Tochigi Prefecture is part of the greater Tokyo area. Many major sightseeing spots are 1 to 2 hours away from Tokyo, making Tochigi a convenient travel destination.
In addition to Nikko Toshogu Shrine and the other World Heritage Sites of Nikko, there are many hidden scenic spots all around this prefecture. The local food is also renowned for its delicious taste, making Tochigi a destination that will satisfy everyone! It's a great place to visit with family or friends, as it offers many fun activities to enjoy, too!
Tochigi is flanked by mountains in the north and plains in the south, offering a wide variety of natural landscapes. In fact, it is an area with many scenic sites! Thousands of colorful flowers bloom all around in spring. In the summer, the northern areas of Tochigi Prefecture are sought for their cool temperatures. The fall colors can be enjoyed for two months in Tochigi because of the differences in altitude. Last but not least, the many picturesque hot spring resorts covered in snow are the highlight of winter.
Tochigi's splendid nature stands at the origin of the delicious local food. First of all, the area is famous in Japan for its excellent strawberries. Tochigi ranks second after Hokkaido when it comes to milk production. The fresh dairy products made here are loved countrywide. Moreover, it is the home of popular dishes such as gyoza (dumplings), which can be found in Utsunomiya City, and Sano ramen, the favorite of many ramen lovers.
The shrines and temples of Nikko were registered as a World Heritage Site by the 23rd World Heritage Committee session held in Marrakesh, Morocco on December 2, 1999.
These sacred sites in Nikko include a group of 103 structures (9 National Treasures and 94 Important Cultural Properties) that makeup Futarasan Shrine, Toshogu Shrine, and Rinno-ji Temple on the mountains of Nikko. The cultural landscapes that surround these structures are also included. In 2019, the structures welcomed its 20th anniversary since being registered as a World Heritage Site.
This was once the family temple of the Ozeki Family, feudal lords of the Kurobane Domain who governed the Otawara area. It presently stands as a Soto Zen temple with over 600 years of history. All seven temple buildings have thatched roofs; the main hall, Zen meditation hall, temple kitchen, and corridors are designated Important Cultural Properties of Japan. A variety of flowers and sights can be enjoyed throughout the year. They include moutan peonies, fringed irises, hydrangeas, and autumn leaves.
Anyone, regardless of nationality or religion, can participate in Zen meditation or sutra copying at Daio-ji Temple. The rules of etiquette will be fully explained to visitors, so you can easily participate in these activities even if you're a beginner.
In the main hall is a hanging scroll called the Makuragaeshi Ghost. This scroll depicts a legless elderly woman who appears to be glaring at viewers from all angles. This is an unusual piece that has been handed down in the temple since the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). A bizarre rumor alleges that if you sleep in front of this hanging scroll, your pillow will be flipped, and you'll be facing the opposite direction the next morning.
Visitors at Shiobara Onsen-kyo can enjoy dipping into various types of hot springs. You can soak in six of the ten types of hot springs that exist in Japan, ranging from simple springs to sulfur waters, and can experience seven different colors of hot springs from milky white to dark brown.
Shiobara has been visited by famous literary figures such as Koyo Ozaki and Natsume Soseki since the Meiji Period (1868 - 1912). By soaking in these hot springs, outstanding novels and poetry were created in this nature-rich environment that heals the mind and body. The same atmosphere that these literary figures experienced during their stay in Shiobara still remains today.
A diverse selection of gourmet food can be enjoyed in Shiobara Onsen-kyo. Try the addictively-delicious yakisoba noodles with soup, which consists of fresh, stir-fried sauce yakisoba in a soy-sauce-based broth.
Another must-try is toteyaki, a sweet snack from Nasushiobara City. This delectable dessert is made with various ingredients, wrapped in a fluffy batter of milk and eggs. The ingredients for each shop vary, with some offering strawberries and whipped cream, to meat and soba noodles.
This is a guided cycling tour for participants wishing to experience nature, food, and life in Nasu. Feel a sense of unity with nature and immerse yourself in the local life while enjoying landscapes in Nasu unique to bicycle riders. These spectacular views cannot be seen while riding a car or on foot! A qualified guide with knowledge of the town will accompany you the entire tour.
During the Nasu Satoyama Farm Ride, participants will stop by hidden yet noteworthy spots—such as historical shrines, bamboo groves, and post towns—while traveling through quiet lanes and rice field pathways on pristine land. The highlight of the tour is a simple agricultural workshop at a farmer's home over homemade lunch with delightful company. This one-day tour allows partipants to experience rural Japan while enjoying an invigorating bicycle ride.
