Ancient moss clinging to a stone wall; rows of perfectly aligned stone lanterns; vermilion gates; and towering cedars: this is only a pathway in Nikkō, a sanctuary that enshrines the glories of the Edo period (1600–1868). Scattered among hilly woodlands, Nikkō is one of Japan's major attractions. The drawback is that plenty of other people have discovered it too; high season (summer and autumn) and weekends can be extremely crowded where the spirituality of the area can feel a little lost.
Nikkō is certainly possible as a day trip from Tokyo, though spending at least one night allows for an early start before the crowds arrive. And a couple of nights gives you time to explore the gorgeous natural scenery in the surrounding area.