Ultimate Autumn Hiking in Nikko  

STORY BY Debbie 30th September 2020

While autumn foliage can be enjoyed all over Japan, Nikko in Tochigi prefecture is the ultimate destination for leaf hunters. The many ways to experience this spectacular landscape include hiking to Lake Chuzenji to take a cruise for incredible views of the surrounding mountains, taking an aerial tramway up to a 1,373m high observation deck for a panoramic view that includes Kegon Falls, or walking through the rugged beauty of Ryuokyo Canyon, conveniently located between two indulgent hot springs. Heading deep into the nature of Nikko will mean you’re joining a tradition that started more than a millennium ago, with the Heian courtiers and their exquisitely refined culture of aesthetics. It’s also a great way to try out what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”. This mindful approach involves careful observation of your surroundings and deep breathing of the forest air in order to soak in the many benefits of full engagement with nature. 

Find out about all of Nikko’s autumn highlights here.

Warm Up with Heritage Sake

The cooler temperatures of autumn and the getting together with friends to enjoy the highlights of the season make this a perfect time to share a bottle or two of Japan’s traditional tipple (sake released in the autumn is called aki-agari). Katayama Shuzo has been producing sake since 1880 and has now opened its doors to visitors so they can see first-hand the processes involved in making traditional sake. Katayama Shuzo still uses the labour-intensive Sase style pressing method to extract sake—the time and effort involved means only around 10% of sake producers still use this method. Drop in with some friends to tour the brewery, try some of the brewery’s range, and pick up a few bottles to take home too.

You’ll need to reserve a place on the tour in advance. Find out more here.

Hot Spring Heaven  

Soaking in a hot spring is an indulgence that’s of course much harder to recreate at home—you really do have to make the trip to Japan to enjoy it. An outdoor soak in naturally heated waters after a long day of hiking is the ultimate in relaxation and the areas covered by the Tobu network have plenty of options for onsen (hot springs). Head to Kinugawa Onsen, a hot spring resort built along the Kinugawa river just two hours from Tokyo and take your pick from the many hotels, each boasting various indoor and outdoor baths Nearby you’ll find the Nichien-Momiji line, a section of road famous for its foliage and waterfalls (you can bike or drive), and you can enjoy a guided boat trip down the Kinugawa River for stunning views of rock formations and fall foliage. 
Find out more here.

Nikko Passes: No Better Deal for Travel in Nikko

Tobu Railway offers two fantastic passes designed to help you make the most of any trip to Nikko. the NIKKO PASS ALL AREA (4,600 yen [20 Apr-30 Nov] or 4,230 yen [1 Dec-19 Apr] /adult; 4 day validity) covers the whole Nikko area, while the NIKKO PASS World Heritage Area (2,040 yen/ adult; 2 day validity) is ideal if you plan to concentrate on the incredible world heritage sites that Nikko has to offer. Both passes include a round journey from Tokyo, free bus rides in the applicable area, a 20% discount on express train fares, and discounts and offers at shops and restaurants. Passes can be bought online here.

Tobu’s Commitment to COVID-19 Countermeasures

The Tobu Group is committed to implementing appropriate measures to protect our customers and visitors from the risk of infection. At TOKYO SKYTREE, we’ve introduced a suite of measures including enhanced cleaning schedules, masks and other PPE for employees, and temperature checks for visitors on entry. Visitors are also required to wear masks for the duration of their visit. We’ve also introduced similar measures on our trains, for example regular disinfection of train interiors and ensuring windows are kept open for better ventilation. Passengers are also requested to wear masks while on our trains.Find out more about measures here.

Travel to Japan during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Japan is now exempt from UK government advice against “all but essential” international travel. However, as of September 18, 2020, foreign nationals who have stayed in the United Kingdom within 14 days prior to the application for landing in Japan will be denied permission to enter, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Where permission to enter is granted, foreign nationals will be quarantined for 14 days and required to undergo testing.

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