The Nikko is a limited express service that runs between Tobu Nikko Station in Tochigi Prefecture and Shinjuku Station in Tokyo in around 2 hours. This service is jointly run by JR East and Tobu Railway. Because this train travels over both JR and Tobu railway lines it is only partly covered by the Japan Rail Pass, so Japan Rail Pass holders have to pay extra for the Tobu Railway part of the route.
At Tobu Nikko Station the Nikko departs from platforms 4, 5, and 6. At Shinjuku Station it departs from JR platforms 5 and 6. All seats on this service must be reserved in advance, and you will have to pay a limited express surcharge as well as paying for your train ticket.
The Limited Express Nikko runs on the Tobu Nikko Line between Tobu Nikko and Tochigi before changing tracks at Kurihashi Station. The train then follows JR East’s Utsunomiya and Yamanote lines as far as Shinjuku. The Nikko makes passenger stops at the following 8 stations.
Tobu Nikko – Shimo-Imaichi – Shin-Kanuma – Tochigi – Omiya – Urawa – Ikebukuro – Shinjuku
The key destinations and transfer points are listed below with rail fares (including the limited express surcharge) and example journey times given from Tobu Nikko Station.
Tobu Nikko Station
Nikko is a major tourist destination in Japan with many ancient shrines and temples and stunning natural scenery. Among Nikko’s many attractions are three UNESCO World Heritage sites: Toshogu Shrine, Futarasan Jinja Shrine, and Rinnoji Temple. Nikko is also the departure point for the Oku-Nikko region which is famous for its waterfalls, hot spring resorts, and the scenic Lake Chuzenji.
Shimo-Imaichi Station is the transfer point for the Tobu Kinugawa Line with services bound for the Tobu World Square theme park and the hot spring resort town of Kinugawa Onsen. On weekends and holidays the steam locomotive Taiju runs sightseeing trips between Shimo-Imaichi and Kinugawa Onsen.
Train fare: 710 yen
Train time: 7 minutes
Tochigi City’s central sightseeing area is the old town area of Kuranomachi. This district has many historic wooden warehouses called “kura”. Local attractions include Tochigi Kuranomachi Museum of Art which is located in three 200-year-old warehouses, Tochigi Utamaro Museum which displays ukiyo-e prints by the artist Kitagawa Utamaro, and Okada Memorial Museum which is the 500 year old residence of the Okada clan and has on display many fine historic artifacts. Boat tours on the Uzuma River are also a popular activity. Transfers can be made at Tochigi Station to the JR Ryomo Line.
Train fare: 1,470 yen
Train time: 39 minutes
Omiya is home to the Omiya Railway Museum, Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan Mint Museum, Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore, and the ancient Hikawa Shrine.
Omiya Station is also an important transportation hub. Transfer here to JR East’s Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Saikyo Line, and Kawagoe Line. Several shinkansen services also run from Omiya Station: the Tohoku Shinkansen, the Yamagata Shinkansen, the Akita Shinkansen, the Joetsu Shinkansen, and the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Transfers can also be made here to the Tobu Urban Park Line, and Saitama New Urban Transit’s “New Shuttle” on the Ina Line.
Train fare: 3,530 yen
Train time: 84 minutes
Transfer here to JR East’s Utsunomiya Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, and Shonan-Shinjuku Line.
Train fare: 3,610 yen
Train time: 91 minutes
Ikebukuro is a major commercial center in Tokyo which is packed with department stores, electronics stores, restaurants and bars.
Transfers can be made at Ikebukuro Station to the JR Saikyo Line, the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, the Tobu Tojo Line, the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line, and the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line.
Train fare: 3,870 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Shinjuku is one of Tokyo’s biggest commercial and entertainment districts with countless shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities. Top attractions include the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, the Kabukicho and Golden Gai nightlife districts, and Shinjuku Gyoen Park.
Transfers can be made here to the JR Chuo Line, the JR Chuo-Sobu Line, the JR Saikyo Line, the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, the Keio Line, the Keio New Line, the Odakyu Odawara Line, the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, the Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Oedo Line, and the Seibu Shinjuku Line. Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal is located on Shinjuku Station’s south side. Because Shinjuku Station is so big and has multiple rail links it is very easy to get lost there. Be sure to use our Shinjuku Station Map & Guide to help you find your way.
Train fare: 4,000 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 57 minutes
About the JR Limited Express Nikko
The Limited Express Nikko is a refurbished six-car #253 series train. This train has luggage compartments, spaces for wheelchairs, and a wheelchair accessible toilet. On board announcements and displayed information are given in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Tobu #100 series trains also sometimes run between Tobu Nikko and Shinjuku as the Limited Express Spacia Nikko. However, the Spacia Nikko is not a regularly scheduled service.
The Limited Express Nikko runs one regularly scheduled daily return service (Nikko #1 and #8) between Tobu Nikko Station and Shinjuku Station. In addition to this service there is a supplementary return service (Nikko #21 and #22) that operates during peak travel periods such as holiday weekends. To find out the dates when these additional services are running, please check JR East’s online timetables. The full timetable is given below with times from the main boarding locations.
(peak periods only)
(peak periods only)
JR East has some special discount area passes that cover the cost of the Limited Express Nikko in addition to unlimited rides on other services. Both the Tokyo Wide Pass and the JR East Pass (Tohoku Area) include the full cost of the Limited Express Nikko. Please check the official JR East website for further details.
Alternatives to the Limited Express Nikko
If you want to travel between Nikko and Tokyo using only the Japan Rail Pass, you can take the JR Nikko Line as far as Utsunomiya and then transfer to the Tohoku Shinkansen. The trip between JR Nikko Station and Tokyo Station can take as little as 1 hour and 48 minutes. Tobu Railway also operate a series of limited express services between Tobu Nikko Station and Tobu Asakusa Station in Tokyo. These include the regularly scheduled Revaty Kegon and Spacia Kegon services and the Kirifuri which only runs on weekends and holidays.
JR East have complete timetables for limited express and shinkansen services on their official website. To find the train times and routes that suit your own travel itinerary, we recommend using English language route finders like the Japan Transit Planner or Hyperdia.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.