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Nikko, Nikko

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A Japanese proverb says, "Never say kekko until you've seen Nikko." "Kekko" means both splendid and satisfied, and the double meaning won't be lost on visitors to Toshogu, the mausoleum shrine of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan for 250 years. For sheer over-the-top exuberance, it is unmatched in Japan, with courtyard after courtyard of brightly painted, richly decorated buildings. The effect is both magnificent and overwhelming. Centuries before the arrival of the Tokugawas, Nikko's mountains and waterfalls had already made it a center of religious worship, and the area's natural beauty remains one of its main attractions. If you're staying overnight, try a traditional ryokan (inn) or the quaint old-fashioned Nikko Kanaya Hotel, which opened in 1875 (81-28-854-0001;

(About one hour and 40 minutes by train from Asakusa Station on the Tobu Asakusa line.)

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