Translated by Ray Koh
(JTB Tour) 2-Day Tour of Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival and Nikko Tōshō-gū
Written by MATCHA-PR
Explore beautiful Yunishigawa and drink in breathtaking scenery of the Kamakura Festival, along with World Heritage Site Tōshō-gū.
Japan's winter is a season for enjoying nabe (hotpot), toasting yourself in a warm kotatsu (table heater) while eating mandarins, participating in mochi pounding, as well as savoring delicacies unique to winter. In regions where snow falls, activities such as skiing, snowboarding or ice-skating can be enjoyed, along with kamakura※.
※･･･Kamakura (かまくら): Derived from the word kamikura (神座, meaning "the seat of a deity"), kamakura is traditionally a term describing a small igloo-like structure made from snow, built around a tiny shrine. These days, snow caves are also referred to as kamakura.
Kamakura is one of the things that remind Japanese people of winter, and at Yunishigawa Onsen (湯西川温泉) in Tochigi Prefecture, wondrous breathtaking scenery of kamakura can be seen only in winter. The kamakura festival of Yunishigawa Onsen has also been designated as a "Japan Heritage Night View".
Should you go on this JTB tour, you will also be able to see UNESCO World Heritage Site Nikko Tōshō-gū (日光東照宮). In this article we bring you this special tour where you get to visit Yunishigawa Onsen, Nikko Tōshō-gū and get to pick fresh strawberries.
Kamakura Festival at Yunishigawa Onsen
The famous Kamakura Festival is held every year at Yunishigawa Onsen located in Tochigi Prefecture. You can participate in tobogganing or enjoy a special moment barbecuing within one of the numerous kamakura (reservation required, additional charges apply). The kamakura remain lit from 5:30pm to 9:00pm, and from Friday to Wednesday you get to see a magical scenery of mini-kamakura. This breathtaking spectacle is also nominated as a "Japan Heritage Night View".
In this JTB tour, you will be able to see snowmen during the day, and wear snowshoes to trek through the snow (additional charges apply). Returning to the hotel for dinner, the bus will set out for the popular Kamakura Festival where you can view the beautifully lit up kamakura.
Parking space is limited and given the popularity of this festival, we highly recommend going with a tour group.
Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival Official Website
Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival tour pricing and details here.
Visiting World Heritage Site Tōshō-gū on the First Day
On the first day you will visit registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tōshō-gū. Out of all the World Heritage Sites of Japan, Tōshō-gū is perhaps the most famous. This is mainly due to Nikko Tōshō-gū being dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (※1).
Many of its buildings in the present day were mostly reconstructed in 1636 by Tokugawa Iemitsu (※2), the third Shōgun, in what was called the "The Great Reconstruction of the Kan'ei era". The compound holds eight structures regarded as national treasures, with another 34 designated as important cultural properties, amounting to a total of 55 buildings. It owes its magnificence to its detailed ornament decoration and grand design. The ornaments number more than an astounding 5,000.
Accomplished craftsmen from all over Japan lacquered and painted the structure in brilliant colors, and decorating its pillars with intricate carvings.
※1...Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康): A military commander and daimyo from the Warring States Period (1467 to 1590 A.D.) to the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573 to 1603 A.D.).
※2...Tokugawa Iemitsu (徳川家光): The third Shōgun (※3) of the Edo Shogunate (an administration established in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu).
※3...Shōgun (しょうぐん): A title given to a commander of a large army.
Featured in the picture above the famous carvings of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", officially termed the "three monkeys". This is carved into the side of "God's Stables", a stable where the sacred horses serving god rest. The monkeys are said to heal the horses of illnesses, to protect and take care of them.
The front gate of Tōshō-gū is flanked by niōzō (※4), and is also called the Deva Gate. One can see the niōzō at the temple situated in the front, then view the stone guardian lion-dogs at the Shinto shrine at the back. Tōshō-gū was built with the union of Shinto and Buddhism in mind, something that is rather rare in Japan.
