North of Tokyo is an adventurer’s dream! Nikko, Japan is a hotspot for waterfalls and natural wonders. Rent a car and explore the top three all on one road!

Nikko, Japan has history, waterfalls, and so much culture to offer!
Nikko, Japan has history, waterfalls, and so much culture to offer!
Photo: David Sanz

North of Tokyo is the Tochigi Prefecture and a whole new side of Japan most people never experience. People think of the torii gates in Kyoto and the hustle-and-bustle of Tokyo when they think of Japan. Rarely do we take the time to explore everything in between. Japan is an active volcanic island and with that comes some amazing nature to trek.

Nikko is a small city in the Tochigi Prefecture, only a two-hour drive from central Tokyo. Nikko has beautiful temples, delicious food, amazing foliage, and a dozen spectacular waterfalls. This route will take you through winding roads, amazing views, and past Chuzenji Lake. So go northbound on Rt. 120 and you’ll hit these three waterfalls along the way.

Kegon Falls

97 meters high, a souvenir shop, and a convenient elevator make "Kegon-no-taki" a popular hotspot in Nikko.
97 meters high, a souvenir shop, and a convenient elevator make “Kegon-no-taki” a popular hotspot in Nikko.
Image by hereisthailand from Pixabay

Kegon Falls is the first and most popular stop on your journey. At the base of Chuzenji Lake, the dramatic display of the Kegon Falls is more than the main fall, but also a dozen smaller waterfalls at its base. In the fall you can admire the fiery orange and red foliage, the spring is a lush green, and in the winter you may see the rare sight of a frozen waterfall.

For 570 yen, you can take the elevator down to the base of the falls. From there, you have a beautiful overlook and full view of the falls and the mountains behind them. The mountains in Japan are unique and spectacular in their own right. While there may not be much in seating, remember the convenience of Japan’s vending machines by the souvenir shop!

Although the falls have a macabre history, my husband and I had a wonderful experience. The falls was the starting point of our journey in Nikko. Keep an eye out for monkeys, various shops for Soba, and toss a coin at the shrine for me!

Ryuzu Waterfall

Make sure to stop and have a coffee at the cafe in Nikko, Japan by Ryuzu Falls.
Make sure to stop and have a coffee at the cafe in Nikko, Japan by Ryuzu Falls.
Image by Mario Takahashi from Pixabay

Ryuzu Waterfalls is the second step of the journey in Nikko, Japan. Following up the road, a wooden gate with two dragons carved in the center will greet you. The Twin Dragon falls have grown in popularity in the last decade as a coffee shop made its home next to the observation deck.

Rhododendrons and azaleas cast a purple glow in the spring, while the Japanese maples give off a red aura in the fall. We were lucky to have rain on our time in Nikko, Japan. The rain kept the tourists at bay and was the perfect weather to sit with a hot cup of coffee and matcha.

There is no entry free for Ryuzu Falls, but I always encourage spending money in the local souvenir shops or coffee shops. There is a temple nearby. Visit with respect, enjoy the grounds, and admire the unique view of the falls. It truly is a spiritual location.

Yudaki Falls

Yudaki Falls has not only an extensive hiking trail, but is also a fishing hub for Nikko locals!
Photo: Wikipedia

Yudaki Falls is your last stop on this nature-filled journey through Nikko’s waterfalls. Pouring from Yunoko Lake, the 75 meter cascading fall releases a warm scent and thunderous applause. The water crashes and echoes throughout the woods at the base of the falls. Due to the geothermal activity in Japan, this lake has a hint of sulfur and a rumor of healing properties of the onsen nearby.

In the spring, expect a pink hue from the rosebay and azaleas. In the fall, enjoy the fiery orange we expect in autumn. The souvenir shop has a small ramen restaurant adjacent. This Nikko spot is a lovely place to end your journey. I would suggest finding a place to stay on the lake!

Like Ryuzu Falls, Yudaki Falls has no entry fee, but there are a few important things to note. If you see officials, then listen to their instructions. You can hike the paths, but Japan protects their wetlands. No animals can go in or out of the gates to the hiking trails. Above all, keep an eye out for bears!


Have you experienced Nikko? What about Japan? Let us know in the comments below!

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