New Years Day in Japan is the same as Christmas in America, in many ways. Christmas isn't a holiday here, and the important part of Christmas is the night before, when families eat fried chicken (turkey isn't exactly common) and cakes and open presents, and couples head off to love hotels for some hanky panky (Christmas is the most romantic day of the year in Japan - even more than Valentine's Day).
But for New Years, people head back to their hometowns to see their families and almost everything closes. Stores shutter their doors for three or four days and most museums turn off their lights. Families hang wreaths and put bamboo decorations outside (for luck/religious reasons) and put out a special New Years cake with an orange on top. Instead of Christmas cards, everyone sends New Years cards. And early in the morning on January First, millions of Japanese people go to their local shrines to pray for the coming new year.
So, seeing how it's New Years Day, this is a perfect time to post about the most famous shrine in Japan - though possibly Asakusa's Sensoji may be Japan's most popular religious destination.
Sandwiched between the yuba lunch and a late afternoon stop at Kegon Waterfall, my tour group had time to explore Nikko. There was a limited amount of time, and there's a lot to see in Nikko, but we decided to tackle the most important: Toshogu Shrine.
Toshogu, and everything else Nikko-proper has to offer, is about 30-40 minutes away on foot from the JR and Tobu Nikko train stations. Or you can take a bus (about 10 minutes, 300 yen). The grounds are open 8:00-5:00 (closing at 4pm November-March), though I recommend allowing two hours to see everything (you may take less time, but it's better to be safe). Admission is 1300 yen.