Nikko Ryokan – Nikko is one of Japan’s most famous cultural treasures. Located just a stone’s throw away from central Tokyo, Nikko makes for an excellent day trip. The town is situated at the eastern end of Japan’s Romantic Road. As the name may suggest, the Romantic Road is a scenic route that traverses Kanto plain’s profoundly serene mountainous eastern edge. The road is dotted by centuries-old onsen and scenic ryokans which offer inspiring panoramas that often make it on the cover of travel books.
A valley town, Nikko is internationally renowned for its exquisitely ornate Toshogu Shrine and picture-ready Shinkyo Bridge, located within Nikko National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyond its unique temple architecture, Nikko is also a great place to get back into nature through its scenic hiking trails and paths. Once here, it’ll the hard to decide when to leave. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best Nikko ryokans for you to experience!
But before to start, if you are unfamiliar with the Japanese traditional inns, feel free to read this article: What is a Ryokan.
Nikko Ryokan #1 – Hoshino Yado
Located next door to Nikko’s iconic Shinkyo bridge, Hoshino Yado ryokan is close to many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Shimmering, emerald, bamboo forests, and natural, mineral-infused baths will induce a Zen-like state of calm. Bucolic vistas framed by Nikko’s prodigious mountains are a key highlights of this sublime destination. In spring and summer, flowers seem to sing with vibrancy and color, that make a visit to Hoshino Yado a must for any traveler.
What’s on the menu? The ryokan’s twelve-course traditional kaiseki dinners feature fresh, savory Japanese dishes including freshly caught tuna and mackerel; as well as seasonal ingredients which make it here daily from Tokyo’s famed Toys market. Though some Western palettes may be a bit unaccustomed to the various textures and flavors, the freshness of ingredients, and beautiful presentation will win over even the faintest of heart. Some guests describe the experience of eating the authentic Kaiseki dinner as almost too beautiful to eat.
Guests also rave about the warm and hospitable staff who are always eager to provide guidance on places of interest, directions and everything in between. This ryokan is elegantly designed, and located just a stone’s throw away from Nikko’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as countless souvenir shops and restaurants that make Hoshino Yado the perfect location from which to explore the jewel that is Nikko.
Nikko Ryokan #2 – Kinugawa Yumenotoki
A stately accommodation that evokes the quintessential ryokan experience in grand style, Kinugawa Yumentoki is a favorite of romantic travelers who make it here throughout the seasons. Traditional Japanese guestrooms are smart, refined and uncomplicated, and also feature Western-style elevated sleeping areas. The ryokan’s décor has a uniform, sleek and elegant aesthetic, infused with traditional Japanese design principles marked by a modern twist.
This Nikko ryokan boasts natural surroundings that are beaming with lush, carefully-tended-to flowers, fauna and gardens. Cascading waterfalls, bamboo forests, Japanese Red Maples, and countless flora and fauna native to Japan are featured in the ryokan’s many gardens and outdoor onsen. Elegant, serene and natural mineral-infused baths, both indoors and outdoors, will leave you feeling relaxed and replenished. Guests can also book their own private use of onsens at an additional cost if they’re seeking a more private experience. After a good soak, you can relax even further with your private personal massage, by booking an appointment at the reception desk.
When it comes to dinner, the kaiseki menu showcases fresh seasonal ingredients and an array of traditional Japanese flavors, all of which are designed for your taste buds and eyes to savor and enjoy. Yamashina and Wakana, the ryokan’s Japanese restaurants, feature oversized glass windows that overlook the lush, green gardens. Set in an atmospheric lounge, the lobby’s Le Bouquet Bar has exquisite, world-renown French wines and award-winning Japanese whiskeys on offer. Le Bouquet Bar is a great way to relax and enjoy a conversation after a long day of sightseeing. If you’re looking to warm up your vocal chords and try out a quintessentially Japanese pastime, Karaoke facilities are also available on site.
Kinugawa Yumentoki also enjoys a great central location. The ryokan is located just an 8-minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Train Station, while Tobu World Square Amusement Park is located just 6 minutes by car. Nikko’s top tourist attraction, the Toshogu Shinto Shrine is also a quick 30-minute drive away.
Nikko Ryokan #3 – Asaya Nikko
Asaya is simply the best-rated Nikko ryokan as rated by Japanese and international tourists alike. Despite its overall grandeur, which is more akin to a luxury resort, Asaya offers travelers a traditional ryokan experience complete with Western or tatami-styled bamboo sitting rooms, as well as elevated sleeping areas. The ryokan also features Western-style hotel rooms for more affordable prices as well. While the hotel offers more affordable accommodations, which are smaller, the overall ryokan experience is well worth the extra cost.
This Nikko ryokan’s communal onsens, whether indoor or outdoor, are designed in an elegant and minimalist fashion. Asaya’s hot spring baths offer scenic mountain views that inspire a sense of calm and relaxation. Guest suites also boast private hot springs baths located just outside the main sleeping areas which are visible through floor-to-ceiling window frames, along with separate Japanese-style sitting rooms. All of which create an architectural soundness of individual spaces that are partitioned yet continuous and meant for sumptuous enjoyment.
