school project. I think he was supposed to speak in English, but we chatted in Japanese instead.
Nikko can be easily reached from Tokyo in around two hours or under, depending on the speed of the train. A twenty minute stroll up the tofu shop-lined main road puts one at the entrance to the park.
Below, you'll see pictures from the different shrine and temple complexes. The three main sights can all be accessed thanks to a handy $10 tourist pass. The most famous structure in the park is the exorbitantly decorated Toshogu Shrine; the mausoleum of the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate.
In addition to the intricate carvings of some of the nations most beautiful historical properties, one is never far from nature. From lakes to mountains to waterfalls - Nikko has an abundance of serene, untarnished natural beauty that unfolds for and envelops the eager traveler.
Did I mention there's a pound cake factory with free samples?