Direct access to Nikko from Shinjuku, Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa

Tobu Railway Limited Express "Spacia" (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Tobu Railway Limited Express “Spacia” (C) Sonic Rail Garden

These trains connect Shinjuku (新宿) and Ikebukuro (池袋) in Tokyo with Nikko (日光) and Kinugawa-Onsen (鬼怒川温泉=Kinugawa hot springs resort). When I published the post, “How to get Nikko”, I did not mention these limited express trains. Because these trains are operated by Japan Railway East and Tobu Railway Co. and run through Tobu Railway line from Kurihashi (栗橋) to Nikko or Kunugawa-Onsen. That means you have to pay extra if you use Japan Rail Pass. But since I received many valuable comments from the visitors of this site, I know that some of Japan Rail Pass users do not hesitate to pay to get better service.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Anyway Japan Rail Pass official site mention that you need to pay the extra, but they don’t tell you the extra fare and any train informations. In this post, I will tell you how much the extra charge you pay to take these trains and show some images of the trains.

Route, schedule and trip time

Limited Express “Nikko” connects Shinjuku with Nikko in 2 hours. “Kinugawa” connects Shinjuku with Kinugawa-Onsen in 2 hours and 15 minutes. They have 1 round tiip to Nikko from Shinjuku and 3 trips to Kinugawa-Onsen from Shinjuku. But you will have a few more extra trips during the peak season and long weekend. You can check the most updated timetable at JR East official website.

to Nikko/Kinugawa Nikko/Spacia Nikko Kinugawa/Spacia Kinugawa
Shinjuku (新宿) x x
Ikebukuro (池袋) x x
Omiya (大宮) x x
Tochigi (栃木) x x
Shin-Shikanuma (新鹿沼) x x
Shimoimaichi (下今市) x x
Tobu Nikko (東武日光) x
Kinugawa Onsen (鬼怒川温泉) x

*The train name that has “Spacia” is operated by Tobu Railway’s car. That is way better. I will show you the images later.

View Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa in a larger map


As you mentioned, these express train go through Tobu Railway line. So you need to pay the extra if you use Japan Rail Pass. If you use JR East pass, these trains are covered by the pass. You can take Niiko, Spacia Nikko, Kinugawa and Spacia Kinugawa without extra charge.

Basic fare 970 yen
Express Surcharge 2,060 yen
*as of July, 2015

If you don’t want to pay any extra charge, you can take Tohoku Shinkansen and Nikko line local train without any extra. Please refer the post, How to get Nikko. But if you want to go to Kinugawa-Onsen, you cannot get there by Japan Railway. You have to take Tobu Railway line anyway.

If you take “Spacia Nikko” or “Spacia Kinugawa”, these trains have Green seat. But it is Green compartment. Even Japan Rail Pass Green does not cover this seat. You have to pay full charge that is another 6,000yen per room. Nikko and Kinugawa do not have any Green seat.


Spacia Nikko and Spacia Kinugawa are operated by Tobu Railway car 100 series. Nikko and Kinugawa are operated by JR East refurbished 253 series. This 253 series was operated as Narita Express before. Actually Spacia that is serviced by Tobu Railway car is way better than JR East 253 series.

Nikko and Kinugawa by JR East 253 series

Refurbished 253 series replaced old 485 series in June 2011. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
1 2 3 4 5 6

R=Reserved ordinary seat

It does not have any Green class in this car. These cars are refurbished and renovated, but these are more than 25 years old.


Sanitary space

Passenger’s deck and luggage space

JR East is going to use refurbished 285 series (link to wikipedia image) which used to be Narita Express and will stop using 485 series. It is better change. But Spacia is still better than 285 series.