The Forest Gravel Ride is an adventurous route on gravel roads along mountain streams and forest roads covered in dry leaves and branches. Fat tire bikes and mountain bikes are used during this tour. Coffee can also be enjoyed brewed by the clear riverside.
*The Nasu Satoyama Farm Ride and Forest Gravel Ride have different meeting points.
The museum possesses several great works of art. This includes hand-painted works by Utagawa Hiroshige, an ukiyo-e artist from the late Edo Period (1603 - 1868) famous for "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido," and ukiyo-e prints by the Utagawa school. These artworks were donated by the family of Mr. Tosaku Aoki, a businessman from Sakura City, following his death—thus nicknamed the Aoki Collection.
In addition to permanent exhibitions, elaborate temporary and special exhibitions are also held throughout the year. Visitors won't grow tired of the museum no matter how many times they visit.
The museum building is the work of Kengo Kuma, a world-famous architect who designed the New National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Generously constructed with local Yamizo cedar, it wonderfully harmonizes with the surrounding woodland and is a work of art that can be hailed to the world.
A cafe that operates as a local miso brewery is also located inside the museum. Visitors can relax here while basking in the memories of the artwork.
Bamboo has been cultivated at the Wakayama Farm for 100 years and over three generations while continuing to be organic and pesticide-free. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal flavors here, such as bamboo shoots in the spring and chestnuts in autumn. Numerous people visit the farm each year in search of high-quality produce.
The farm is 24-hectares in size and covered in beautiful, well-maintained bamboo thickets. Additionally, Wakayama Farm been used as a filming location in various movies and commercials, including the live-action version of "Rurouni Kenshin."
On weekends and national holidays, the bamboo thicket and hand-carved bamboo lights (takeakari) are lit up once the sun sets. Visitors can enjoy the different charm that day and night bring.
This more than 1300-year-old shrine sits on a sacred mountain that monks once used as their training ground. It has been nicknamed Tengu Grove since ancient times due to the belief that the tengu (mythical messengers of the gods) drove out misfortune that fell upon worshippers.
Visitors can experience life among the gods by staying overnight at the shrine. During their stay, they will watch dances dedicated to deities, experience a purification ritual to cleanse the mind and body, and eat Japanese food offerings presented to the gods.
Furumine Garden is a circular Japanese garden that utilizes the clear waters running from the Oashi River and its natural topography. Visitors can enjoy walks through nature all year round in the garden.
Hina Matsuri, or Girl's Day Festival, is an annual celebration in Japan. People decorate their homes with "hina" dolls to wish for the healthy growth and happiness of their daughters during the festivities. In Japan, various types of dolls have been made and displayed throughout generations.
Sakura City once flourished as a post town called Ujiie-juku along the Oshu Kaido Road. Many of the "hina" dolls that have been passed down for generations still remain. The "tsurushi hina"— suspended dolls from silk kimono cloth that require over a year to make—are on display in 70 locations within the JR Ujiie Station area as part of the Ujiie Hina Meguri (Ujiie Doll Festival) from the start of February to early March.
"Hina" doll outfits can be worn for free on the weekends and holidays. Red banners are also erected where the Ujiie Hina Meguri is exhibited.
Ryumon Falls, approximately 20 meters high and 65 meters wide, cascades into the Egawa River. Legend has it that this waterfall was inhabited by a large serpent, thus resulting in the origin of its name. The seasonal sights are absolutely breathtaking, and visitors will want to visit multiple times. Fresh greenery can be enjoyed during the early summer. Autumn brings colorful foliage and the sight of salmon swimming upstream.
Ryumon Falls also flows into the sandbank near the basin, making it possible to bathe in the negative ions from the waterfall's spray. You can even see the railway traveling above the waterfall—a rare sight in Japan.
The Omocha-no-Machi Bandai Museum exhibits all types of toys and inventions. Out of a collection of 35,000 products, the top merchandise is displayed in four themed museums: Japanese Toys, Antique Toys from Western Europe, Edison's Inventions, and Hobby (Gundam).
There are other areas in addition to the themed museums. Including a full-sized 5.6-meter statue of Gundam's bust, all of the robots from the anime series are on display in one area. There's also a play area for toys and a spacious lawn where visitors can have picnics.
You can also learn cultural history by exploring several valuable exhibits here. At the same time, you can experience the wonder of inventions, ingenuity, and the joy of craftsmanship.
Ashikaga Flower Park is always abloom with a variety of seasonal flowers.
The massive wisteria trellises hit peak bloom come spring and are magnificent. The night-time illuminations create a magical atmosphere that is well worth seeing. Don't miss the interweaving 80-meter tunnel of white wisterias.
