Only two hours north of Tokyo, in the Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is an easy distance from the city. An enchanting city with a history dating back over a thousand years, Nikko is so packed with shrines and nature that it will take more than a day trip to see them all. Dating back to 766, Nikko is the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who united Japan after years of internal conflict, and is home to stunning scenery that is sure to take your breath away. When visiting, make sure to take the time to taste the local cuisine. Read on for our suggestions about where to eat in Nikko.
1. Tsuruya Yuba
Yuba is a dish that you will likely only be able to experience in Japan, made from the byproduct that is created during the tofu-making process. Anywhere else in the world, yuba would be considered waste, but here in Japan, it is regarded as a versatile delicacy that can be paired with almost any dish. To get a taste of great yuba, make sure to visit Tsuruya Yuba. Here you will find all types of dishes featuring yuba. From yuba curry to yuba custard pudding, there will definitely be a yuba dish to suit your tastes.
Afterward, if you are still in the mood for yuba and are looking for a sweet treat, head on over to Sakaeya. This sweet shop is home to the Ageyuba Manju, a local delicacy that consists of sweet red bean paste wrapped inside yuba and fried, tempura style, then sprinkled with sea salt. Costing only 200 yen, this deep-fried snack is known to cause long lines of people yearning for a taste of this delicacy.
Since its founding, Nikko has been heavily associated with the many shrines and temples in the surrounding area. Due to the high density of places of worship, Nikko is home to shojin ryori, a special type of cuisine that is eaten by Buddhist monks. Shojin ryori is a 100% vegan cuisine, made without harming any living beings, and excludes meat, garlic, and onion. Instead, this cuisine places emphasis on fresh vegetables, wild mushrooms, and tofu to create a meal unlike any other. When in Nikko, make sure to get a taste of shojin ryori at Gyoshintei, a vegan-friendly establishment nestled in the wooded scenery of Nikko. Here you have the option of getting a full course shojin ryori meal as you sit looking out into the beautiful scenery of Nikko.
4. Guruman’s Wagyu
Wagyu beef is known worldwide for its high quality and taste, making it a must eat when visiting Japan. In Nikko, you can try melt-in-the-mouth, premium wagyu beef at Guruman’s Wagyu. Though the restaurant takes a bit of effort to get to, it is certainly worth the trip to get a taste of Nikko-style wagyu steak, served sizzling on a hot plate. The set meal prices range from 5000 to 25,000 yen, and credit cards are only accepted for bills over 20,000 yen so you will likely want to bring cash. The more affordable course menu includes 8 courses: soup, roast beef, salad, wagyu steak, fried rice, crepe dessert, English tea or coffee, and Japanese tea. It is well worth it for the experience of trying the juicy and tender high-quality Japanese wagyu steak.
5. Shogetsu Himuro
Not only is Nikko known for scenic views, but it’s also a popular spot to go to escape from the summer heat. Nikko is a provider of high-grade ice, with a reserve of excellent quality water, and is famous for traditional ice-making methods. This allows Nikko shops to make delicious shaved ice desserts that will cool you off, and make your day. Shogetsu Himuro, which has been around since the 1890s, is the go-to shop if you want to get a taste of amazing shaved ice to beat the heat. Made from natural spring water that is rich with minerals, their ichigo darake consists of shaved ice formed into a cake and topped with sweet cream and strawberries.
To enjoy Japan’s natural beauty, escape from the bustle of Tokyo, and enjoy a fantastic meal, make sure to check out Nikko, an overlooked gem of a city, on your next vacation! Any of these restaurants on our Where to Eat in Nikko guide will be sure to satisfy.
Francisco is a student who is currently studying abroad in Japan. He enjoys walking around the streets of Tokyo and discovering great places to eat.