Oku-Nikko has many worthwhile sites, but there are no train stations in the area, so the best way to get there is to take a bus.
Tobu Bus operates from Tobu-Nikko Station and JR Nikko Station to:
-Chuzenjionsen (home to Chuzenji Lake, Chuzenji Temple, Chuzenji Onsen, and Kegon Falls)
-Ryuzunotaki (Ryuzu Falls)
-Akinuma and Senbonmatsu (Senjogahara Marsh)
-Yutaki Iriguchi (Yutaki Falls, Senjogahara Marsh)
-Yumoto Onsen (Yumoto Onsen)
Nikko is served by both JR and Tobu Railways.
For most people, Tobu Railways is the most useful and cost-effective. The World Heritage Sites are accessible from Tobu-Nikko Station. Some trains go directly there, but you can also transfer at Shimo-Ichi Station. Tobu Railways also serves the Kinugawa Onsen area.
Here are some of the Tobu Railway stations with nearby attractions:
-Tobu-Nikko Station: Toshogu Shrine, Rinnoji Temple, Futarasan Shrine, Shinkyo Bridge, Tamozawa Villa, Botanical Garden, Kanmangafuchi Abyss (By bus, the sites in Oku-Nikko can also be reached from here)
-Kosagoe Station: Tobu World Square
-Kinugawa-Onsen Station: Kinugawa River Cruise Port (By bus, you can reach Nikko Edomura, Grand Maze Palladium, and Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum)
-Kinugawa-Koen Station: Nikko Doll Museum
JR Railways has connections to Nikko via Utsunomiya. Nikko Station is located near Tobu-Nikko Station, so you can access all of the sites listed above under Tobu-Nikko from JR's Nikko Station, as well. Most travelers from Tokyo will find Tobu Railways to be better (cheaper and less time-consuming) than JR unless you have a JR Pass or the Seishun 18 ticket.
If you don't have a Japan Rail pass and you're staying in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, you may also take the Tobu railways direct train from Asakusa station to Nikko. At 1hr and 40 minutes, time is pretty much comparable to the JR train combination of Shinkansen and Nikko line, but it is a cheaper option for those without the pass.
For those with a Japan Rail pass, there is no free direct route between Tokyo and Nikko. That said, as the first half of the trip is on a Shinkansen train, it works out similar in time as a direct train on private railway.
From Tokyo station, catch a Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya station, which will take you about 45 minutes. Schedules may change, but as of August 2012 there were hourly trains leaving at 9.40, 10.40, 11.40 and so on (check the excellent Hyperdia website for updated schedule).
At Utsunomiya, you will have about 10 minutes to change to the JR Nikko line which will get you to Nikko in about 45 minutes as well. Nikko line departs from track 5. Shinkansen is met by staff from Nikko tourist office (at least during the high season) so that is also your chance of scoring a free excellent map of central Nikko and a guide listing main sights and their opening times.
With the pass there is no additional charge to pay.
The Tobu World Heritage Pass seems to be the cheapest way to go there. 3600 Yen for a return trip from Tobu Asakusa Station valid 2 day's including the bus to the tempels, and the entrance fee for Rinno-ji (under renovation at the moments), Toshu-gu, Futarasan-jinja and Taiyuin-byo.
Buy the pass at groundfloor of the Tobu Asakusastation.
The train ticket by itself is 1320 Yen each way, the bus 250 Yen each way and the combined entrance fee is 1000 Yen (the ticket for Toshu-gu is 1350 Yen if bought alone). The Seishun18kippu ticket from JR would be 2300 Yen per day in a 5 day pack unlimited travel on very slow trains in vacation times only. It is a quite interresting ticket but in the case of Nikko only if you walk and avoid paying the entrance fees.
Tobu Travel Tokusen No Tabi "Kinugawa Yu-yu Plan" is a package of Tobu Railway express train from Tokyo and a hotel accommodation in Kinugawa Onsen, sold by Tobu Travel.
This includes: 1) Roundtrip by a limited express train from Asakusa, Tokyo, to Kinugawa Onsen with free train rides in Kinugawa and Nikko area, and 2) accommodation at a hotel in Kinugawa Onsen with some benefits such as free use of karaoke room and ping-pong room, etc.
The price ranges from 13,500 yen to 25,600 yen per person depending of season, week of day and number of people per room. We used this plan from Wednesday through Thursday in mid September, before the autumn foliage, by two persons. The price was 16,100 yen for one person.
If you want to go to Nikko / Kinugawa area by train and enjoy onsen, this is a very good plan.
