Just after Thanksgiving, we decided to take advantage of the long weekend (thanks American holidays!) to drive up to a gorgeous city in Japan, Nikko. We’d heard it was beautiful and serene, and those both seemed like things we’d really appreciate with a new three-month-old in our household.
So we packed both our kids up in our beloved Mobilio and hit the road for our daughter’s first Japanese road trip! The drive up was stunning – the reds and blues and greens of the autumn trees made the (relatively) short three-hour trip to Nikko one of our most memorable drives.
When we arrived, though, we were greeted by the most magical winter wonderland. An early dusting of snow had turned the entire city into a stunning scene with clear blue skies and white-capped UNESCO Heritage Sites.
We selfishly assumed the renovations were meant to be completed by the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but they actually will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. They are even aiming to have the renovations completed a year earlier than the anniversary, because Japan is a nation of impressive planners and of course they’d exceed a self-set deadline.
Despite the renovations, the shrine complex was magnificent. Set amongst tall evergreen trees, it was so peaceful to walk along the pathways and just contemplate the amazing amount of detail and care that went into creating something so stunning. I’m 100% sure nothing we are building today will attract thousands of visitors in 400 years.
We stayed the weekend at a traditional Japanese ryokan, tucked away within walking distance of more incredible snow-covered scenery like this…
It wasn’t too cold, but we bundled up our little panda-chan just in case.
Because we didn’t want to miss out on incredible walks like this…
Back in our room, I was the only one brave enough to head down to check out the onsen (which, by the way, was also magnificent, with a view of the beautiful snow from your very own private hot tub) and obviously needed to document the yukata.
We cut our trip slightly short because it turns out bringing a three-month-old to a hotel with literal paper-thin walls was maybe not our finest idea. We felt so awful about any possible imposition we were making on other guests that we left after our first night, although neither the hotel nor any other guests made us feel anything but welcome.
But on our way out, we stopped by one of the most picturesque spots in all of Japan, and were so incredibly grateful for our short, magical time in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities.
Must-see stops in Nikko include the phenomenal shrines, which do not disappoint. We stayed at the Annex Turtle Hotori-An, which was cozy and secluded. What we wish we’d known: Nikko is not known for its nightlife or early mornings. It can easily be done as a (long) day trip from Tokyo, otherwise, be prepared to eat early at the few restaurants in town, or to arrange meals with your ryokan.