※4...Niōzō (におうぞう): Two Deva Kings, one with its mouth open and the other one closed. Their fierce appearance is said to ward off evil spirits, as well as signifying life and death.
Reference Article: Highlights of World Heritage Site Nikko Tōshō-gū! (Japanese)
Stay the Night at Kinugawa Plaza Hotel
After thoroughly experiencing what kamakura festival has to offer, Kinugawa Plaza Hotel can fulfill your accommodation needs. Kinugawa Onsen's water, also known as "treasure water", originates from Taki Onsen; its gentle alkaline hot spring is said to be good for the skin, as well as being an effective remedy for nerve pain and rheumatism.
Light filters gently through the paper sliding doors of the room, allowing you to soak in the breathtaking sight of Kinugawa River. This brightly decorated Japanese-style room is just perfect to relax and spend your time in.
Hotels at Yunishigawa Onsen
There are also ryokan and hotels in Yunishigawa Onsen where you can spend the night. One of them is Honke Bankyu, established back in 1666.
All its rooms face the Yunishigawa River, with its furnishings and interior made with well-aged wood. Every room is designed different from the rest.
There are rooms with attached baths as shown in the photos, where you can have a private moment in an onsen while surrounded by vibrant nature.
Both the men's and women's bath face the Yunishigawa River; listening to the sound of the flowing river in the comfort of an onsen feels luxurious indeed.
Dinner with fresh seasonal ingredients is served around an irori (sunken hearth). Surrounding the warm hearth while slowly savoring the blessings of the river and mountain, will certainly leave a memory that will remain with you for years to come.
Purchase Wonderful Souvenirs at the Candy Castle
On the second day you will be able to purchase souvenirs at the Candy Castle. Right beside this store is a candy factory, allowing you to buy freshly-made confectionery. Such candies are not sold anywhere else, so these make really delicious souvenirs for your loved ones.
A ranking board showing the popularity of various confectionery has been put up here, which may help in your decision-making.
The most popular confectionery is the Chou Rusk. Choux crème is baked into a rusk, giving it a sweet and crunchy texture.
Another popular confectionery is the "Kinugawa Moon" (鬼怒の月), a delicious sweet bun that's a favorite with customers.
After getting your souvenir purchasing done, next up is strawberry picking in the Nikko Strawberry Park. Apart from standard ones, there are houses at Nikko Strawberry Park which allow you to pick those red jewels while remaining seated in a stroller or wheelchair.
A new variety of strawberry has been discovered in 2015, called the "Skyberry", which is larger and sweeter than the standard strawberry.
Apart from strawberry harvesting (all-you-can-eat), a store selling strawberries is also set up. Jams, processed strawberry products and even horse chestnuts can be bought as souvenirs here.
The Final Stop: Shopping at Sano Premium Outlet
The last stop in the itinerary is Sano City located in Tochigi Prefecture, where you can enjoy shopping at a Sano Premium Outlet. There are over 175 branches of Sano Premium Outlets, stocking brands such as GUCCI, PRADA, Ferragamo, FURLA, NIKE, Adidas as well as those popular with the younger crowd like GAP, UNITED ARROWS and SHIPS.
One of the features of this outlet is that all of them have only one floor, so there's no need to climb up or down.
What do you think? One of the most popular winter festival is the Yunishigawa Onsen Kamakura Festival, where one can see an almost magical scenery. Its beauty is so astonishing that even locals take a trip down to see it every year. One step into the World Heritage Site Tōshō-gū and you will be swept away by its historical ambiance. Viewing the carvings of each and every one of the buildings while immersing yourself in traditional culture created by great beings of bygones past, is something you will not forget anytime soon.
While it can be fun to drive around in a car, it is a totally different experience to go around visiting sightseeing spots in a bus, together with other like-minded tourists. How about taking this chance to hop onto this JTB tour?
Kamakura Festival, onsen, strawberry picking 2-day trip by bus (Japanese)
Official Website: JAPANiCAN.COM