The path from Tōshōgu to Futarasan-Jinja may very well be the Japan you’ve dreamt of. On your left, years (decades? centuries?) of moss cling to a stone wall, while to the right are dozens of stone lanterns in precise alignment, framed with aching perfection by a vermillion wall and towering cedars.
Scattered among hilly woodlands, Nikkō is one of Japan’s major attractions. If there’s any drawback, it’s that plenty of other people have discovered it too, and at peak season and on weekends any time of year it can be extremely crowded. Although Nikkō is certainly possible as a day trip from Tokyo, try to spend the previous night here so you arrive at its World Heritage shrines and temples before the crowds do. Gorgeous natural scenery west of the city merits another night.