Written by Ramona (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Halal Travel In Tochigi: Strawberries, Ramen And Shopping In Sano City
Sano City in Tochigi is home to the Sano Premium Outlets, a popular shopping destination, and to Sano ramen, a delicious local specialty. We introduce a recommended itinerary for Muslim guests that can be enjoyed widely by anyone visiting Tokyo.
A Fun-Filled Day in Sano City, Tochigi
We strongly recommend to anyone traveling in the Tokyo area to go for day trips in the outskirts of the city. Not only is it a great chance to discover places and activities that can't be experienced in Tokyo, but it is also an opportunity to see the authentic side of living in Japan.
One of the cities located close to the capital that is full of charm is Sano in Tochigi Prefecture. Our recommended day trip itinerary to Sano includes a strawberry picking adventure, tasting delicious Sano ramen, and shopping at the Sano Premium Outlets. We recommend this itinerary especially to Muslim travelers because the facilities included in this route can all answer their travel needs. However, it is definitely a route that can be enjoyed by anyone.
8:40 - 10:13 -- Traveling from Tokyo Station to Sano
Traveling to Sano is extremely convenient if you take the highway bus heading to Sano Shintoshi Bus Terminal from the JR Kanto bus terminal located at Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit. A one-way ticket to Sano costs 1,500 yen and the ride takes about one hour and a half.
Before stopping at the Sano Shintoshi Bus Terminal, the bus stops at the Sano Premium Outlets. We suggest getting off here because it's easier to find a taxi to get you to our first destination: Agritown, a local tourist farm.
Agritown is located close to the Sano Premium Outlets and can be reached in less than 15 minutes by foot. However, it might be easier to take a taxi from the Sano Premium Outlets. If there are no taxis stationed in front of the entrance, ask the staff at the Information counter to call a taxi for you. A ride to Agritown takes about 5 minutes and costs around 1,000 yen.
10:45 - 11:40 -- Strawberry Picking in Agritown
Agritown is a farm growing vegetables and fruit that opened its doors to visitors who want to try strawberry picking ("ichigo-gari" in Japanese). Visitors can drop in on the same day for strawberry picking. However, depending on the ripeness of the strawberries, the number of persons they can accommodate might be limited. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to make a reservation beforehand using the form available online or by telephone.
Strawberries can be picked during the cold season, from December to early May. The weather is clear most of the time and the strawberries receive plenty of sunlight, which makes them sweet and flavorful.
During the 30-minute strawberry picking session, visitors can eat all the strawberries they want right after picking them themselves. The staff will explain how to spot the most delicious strawberries and how to pick them.
Agritown has two strawberry gardens. Depending on the condition of the strawberries, visitors are guided to the one where the strawberries are large and plentiful.
They grow two types of strawberries: Tochiotome, a type that has been highly appreciated for decades now, and Skyberry, a relatively new type, with large fruits that have a refreshing flavor.
We picked Tochiotome strawberries, the brand that Tochigi takes so much pride in, and were surprised at how large and sweet they were. The freshly picked strawberries were truly delicious.
Agritown has a shop selling fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as food products such as jam, pickles, and sweets. How about stopping by this shop to look for some souvenirs of your strawberry picking adventure?
11:45 - 12:00 -- Traveling to Sano City Tourist Association
To reach our next recommended destination, the Sano City Tourist Association, we suggest taking a taxi. The Agritown reception staff can call one for you. The ride will take about 8 minutes and cost about 1,500 yen.
12:00 - 12:30 -- Finding Wonderful Local Souvenirs at the Sano City Tourist Association
The Sano City Tourist Association is a facility that offers information on sightseeing in Sano. You'll recognize the building by the city's mascot character, Sanomaru, which stands right in front of the entrance.
Sanomaru is a samurai dog that loves Sano ramen, the local specialty. He's wearing a ramen bowl on his head and fried potato sticks as his weapons. You won't be able to resist this little guy.
There is an expansive souvenir shop inside the building where visitors can find all the popular souvenirs from Sano, including various types of Sano ramen, strawberries and other fruit, snacks, fruit jams and cookies.
Postcards with the scenic views of the area, as well as local craft items can also be found here. Of course, there are plenty of goods featuring Sanomaru, the beloved cute character of the city.
One of the artisan crafts which Sano is famous for is Tenmyo cast-metal items ("Tenmyo imono" in Japanese). From wind-chimes and paperweights to beautiful vases and tea kettles, there's a wide variety of daily use objects made of cast metal. Besides being practical, they are refined, reflecting the values of traditional craftsmanship.
We suggest stopping at this shop for a few minutes to pick up some of the local souvenirs from Sano. There is a corner with pamphlets with information on seasonal events. If there is anything you'd like to find out more about, please ask the staff for details.