Spacia Nikko and Spacia Kingawa by Tobu Railway 100 series “Spacia”

Tobu Railway 100 series Spacia
Tobu Railway 100 series Spacia
1 2 3 4 5 6

R=Reserved ordinary seat GC=Green compartment

Spacia has Green seat. But as I mentioned to you, Japan Rail Pass does not cover this green seat. Even the reserved ordinary class give you very comfortable seating. It has almost same comfortability as the regular green seat. This series usually is used for the scheduled Sapcia Kinugawa only. We cannot find any Spacia to Nikko. But in the peak season, you may have Spacia Nikko.

Ordinary seat Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Ordinary seat in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa

Green compartment Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa

Washroom Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa Green compartment in Spacia Nikko and Kingawa


JR East gives you online reservation. But you can reserve the seat between Shinjuku and Omiya only. Yes. It is useless. I guess JR East cannot handle this because the sections between Omiya and Nikko/Kinugawa-onsen are owned by Tobu Railway lines. So yo need to go to the ticket reservation window (=Midori-no-madoguchi=みどりの窓口).

24 thoughts on “Direct access to Nikko from Shinjuku, Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa”

  1. Hi Takeshi

    My sister is planning a trip to Nikko in October.
    Her trip is

    Day 1: Tokyo
    Day 2: Tokyo – Nikko – Lake Chuzenji
    Day 3: Nikko – Kinugawa onsen
    Day 4: Kinugawa onsen – Tokyo
    Day 5: Tokyo

    I told her to buy All Nikko Pass as it covers all transportation in Nikko up to Lake Chuzenji.
    And also to Kinugawa onsen. While she’s in Tokyo, use Pasmo for a single trip.

    I would be happy to hear your thoughts.


  2. Hi Takeshi,

    Just trying to understand the fare for the Spacia Kingawa, is the fare mentioned “Basic fare 940yen, Express Surcharge 2010yen” refering to the extra charge for JR pass (not East pass)?

    Thank you in advanced.

  3. May I ask you a question? I’m very confused. If I have a “JR KANTO PASS”, can I take a ride from Asakusa to Tobu-nikko(Spacia limited express Kegon) for free?

    Thank you in advance for replying

      1. This web site
        and their excellent android and ios apps will get you very accurate information about what trains are JR, what are private.

        The maps of Tokyo railway lines
        ( is good )
        do not make it easy to understand that there are actually three different railway stations in Asakusa:
        – the Asakusa Station at the end of the Ginza subway line
        – the adjacent Asakusa (Tobu) station of the Tobu company.
        – the Asakusa Station of the Tsukuba Express, which runs from Akihabara to Tsukuba, which is about one km away from the other two.

        All those are private railways. It really is useful to have a Suica card which you can buy at the airport or many station, and top up at any station, and get most of your money back if you want to hand it back on departure. That will cover non-JR all over that map at link above.

        If you study the map as much as possible and use hyperdia to consider possible routes, it’s easy when you arrive… sort of…

        We used the Tobu line from Asakusa to do this day trip..
        private rail up to Aizuwakamatsu, then JR to the west coast at Niigata and back to Tokyo by Shinkansen. Unless you are really strapped for cash, mixing the private and JR means you can do lots more.



  4. Dear Takeshi,

    I am going to Nikko for a day on October 24th.
    I order the 7-days JR Pass, but I plan tol use it for traveling to Nara, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka.
    So, I need your advice on how to get a day tour to Nikko and back to Tokyo without JR Pass.
    I read your post about Kanto Area Pass and JR East Pass, but I do not think it suits me since I only have a day. Or will it be cheaper anyway to buy this pass than combining single tickets to get in and get around Nikko?
    Thank you so much!

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Sani,

      Actually Tobu Railway is much easier to get Nikko. Tobu sells All Nikko Pass. This pass includes local bus service in Nikko. Even though this pass is for 2 days trip, it’s cheaper than round trip fare.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Enjoyed your story of going towards Yunokami Onsen, but could not find the part beyond your stop for lunch. Did you write it somewhere?