In addition, world-class food, the quintessential quality of the most outstanding ryokan, is served with flair and features a menu that caters slightly more to a Yoshoku palette (or Japanese-style Western-inspired dishes). You can stay in a hotel anywhere, but you can only stay in the top-rated Nikko ryokan here!
Nikko Ryokan #4 – Tsuganoki
Simple yet adorned, elegant and finely crafted from top-quality Japanese materials, Tsuganoki is the smart option meant for consistent design and service. Guest room suites feature stylish and colorful palettes that highlight Japanese patterns in a way that is fun, dynamic yet sophisticated and soothing.
Attention to detail, from finely crafted cedar elements designed in centuries-old architecture methods utilize the rich textural quality of Sugi wood, with its dual tan and dark brown color. Guestrooms are complete with private bath, otherwise known as your very own secluded refuge complete with uplifting views of the mountain backdrop. Onsen hot springs baths are located in private balconies situated next to the large suite, creating a continuous room that blends indoor and outdoor environments seamlessly.
This Nikko ryokan also proudly boasts one of the top menus in town, featuring a delectable array of Japanese dishes. From top-quality wagyu beef in a simmering hotpot or over a charcoal hibachi grill, to aromatic seafood dishes seasoned with traditional seasonal ingredients and even Japanese wildflowers.
Some rooms also feature futuristic media rooms for late night movie screenings complete with Japanese massage chairs. While many outsiders are aware of the Japanese affinity for electronics, most are unaware that this includes a vast array of massage chairs options each with their own unique features, modes, and settings. Tsuganoki Ryokan is a unique cultural, culinary experience and a must-stay destination during your travels in Nikko!
Nikko Ryokan #5 – Marukyoo
Bright, smart and thoughtfully-designed, Marukyoo is a charming ryokan that is more accessible than other destinations on this list. Guests can select from a chic and modern tatami room to something even more modern. Each room has been individually decorated in a unique style, whether a western-style room with seating for two, or a Japanese-style sitting room complete with Japanese-style bedding splashed in pink or blue.
The outdoor, semi-sheltered private onsen are set amidst carefully-designed spaces that are contemplative and invite the outdoors into the experience. Onsen are also completely walled-off and secluded. Private onsen utilize Hinoki wood for bathing, as well as Sugi wood’s dark textural elements for decoration. Both woods are highlights of Japanese carpentry and are well-known for their beauty, texture and aroma. Marukyoo is also one of the top-rated locations and a great deal overall.
TOP Pick! – Iwaiyado Jyuan
Iawaiyado Jyuan is truly a remarkable ryokan that stands apart from the rest, not just due to its serene setting nestled amongst the quiet countryside of Nikkō’s mountain scape. But also due to its traditional and minimally-decorated Washitsu rooms which feature tatami floors throughout. The ryokan also features beautiful ‘Nihonga’ (or Japanese-style) paintings meant to inspire. The ryokan’s traditional rooms are clean and simple, yet hide an understated refinement and elegance.
Guests describe the luxury of sleeping in the ryokan’s layered sleeping beds, as if floating on a cloud. Rooms are airy, yet contain a sense of coziness and calm. In the mornings, enjoy breakfast served straight to your room where you can admire the remarkable view (right outside your balcony window!). Iwaiyado Jyuan’s contemplative and picturesque hot spring baths are surrounded by bamboo groves, and feature wooden architectural beams that fosters a feeling of comfort and relaxation. Rejuvenating visits to the mineral-rich hot spring onsens will be endlesslys satisfying through the meticulously-crafted bathing facilities, utilizing high quality Japanese materials and carpentry.
Expect exceptional, friendly, customer service, that will tend to your every whim and need, and more. Meals are cooked and locally-sourced from authentic Japanese ingredients, including Japanese sweet potato (Satsumaimo) and lotus root.
Between meals, dips in the onsens, or perhaps after a round of golf, relax in the ryokan’s spacious, tatami-floored, plush furnished common areas. Which are decorated with beautiful Nihonga-style paintings. All of which work in perfect harmony to create an ambiance that is uniquely and exclusively Japanese.
Best yet, the location is central and easily accessible, as this convenient and tranquil Nikkō ryokan is just a short five-minute walk from the local train station Kawaji Yumoto. Iwaiyado Jyuan is a place where time seems to completely stand still, a setting where you can achieve a Zen-like state of mind. Whether rain, snow, or sunshine, any season is the right time to pay a visit to one of Nikkō’s top-valued and picturesque locations.
Through its staggering natural and historic wealth, Nikko is a must for any traveler to Japan who wishes to see past Tokyo’s obvious glitz and glamour. Japan is much more than a neon nightscape of karaoke; it is also one of the world’s most astounding natural and culturally-rich countries. A place where nature pervades in the consciousness and invites one to embrace and meditate on its bountiful treasures. Only a stay in a Nikko ryokan can invigorate the senses and yet be so close to the world’s largest megalopolis.
PS: If you want to discover more amazing ryokans all around Japan, feel free to check out these blog posts: Ryokan Collection.