Visiting Nikko in a Wheelchair

Nikko, a small town about 2 hours north of Tokyo Japan, has a number of cultural world heritage sites, with Nikko Toshogu being the most significant.

Getting There

There are two main train lines going from Tokyo, JR and Tobu. Unfortunately, JR Nikko Station is not wheelchair accessible and Tobu Nikko Station is the only option for wheelchair users. Both regular trains and express trains called Spacia run from Tobu Asakusa Station. However, not all Spacia trains have a wheelchair space, so you may want to buy your tickets in advance. Even if you cannot get a seat on a Spacia train, the regular semi-express trains only take about 30-40 minutes longer.

Once at Tobu Nikko Station, take the 2B bus to Nishi-Sando bus stop. From there, the entrance to Toshogu Shrine is about 10-15 minutes on foot.

Toshogu Shrine

As a registered UNESCO site, there is no denying the importance and historical significance of Nikko Toshogu Shrine. However, those who do plan to make the trip should be aware of the distance and lack of accessibility (particularly for wheelchair users) before embarking. Of the total area, a bit less than half of the shrine is wheelchair accessible, and even the accessible area is difficult to move around in. Due to its registration as a heritage site, there is also little chance that the site will be made any more accessible than it already has been. Most of the site is documented in Google Street View, so it is possible to see many of the inaccessible locations or decide if it is worth the trek.

Read more in our review:

Rinnoji Temple and Futarasan Shrine

Rinnoji Temple is located on the path leading to Toshogu Shrine and has a small museum and garden. The museum is fully accessible, but only the first area of the garden can be accessed by wheelchair users. At the time of review the main temple hall was under construction but staff say there is a ramp (any follow-up information is appreciated).

Futarasan Shrine is to the west of Toshogu Shrine. While the grounds are more or less accessible, the buildings are not.

Final Thoughts

While visiting Nikko is a good way to see some Japanese history up close, it really does provide some accessibility challenges.  Both the long distance to get there and lack of full accessibility when you arrive may make the site more suitable for visitors who have already seen the sites in Tokyo/Kyoto and want to branch out on their second or third trip.

What are your thoughts?  Do you mind traveling a few hours even if you can only see part of the destination?

Published in Destination, Travel


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