    However, I wonder if it would not be simplest to take the Ginza line down to Asakusa and the Tubo train from there… Costs a bit more but a bigger struggle to use JR?

    thank you

    paste/edit from

    Take time: 207 Minutes Transfer: 2 Times Distance: 210.0 km
    Total:¥ 5,060(Fare:¥ 3,760 Seat Fee:¥ 1,300)

    Tobu Ltd. Exp. Kinu 103

    transfer KINUGAWA-ONSEN

    Tobu Kinugawa Line

    through SHIN-FUJIWARA

    Yagan Tetsudo Railway


    [16 Min]
    Aizu Railway

    through AIZUTAJIMA

    Aizu Railway


    1. Hi Dennis,

      Thank you for reading my article. Actually I haven’t written about after Ashinomaki onsen. I will write it soon.

      Your trip plan is perfect. As I used JR deal, I tried to take JR train as much as possible. But Tobu railway is much easier and faster than JR when we go to Yunokami onsen.
      I just want to tell only one thing. When you transfer at Kinugawa onsen, you must be ready at passengers deck before arriving Kinugawa onsen. Many passengers may change the train from Ltd Exp Kinu to Aizu Mount Express at 10:01. Those trains will be at same platform. You can transfer in 10 seconds. But Aizu Mount Express is only two cars formation. There were lots of standing passengers in the train.

      If you want to secure your seat, must be ready to get off and transfer before arriving Kinugawa.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Thank you Takeshi!

        Good advice.

        Our thinking changes… also to make use of JR Pass. We only have 9 days staying in Asakusa from Australia and we plan to use JR pass for overnight to Kyoto as well as N’Ex, Yamanote, Chuo, etc.

        Also we realise that it’s difficult to go to Yunokami Onsen and back in a day, but it does seem feasible to go the much greater distance to Naruko Onsen for a day trip. Less time on train, more time soaking, at least soaking feet!

        I would be very interested in your thoughts: is this a good idea or too hectic? Times from Hyperdia below.

        Have you been to Naruko Onsen?

        best wishes


        Take time: 160 Minutes Transfer: 1 Times Distance: 426.9 km
        Total:¥ 11,440(Fare:¥ 6,830 Seat Fee:¥ 4,610)
        begin UENO
        transfer FURUKAWA
        JR Rikuu-East Line
        10:02 end NARUKO-ONSEN

        begin NARUKO-ONSEN
        [46 Min]
        JR Rikuu-East Line
        transfer FURUKAWA

        [111 Min]

        end UENO

        1. Hi Dennis,

          Actually this is much easier than Yunokami. I don’t think you will spend 5 hours there. Naruko is nice place but it does not have many things to do. I think 3 hours is enough as day trip. If you really really like hot springs and intend to try a few bathes, 3 hours may not be enough.

          If I go to Naruko as day trip, I will add Sendai, Hiraizumi or Yamadera via Yamagata.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. How to purchase the limited express from Shinjuku to Nikko online? Will be visiting Nikko on Oct 12 till Oct 14, 2012. Hope to get the tickets earlier before I arrive Tokyo on Oct 6. Please advise!

  7. I have just discovered for myself that trying to reserve tickets on the Spacia Kingawa train is useless from the JREast site ( as you mentioned above )
    As we will be travelling during Golden Week though, my question is – should I reserve seats between Shinjuku and Omiya for the 1st of May now and try and reserve the rest of the trip once we arrive in Japan ( the 26th April ) or would it be best just to wait until we get there to book it all at once?

    Thank you for such a great and helpful website as well. It is very informative and helpful.


    1. Hi Jan,
      If you reserve your seat between Shinjuku and Omiya, it might make reserving a ticket for the rest of section easier. Because Shinjuku-Nikko is bigger demand than Omiya-Nikko. But it cannot guarantee to reserve your ticket.
      If you use Japan Rail Pass, you can reserve it without any extra charge. You can go ahead. If you cannot make the rest of your trip after you arrive in Japan, start to think about other option, like Shinkansen and Nikko line local train.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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