Nikko escape

Take a trip from Tokyo and stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, Japan.

Written by Jack James

10 May 2023


We arrive in pitch darkness to warm hospitality at The Ritz-Carlton’s luxurious Nikko Hotel. It’s midnight. We’ve driven from the airport after a flight from Cairns to this haven of tradition just two hours from Tokyo.

Midnight snacks are delivered promptly in a gorgeous bento box. Tempura, sushi and lots of divine vegetables served in delicate square dishes, a precursor for a tasty and fresh breakfast presented in the most elegant of ways.

Morning light shows off the nature of Nikko from our balcony which looks directly across at the scenic Lake Chuzenji. This is an entrée of the glorious scenery to come from the area’s mountains, hiking trails, shrines and monkeys. Nikko is real Japan or more correctly, traditional Japan.

It’s well-known for its Toshogu Shrine with its three wise monkeys representing see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.


We feast upon the nature that is embodied in the graceful design of the hotel. The hotel incorporates the Kanuma-Kumiko style, which involves cypress wood carved and placed into geometric designs using pressure. It is a traditional Japanese art style.

There are 94 guest rooms including ten suites that offer private balconies and an engawa lounge area. They each offer incredible views of either Lake Chuzenji or Mount Nantai (some offer both).

The bathrooms have a rain-head shower and soaking tub and again amazing views. The soft linen yukata really sets the traditional Japanese scene along with the comfy slippers you can wear to the Ritz-Carlton’s first hot springs experience which boasts an indoor and open-air hot spring bath filled with thermal waters of the Yumoto Onsen.

After your Onsen, book a private couple’s session using local organic sake products to tone and nourish your skin. There is also a nightly meditation.

The entire hotel offers a cleansing meditative experience from the clean minimalistic rooms through to the Zen-influenced garden courtyards where lounges beckon guests to further comfort and relaxation.

Built on the site of the Nikko Lakeside Hotel, there are still remnants in place at The Ritz-Carlton. These include paintings sprinkled with gold leaf depicting Edo Period life and the name of one of the restaurants, the Lakehouse which comes complete with a crackling fireplace, peaceful views and a western-inspired menu.

Sakura-inspired culinary offerings include an artful eight-course kaiseki dinner, a sakura and strawberry parfait with scented smoke, Tochigi strawberry and white bean jam foam and a divine afternoon tea that pays homage to the Sakura season.

The hotel offers an all-day dining restaurant serving Japanese food, the Lobby Lounge for light meals and striking garden views and a wonderful bar offering elegant and cocktails that incorporate local ingredients and a real wow factor.

What’s even more incredible are the experiences guests can have. The hotel puts on a huge range of activities that showcase the location in Nikko National Park and include strolling through protected wetlands, discovering ancient precincts, meditating under waterfalls and even ice climbing in winter.

Dabbling in traditional Japanese culture makes The Ritz-Carlton a true destination filled with memories of furoshiki wrapping, sitting zazen with a monk, witnessing a mystical fire ceremony or ceremonial dance at Chugushi Shrine.

This is a Shinto ritual performed by a shrine maiden and is set to taiko drumming and a traditional wind instrument.

There’s also paddleboarding on the tranquil waters of Lake Chuzenji to experience twilight at dusk as serenity settles over the surrounding mountains.

In the evening, Oku Nikko offers the ultimate stargazing experience viewing the Milky Way and moon craters using either the naked eye or a telescope. The highlands offer an unparalleled canvas of the dotted night sky.

Purify body and mind with the Shugendo Experience on a hike to the secluded waterfalls located in the Kirifuri highlands.  Step under the tumbling water as part of the centuries-old takigyo practice and feel the invigoration of the mountain’s energy.

Then be welcomed back by absolutely stand-out hospitality and service. The staff here are gracious, efficient and offer the most incredible personalised attention. These moments will stay with you, especially because upon departure, you receive a sacred omamori as a blessing for safe travel.

Nikko is a must-see destination to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and is perfect for a honeymoon, anniversary or just a relaxing break away.



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