12:30 - 12:41 -- Traveling to Sano Station
Take the local bus from the bus stop in front of the Sano City Tourist Association to go to Sano Station, which is close to our next recommended destination. The ride costs 160 yen.
12:50 - 13:30 -- Viewing the City from Above in Shiroyama Park
Shiroyama Park, located right in front of Sano Station's North Exit, is located on a hill with a great view over the city.
This park used to be the site of Sano Castle that stood here only for a few decades during the Edo period (1603-1868). The current city of Sano was constructed based on the plans of the old castle town.
Shiroyama Park is the ideal place to feel the seasons of Sano. When we visited, the plum blossoms had just begun to bloom, early heralds of spring. Come here at any time of the year and you'll be able to see various types of flowers and trees. For example, in March-April the cherry trees go into bloom, while in May-June, visitors come here to enjoy the azaleas.
13:40 - 14:30 -- Halal Ramen for Lunch at Nikkoken
Nikkoken, the dining place we recommend going to at lunchtime, is located very close to the South Exit of Sano Station. From Shiroyama Park, you can reach it in less than 5 minutes by walking through the station. After getting out through the South Exit, go to the right and you'll reach Nikkoken in less than one minute.
Nikkoken is one of the over 200 dining places in the city specialized in Sano ramen and Sano gyoza. What makes it special is that it also offers Halal ramen and gyoza, which are prepared in a separate area of the kitchen using only ingredients that are Halal certified.
The owner thoroughly researched how to cook Halal food, establishing Nikkoken as the to-go ramen place for Muslim visitors to Sano. The messages of thanks left by the satisfied customers on the walls of Nikkoken are proof that he does a great job.
You can recognize Sano ramen by the crinkled noodles and soy sauce based, simple broth. It comes with various toppings and, according to the locals, it's a taste one can never get tired of.
After tasting it for ourselves, we agree! It's incredibly light and delicious, with the chicken meat being very soft and tasty. Whether you love ramen or not, we definitely recommend tasting this dish. It will undoubtedly be one of the best Japanese food experiences you've had.
Apparently, the Halal version of this ramen tastes exactly like the regular dish, showing the owner's dedication to reproduce the original flavor with Halal ingredients. A bowl of Sano ramen, either Halal or regular, costs 650 yen.
The Sano gyoza, also available in the Halal version, are also a must-try. Twice the size of regular gyoza, they are made with chicken meat, vegetables and generously flavored with garlic - in other words, extremely tasty!
14:38 - 14:58 -- Traveling by Bus to Sano Premium Outlets
To reach the last destination of our recommended itinerary, Sano Premium Outlets, take the bus from the bus stop located in front of Sano Station's South Exit. The buses come regularly but please consult the timetable found at the bus stop.
We took the 14:38 bus heading to the Sano Premium Outlets and reached our destination in about 20 minutes. The ride cost only 160 yen.
15:00 - 16:00 -- Shopping and Fun at Sano Premium Outlets
Sano Premium Outlets is one of the most popular and expansive outlet malls on the outskirts of Tokyo. Designed in the image of an American town by the ocean, it comprises around 170 shops, featuring international and domestic fashion brands.
Needless to say, you can find here fashionable clothes, accessories and interior items at outlet prices.
If you show your passport at the Information Center, you can receive the Savings Passport. By using this coupon, you can benefit from discounts at over 100 stores, so you can get a great deal on your shopping.
The charm of the Sano Premium Outlets is that there are plenty of spaces where visitors can rest after a shopping session - either on the benches outside or inside the cafes and the Food Court. Enjoy your time shopping at leisure within this unique outlet.
16:00 - 16:10 -- Sano Shintoshi Bus Terminal
The Sano Shintoshi Bus Terminal is located in front of the entrance to the Sano Premium Outlets, about three minutes away on foot. We suggest heading to the terminal early so that you have enough time to buy your bus ticket back to Tokyo.
16:25 - 18:00 -- Traveling from Sano to Tokyo Station
The highway bus takes you from Sano directly to Tokyo Station's Nihonbashi Exit.
After a day full of fun, new discoveries, and shopping in Sano, you'll want to relax in your seat and travel back to Tokyo taking in the evening scenery and recalling the events of the day.
Tokyo Station Yaesu Exit Bus Terminal → Sano Premium Outlets → Agritown → Sano City Tourist Association → Shiroyama Park → Lunch at Nikkoken → Sano Premium Outlets → Sano Shintoshi Bus Terminal → Tokyo Station Nihonbashi Exit
Transportation: less than 6,000 yen
Lunch: about 1,000 yen
Strawberry picking experience, souvenirs: around 3,000 yen
For more information on exciting travel destinations in Tochigi Prefecture, please refer to the following website: https://travel.tochigiji.or.jp/en/
Supported by Tochigi Prefecture