I've been to Nikko countless times, but really could kick myself for putting off a trip to Edo Wonderland for so long. I finally visited on June 23, and fortunately the delayed onset of the rainy season got me there on a day with perfect weather.

From the Ginza subway line terminus at Asakusa, I hopped on operator Tobu's comfortable, reserved-seat "Kinugawa" Limited Express (2,900 yen) at 8:00 a.m. It pulled into Kinugawa Onsen station less than two hours later. I then took a bus (400 yen) for the 15-minute ride to this Edo Period (1600-1868) historical theme park, where the entrance fee is 4,500 yen for adults and 2,300 yen for children under 12. Tobu also offers a variety of discount package deals. (More on this later).

Opened in 1986, Edo Wonderland (Nikko Edo Mura in Japanese) encompasses nearly half a million sq. meters, but you'll be spending most of your visit in a fairly limited section, either in the plebian shitamachi (old downtown), or across the bridge in the "official" buildings of the Shogun . . . laid out, as was Edo itself, in accordance with a clear social hierarchy.