The Bejeweled Flower Garden, one of three top illumination events in Japan, is held from late October to early February, attracting crowds of families and couples. Moreover, the Miraculous Great Wisteria—over 150-years-old—is said to resemble the Tree of Souls from the James Cameron directed film, "Avatar." The park was also selected among CNN's "Top 10 Dream Destinations" in 2014. This media attention has resulted in the park's increasing popularity in recent years.
Yamamoto Sohonten is a long-standing wagashi (traditional Japanese confectionery) shop established in 1892.
During the wagashi-making workshop, participants will learn how to make two types of wagashi that represent the shifting of the seasons from expert confectioners.
Wagashi is made from carefully selected and additive-free ingredients. It's characterized by a subtle taste that brings out the natural flavor of the ingredients.
Reservations are required to participate in the workshop. They can be made for two or more people and cost 1,500 yen per person to make two Japanese confections. The shop is closed every Monday and Tuesday.
Isoyama Benzaiten is a Buddhist temple built next to Izuruhara Benten Pond—one of Japan's 100 clearest water sources. Legend has it that Fujiwara no Hidesato established the temple in 948 in dedication to Benzaiten. Benzaiten, the guardian deity of the arts and knowledge, is one of Sano City's Seven Lucky Gods.
The current main shrine, reconstructed during the Kamakura Period (around 1185 - 1333), is an architectural masterpiece built using traditional construction methods that don't require any nails—a rarity in today's society. The three-storied building was constructed in the Butai-zukuri style. This style best utilizes cliffs and other steep slopes during construction. From here, visitors will be greeted with a panoramic view of Sano City.
This location is the castle ruins of the Oyama clan, who were once prosperous in Oyama City during the Middle Ages. Although the ruins have since become a park, you can still experience how the Oyama clan once prospered through these remnant earthen walls and dry moat. The hill in the park also overlooks the Omoi River, which runs through central Oyama. Playground equipment and sports can be enjoyed by visitors here.
Two varieties of cherry blossoms called the Yoshino cherry and Omoigawa cherry bloom in the spring. In particular, the Omoigawa cherry first originated in Oyama, making this is the only place where these blossoms can be seen. In autumn, the park's large gingko trees change to a golden yellow hue alongside fiery cherry red maple leaves. These leaves add a touch of color to the vermillion-lacquered Gion Bridge. The park is accessible in eight minutes on foot from JR Oyama Station and is visited by many people year-round.
This park is located next to Shimotsuke Kokubun-ji Temple, the Kokubuni-ji Temple Ruins, and the Kabutozuka Burial Mound. In the park, you'll find 500 cherry trees, which have descended from the Neo Usuzumi Zakura, Miharu Takizakura, and Yamataka Jindai Zakura—three of the best cherry blossom trees—and yaezakura (multi-layered cherry blossom). The Tempyo Flower Festival is held from late March to early May bustles with people. The sight of the 350 yaezakura cherry trees in full bloom is spectacular.
There are also other seasonal events held in the park. The Shimotsuke Summer Candle Light Festival is where 4,000 cup-shaped lanterns are illuminated. In November, the Tempyo Imoni Festival features the making of 3,000 bowls of simmered potato soup. Among the ingredients are Shimotsuke specialties such as kanpyo (dried gourd strips).
There's also an old Japanese cafe that was renovated from a farmhouse in the park. Enjoy relaxing in the cafe all year round.
This tourist facility was renovated from a historic structure that dates between the Meiji (1868 - 1912) and Taisho (1912 - 1926) periods. It houses the Kubo Memorial Center, formerly used as a bank during the Meiji Period, Tourist Product Shop for souvenirs from Moka City, an Italian restaurant, and more.
The first level of the Kubo Memorial Center functions as a tourist information center on Moka and has a collection of pamphlets on each facility in the city. This is is the first spot you should visit when in Moka.
The Tourist Product Shop has a huge assortment of Moka cotton, a local specialty, alongside other well-known products.
Trattoria COCORO, an Italian restaurant, is where you can savor seasonal cuisine in a soothing atmosphere.
The Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art opened in June 1993 in the remains of an old castle in central Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture.
The museum permanently exhibits works by distinguished Mashiko potters such as Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka. Different types of special exhibitions are also held at the museum. This opportunity allows for numerous visitors to be introduced to the charms of pottery spanning all periods and civilizations while familiarizing them with the art.
Shoji Hamada's former residence was relocated to the Ceramic Art Messe Mashiko. The facility houses the Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art, a salon, and other facilities. A reconstructed version of the climbing kiln he favored while alive can also be found at the museum.
Tochigi Prefecture, only two hours away from Tokyo by train, is filled with places of scenic beauty! From the famous Ashikaga Flower Park to less-known beautiful places, we introduce five spots that offer fabulous views in the four seasons.