For JR pass holders travelling to Nikko from Tokyo, the best way to get to Nikko is to get the Shinkansen as far as Utsunomiya, and then transfer to the Nikko line from there.
Utsunomiya is around 50 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen, and Nikko is a further 40 minutes from Utsunomiya on the Nikko line.
The way to get to Nikko is by train from Tokyo. We bought a World Heritage Pass for 3600 YEN that included the return train ride to Nikko on the TOBU line and all the admission prices to all the sites. This pass also included the World Heritage Bus that takes you all the sites also. We bought the pass at the Tourist Information Center at Tokyo Station. The ride is about 2 1/2 hrs from the Asakusa station in Northern Tokyo. Once at Nikko all you have to do is cross the street and jump on the World Heritage Bus and take a ride to the sites. Once at the site you present your ticket at any of the 5 sites included and they exchange this for the individual ticket sites. 5 sites are included ... All the major sites in Nikko .. The Rinno-Ji Temple, Tosho-gu Shrine, Taiyuin-byo Shrine, Futara-san Shrine, and the Honji-do building. Take a good travel book with you because little signage is available, so you can read what you are seeing.
Seishun 18 kippu can be available only in spring, summer and winter holiday. Cost 2300 yen for 1 day trip using local JR train.
I use the ticket, from Tokyo station (6.50) to Nikko (9.54) via Utsunomiya. You can search the schedule by yourself.
To get the best out of your trip to Nikko and surrounding area, I would recommend the All Nikko Pass. It is a pass that is valid for 4 days and includes a round-trip train ride from Tokyo Asakusa Tobu Station to Tobu Nikko Station. It also includes all forms of transportation on the Tobu Bus within Nikko, Lake Chuzenji, Yumoto Onsen and Kinugawa Onsen area. You can reserve your All Nikko Pass online one month before your intended date of travel including reserving your seats on the Spacia Limited Express train.
The Tobu train company offers a varieties of train and bus passes that take you from Tokyo (Asakusa) to Nikko and the area beyond. It really is a good deal if you are spending at least a couple of days there. There is so muuh to see in that area, with lots of outdoor activities. With the pass, you can board a Tobu bus and stop anywhere you like. The ride up to Yumoto Onsen, for example, is already over 1000 yen.
Make sure you get into the right car in Asakusa station, with the destination "Nikko" clearly indicated on the side of the train, as well as inside. As they take some cars out beyond a certain point.
If you are planning for a same day return trip, you can buy the one-way ticket, at the station. Or get discounted ticket from the discounted ticket shops. There is a few in front of Shinjuku station.
Took the special express train (1 hour 45 minutes) from Asakusa station, via Utsunomiya to Nikko using Tobu line. Get a bento to eat in the train.
Alternatively, you can take a day bus tour from Tokyo.
The easist way to get to Nikko from Tokyo is an express train of Tobu Railway, named SPACIA. Though the train is narrow gauge despite its name, the seats are comfortable.
SPACIA is a generic name for limited express trains of Tobu. Actual trains are named Kegon or Kinu depending on its destination.
Fare: From Asakusa to Nikko, 1320 yen (transportation fare) + 1300 yen (express fare). Express far is 1400 yen on weekends and 1000 yen at night. A compartment for 4 adults costs extra 3000 yen (3600 yen for weekends).
Nikko can be reached by Tobu Railways or Japan Railways (JR).
Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen (from Tokyo or Ueno Station) to Utsunomiya Station, where you transfer to the JR Nikko Line. With a good connection at Utsunomiya, the one way trip takes about 100 minutes and costs around 5000 Yen (subject to change).
We took the JR train because we were travelling on a JR Rail Pass. If you don't have the pass, taking the JR option is more expensive. It is only a good option for those that have the JR Rail Pass. If not, I will recommend taking the Tobu line (see next transport tip)
Nikko is also accessible via Tobu Railways from Tokyo. The Tobu terminal station in Tokyo for trains to Nikko is Tobu Asakusa Station, which can be accessed by subway.
There are hourly rapid trains (kaisoku) between Asakusa and Nikko, which take about 125 minutes and cost 1320 Yen one way. In the morning and afternoon, there are also a few limited express trains (all seats reserved) called "Kegon" which only take 105 minutes, but cost 2620 Yen one way.
**All prices subject to change.
Tobu also offers various free passes, which includes the round trip to Nikko (by kaisoku) and unlimited usage of buses in the Nikko area.
Please note, however, the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on Tobu trains.