Some 30 minutes by car from downtown Nikko, the Okunikko area is known for its seclusion and beauty.
Okunikko is part of Nikko National Park, one of Japan's first national parks. In the foothills of its majestic mountains can be found lakes, wetlands and waterfalls that together create a rich topography.
Okunikko’s natural environment is intertwined with the history of urban Nikko, beginning with the world heritage site of Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and has played an important role in the development of the area.
Mountain worship in Nikko, especially worship of Mount Nantai, the area’s main peak, became prevalent in the 8th century. As shrines and temples were built and Buddhist monks arrived for training, the area became known as a sacred place.
This tour offers a special opportunity to experience nature and culture that have been lovingly preserved and nurtured for millennia and connect with the spirituality that is deeply rooted in the Nikko landscape.
One of the best hotels for truly enjoying the Okunikko area is The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko. Everything from the kitchen ingredients to guestroom furnishings is produced locally, offering guests full immersion in Nikko’s history, tradition, culture and natural environment.
The Ritz-Carlton Nikko is located on the shores of Okunikko’s Lake Chuzenji. In the 19th century, this area was visited for its cool summers and became a popular resort for Europeans, who built holiday villas here. Spend three days in the Lake Chuzenji area, which has long been a place for cosmopolitan social gatherings, surrounded by the celebrated Okunikko nature.
From Tokyo, travel the approximate three hours to Okunikko by private vehicle.
Travel by helicopter is also possible.
After arriving in Okunikko, set off for a hike through Senjogahara, which is a registered wetland site under the Ramsar Convention. Following the wooden boardwalk, hike through the nature highlights of Nikko National Park. There are very few ups and downs on this popular route. Relish the spectacular views of Mt. Nantai, which has long been worshiped and has come to symbolize the Nikko area.
After the hike, enjoy French cuisine at restaurant Chez Hoshino. During the 19th century, the Lake Chuzenji shore was populated with the summer villas of Europeans and thrived as a stage for major social gatherings. At Chez Hoshino, enjoy the ambience of bygone Okunikko through the excellent cuisine.
After checking into The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, join a workshop to learn the traditional craft of Nikko carving. Learn directly from a craftsman who designed the interior of the hotel’s Japanese restaurant. Nikko carving is believed to have its origins in the 17th century, when craftsmen brought to the area to build Nikko Toshogu Shrine spent their free time making intricate carvings. The style is characterized by a lacquer coating that enhances the beauty of each piece’s form and the variety of wood used.
From Okunikko, head down the winding mountain road to the city of Nikko far below. Nikko is dotted with World Heritage Site shrines and temples.
Begin the morning by visiting some of these places of worship. Mountain worship in Nikko evolved in the 8th century and led to the spread of Shugendo, a long and rigorous form of religious training that takes place in the mountains. Your guide for this special morning visit is a priest who has actually completed daisendogyo, a rigorous religious exercise that entails visiting Nikko's temples and shrines 1,000 times in 150 days.
At Nikkozan Chuzenji, a branch temple of World Heritage Site Nikkozan Rinnoji, attend an esoteric Buddhist ritual known as Goma Kito. Held in a space off-limits to the general public, the ritual involves a fire being lit and prayers being made though sutra chanting.
For lunch, savor the local delicacy of yuba (bean curd sheets) at local restaurant Takaiya. Relish the taste of Rinnoji-style shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine), a tradition that has endured since 1805.
In the afternoon, head to Nikko Futarasan Jinja Chugushi, a sub-shrine dedicated to Mt. Nantai, to enjoy a performance of Yaotome Kagura, a dance offered as a prayer for a good harvest. Afterwards, stroll through the shrine grounds. Take a moment to appreciate the magical energy of this sublime space.
Spend the day at your leisure. Relax at the hotel or explore parts of Okunikko you have yet to discover.
Recommended itinerary: Kegon Falls - Lake Chuzenji Cruise - British Embassy Villa Memorial Park and Italian Embassy Villa Memorial Park
Return by private vehicle to Tokyo, where the tour ends.
Travel by helicopter from the helipad near the hotel is also possible.
*Travelling between Tokyo and Okunikko by helicopter
Please note that the availability of flights is determined 15 minutes before departure and is dependent on weather conditions and other factors. When flights are not possible, travel is by private vehicle.