At the temples, you can pay an extra fee to see the Sleeping Cat. I paid the extra money and climbed and climbed and couldn`t find this sleeping cat. I came back down this mountain, after seeing some mondaine temples-far less exciting than the rest of Nikko, and find the Sleeping Cat. If you bend down at the ticket gate, you can see the Sleeping Cat and avoid wasting your money.
Unique Suggestions: Be prepared to climb many, many stairs with little to make it worth the trek at the top.
Fun Alternatives: Save the time to visit Jakko Falls (see my Off the Beaten Path tip)
Nikko is such a cool place, but I thought the Sleeping Cat was a huge disappointment.
It is billed as an attraction, and there was a level of anticipation seeing all the tourists were lining up politely to see what it is all about, but it is just a colorful mural of a cat....sleeping. If you expecting something awe-inspiring after all the grandiose offerings of in and around Toshogu Shrine, etc, this will be a huge let-down.
If you go, watch out for the growing population of monkeys roaming the area -- some have identified the contents of vehicles and backpacks as handy sources of snack food. These monkeys can be fairly aggressive, and they've been known to climb through open windows to ransack the contents of cars and rooms. Because of concerns about an unchecked increase in their population, Nikko's city government has imposed a ban on feeding them. It's best not to get too close -- they may look cuddly, but they have sharp teeth.
There is a very well known and popular tourist attraction outside of Nikko with performing monkeys. I reluctantly went along with my (Japanese) wife and was appalled. The monkeys do not look as if they are enjoying themselves at all and flinch when the 'monkey master' raises his stick. No guessing what goes on in rehearsals :(
Included in the combination ticket to the shrines is the Futarasan Shrine. This is built in the same style as the Toshogu shrine. Once you've seen the main attraction, Toshogu shrine, there is no need to see the Futarasan shrine. It pales in comparison to the opulence of the main shrine.
Most people go to Nikko to visit the temples and shrines. The strange thing is you can buy single tickets to get into each individual temple for 600 yen or a combination ticket to get into about 5 temples for 1000 yen. There isonly one counter where you can buy the combination ticket so dont miss it. Near the main entrance.
Unique Suggestions: dont look for the combination ticket counter
In Autumn the reds and golds of the foliage attract huge crowds to Nikko. If you are lucky enough to be able to see Nikko at this time, try and visit during the week ,as the weekends are very busy.