A brief stop at Kegon Waterfall in Nikko

 Nikko is one of the most popular cultural destinations in Japan. It's a couple hours from Tokyo by train but is a completely different world, set in the mountains and full of old temples and natural beauty.

Up a windy mountain road, you'll come to Kegon Waterfall.
 The waterfall's entrance is near the top of the mountain along the windy road, but after buying your admission ticket you take an elevator down the cliff (inside the mountain) to a viewing area across from the falls themselves. You can see the falls from a free observation deck higher up the mountain, but the best views are from below.
 It's quite beautiful, and when the skies are clear I'm sure it's even nicer. The fall is a popular destination in autumn, when surrounding trees are changing color adding some variety to the surrounding foliage. Also, the waterfall freezes completely in the winter, which should be pretty cool as well.

Kegon Waterfall is 100 meters high, and is considered one of Japan's three most beautiful waterfalls.
As with all "important" and well-known sites in Japan, the waterfall is fairly crowded, though in the afternoon you should be able to get a good view on one of the two viewing levels. And while the falls are beautiful, know that there is pretty much nothing else to do at the falls themselves. Most people will probably be in and out in about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how long the wait is for the elevators.

The elevators to the lower observation deck are open from 8 AM to 5 PM, with a 530-yen admission fee. Access is best by bus from the Nikko train stations (JR or Tobu), and takes about 50 minutes - get off at the Chuzenjiko Onsen stop.

The one-way ride is a steep 1100 yen, though a 2-day bus pass is 2000 yen. A great half-day-or-longer trip would add the hike through Senjogohara Marshland, as the bus that stops at the waterfall continues on to Yumoto Onsen (a good starting point for the long hike).

Note that a pass that goes all the way to Yumoto Onsen will probably be more expensive, though my 4400-yen pass included round trip transportation from Asakusa and four days of bus and train rides around Nikko. Details about different pass options can be found at Japan-Guide's website.

And speaking of multi-day passes at Nikko, I think it's easy to spend at least three days there visiting the shrines and temples, natural sights like Senjogohara and Kegon, and the two "theme parks" in Kinugawa. Those looking to relax and take things slower or enjoy the hot springs will easily spend 4-5 days in the area!

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