Lonely Planet has released a custom guidebook for Nikko which can be downloaded in PDF format for free. The guide is called “Discover Nikko”, and offers readers an impressive 36 pages of information on attractions in Nikko and how to get there via Tobu Railway from the convenient jumping-off points of Asakusa or Skytree in Tokyo.
The guide is split into 5 themed sections: Shrines and Temples, Nature, Eating, Excursions and Festivals, with a final section, Getting Around, on local transport options once in the Nikko area.
The first section focuses on Nikko’s star UNESCO World Heritage attractions: the Tosho-gu mausoleum - the final resting place of the first Tokugawa shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), boasting scarlet lacquer, gold roofs and intricate wood carvings such as the cheeky Three Monkeys and the diminutive Sleeping Cat - and Nikko Futarasan-jinja shrine and Rinno-ji temple, which both date from the 8th century.
Surrounded by pine-clad mountains in Nikko National Park, one of Japan’s oldest national parks, Nikko is the perfect place for exploring typically Japanese landscapes of sacred mountains, caldera lakes and waterfalls, and the guide caters for every persuasion of activity level with details on recommendations for walks from full-on mountain hikes to enjoyable treks, relaxing strolls - and even scenic drives.
The nature section also introduces readers to iconic Nikko sites such as the vermilion Shinkyo Bridge, dramatic waterfalls such as Kegon Falls, and sulfurous onsen (hot springs), as well as Nikko’s twin lakes - lower and more developed Lake Chuzenji with its ropeway, foreign Embassy villas, and waterfront "pensions" (B&Bs) and tiny, rustic lake Yunoko located at a slightly higher altitude up the zigzagging Irohazaka road.
The guide also covers some local food recommendations such as ayu (sweetfish), shaved ice and - for the more adventurous - yuba (sliced soymilk curd), as well as festivals in every season and great ideas for further excursions from Nikko which promise even more of authentic Japan in the form of “rustic inns, handmade pottery and incredible dumplings”.
The guide can be accessed online for free here: http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/en/pdf/20161212discover.pdf. Make sure you keep it handy for when you next visit Nikko!