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 (日光), a sanctuary that enshrines the glories of the Edo period (1600–1868). Scattered among hilly woodlands, Nikkō is one of Japan's major attractions, its key World Heritage Site temples and shrines an awesome display of wealth and power by the Tokugawa shogunate.
All this means that in high season (summer and autumn) and at weekends, Nikkō can be extremely crowded and the spirituality of the area can feel a little lost. Spending the night here allows for an early start before the crowds arrive. However, we highly recommend a couple of nights so you can explore the gorgeous natural scenery in the surrounding area, much of it national park, as well as Nikkō's other sights and activities, including an imperial palace and onsen.