The city of Nikko, set amid mountains, usually is seen as a day trip from Tokyo (which is 75 mi/120 km to the south), but if you have the time, it's best to stay overnight. Numerous shrines and pagodas are nearby, the best-known being Toshogu Shrine, which houses the mausoleum of the first Tokugawa shogun. The shrine has an unusual mixture of Confucian, Zen and Shinto architecture and is extraordinarily ornate. Toshogu is the original site of the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys (you will find them carved on one of the gates).

Also in this area are two waterfalls (Kegon and Dragon's Head Cascade) and Edo Wonderland (, a theme-park replica of a feudal village that offers martial arts performances. It's popular with children. There is good hiking in the area above Nikko and plenty of hot springs.

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. Concerns about an unchecked increase in their population prompted Nikko's city government to impose a ban on feeding them. It's best not to get too close—they may look cuddly, but they have sharp teeth.

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