Nikko: A Small Sanctuary in Japan


Living abroad gives you the opportunity to explore the less-traveled destinations of the country you live in. As a Tokyo-based lawyer, Indonesia Mengglobal Contributor Steffen Hadi had the chance to travel around Japan and experience the beauty and culture of the country. In this article, Steffen introduces us to the wonders of Nikko, Japan.


Autumn is almost here! Taking a break from discussing the more serious topics (which I did for my few previous articles), let us discuss a fun one for this article. In this opportunity, I would like to introduce you to a specific location in Japan, which could be your ultimate travel destination choice during autumn in Japan. I would call this place, a small sanctuary in Japan: Nikko!

Interesting Background

Nikko is a small city in the Tochigi prefecture of Japan. It is quite near from Tokyo, just around two hours driving from the capital. As a small city, Nikko did not have any historical significance until around the 17th century, when a lavish and majestic tomb was built within the vicinity of Nikko. The tomb was dedicated to no ordinary person, as he was the former shogun and the founder of Japan’s Tokugawa dynasty, ruling from the 17th century until the 19th century. Yup, Nikko is the final resting place for Tokugawa Ieyasu.

What is in Nikko?

As the final resting place for the great shogun, Nikko was chosen for no ordinary reason. Meticulous selection was conducted before it was decided that Nikko would be the location for the lavish tomb. The geographical condition, religious affinity and some mythical consideration were considered among other various things, which were taken into account. So, Nikko is perceived to have a special distinction, which differs it from other cities in Japan.

Nikko has both man-made and natural wonders. Within the city, you could visit the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The tomb itself is an enormous complex consisting of a Buddhist temple, a Shinto shrine and the tomb.  The main attraction is Nikko Tosho-gu, where you could see an exotic structure built so majestic to honor the ex-shogun.  To visit all of the attractions within the complex would require no less than an hour. Very near from the complex, you could also visit Shinkyo Bridge, a very exotic bridge preserved from the 17th century in its original structure. A very scenic location to take pictures.


Moving farther from the city, you could visit Nikko’s natural wonders. There is the Irohazaka road, which climbs up to a mountain. You could see many trees along the road and it is a very stunning view during autumn. Then after passing the mountain, you would arrive in a very small town where you could visit Kengon Waterfall and Chuzenji Lake. A little bit further from the small town, thereare plenty of temples and hot springs, which could complete your natural pilgrimage in Nikko.


Nikko is very accessible. You can drive or take train from Tokyo to the city. You can take either the Shinkansen or other regularly scheduled trains to get there. Accessibility within the city itself is very convenient. If you take the train, once you arrive at the station there is a day-pass that you can use to pay for all of the public transportation modes in the city within a day. The staff at the Tourist Information Center speak English well and they can explain to you about all of the tourist destinations around the city and the estimated hours needed for you to visit them. Planning your schedule is important when traveling in the city because the bus services stop in the afternoon.


All in all, Nikko is an anti-mainstream destination that could visit with your loved ones. It is a guaranteed pleasant experience for you!


Photos provided by the author

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Steffen Hadi studied LL.M. in University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton Business and Law Certificate of the Wharton School at the same university. He was the Class President of Penn Law LL.M. Class 2016, Penn Law Students Representative in University of Pennsylvania’s council, and international associate editor in Penn Law Journal of International Law. Steffen also interned at a prominent international law firm in Philadelphia. Aside from LL.M. Steffen also holds a Sarjana Hukum (LL.B. equivalent) from Parahyangan Catholic University. Steffen has been practicing law as a corporate lawyer in Jakarta and Singapore. Presently, he is a senior associate in a prominent law firm in Indonesia and independently assisting few legal issues for start-ups. In his spare time, Steffen is a movie freak, loyal runner, and outdoor trekker.


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