What To Know Before You Get There
In the past, we've written a lot about Tochigi Prefecture
, and that's because it's a great place to travel! (Seriously, we couldn't write five+ articles about the place if we didn't love it!) Today we want to sum up some of the real stand-out spots in the region, though, so you know exactly what to do once you get there. If you're looking for the best way to travel all over the prefecture, here it is!
① River Rafting in Kinugawa
Lots of people head to Tochigi for all of the many world heritage sites in Nikko City. You could spend a great day in the area admiring the many beautiful old buildings, and their historical significance. But if that's not really your style, why not try some of the great outdoor activities on offer? Throw on a life jacket and hop onto a raft with some friends (or make some new ones there!) Speed along the water with a trusty guide at the helm, and enjoy some of the great scenery along the Kinugawa River.
Kinugawa Line Kudari River Cruise (鬼怒川ライン下り)
Address: 1414 Ohara, Kinugawa Onsen, Nikko City, Tochigi
Hours: 9:00~15:45 (Mid-April to Late November)
Fees: Adults 2,800 yen, Children 1,800 yen, Children Under Three 600 yen
- Magnificent Views
- Shinkyo Bridge (神橋), The Entrance to Nikko's Shrines and Temples
The local historical spots are also worth a look, of course. The tomb of historical figure Iemitsu Tokugawa (grandson of the even more famous Ieyasu) is nearby, at the Nikko-san Rinno-ji Taiyu-in Mausoleum. Also of note are the Nikko Tosho-gu and Futarasan Shrines, which together form the Shrines and Temples of Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Site. (These two include 42 different structures!)
Tosho-gu Shrine Official Website
② Open Air Hotsprings in Nasushiobara
A favorite haunt of Tokyo-ites looking for a relaxing escape, the Nasushiobara hot springs have some unique qualities. This isn't the only open air bath in Japan, but it might be the only one sat right alongside a river! This gives you a great view and a natural river soundtrack, sure to induce true tranquility while you soak your worries away. You can try out the hot spring at Myogaya Honkan
③ Luscious Milky Ice Cream in Nasuhara
Right near Nasushiobara is Nasuhara, another hot spring resort town. The specialty here, however, is the ice cream! The town's dairy products are famous, and the ice cream made with this extra-fresh milk (straight from local dairy farms!) is not to be missed. If you're looking for a place to taste a few flavors, look no further than:
Momoi Ice Cream Factory (アイス工場ももい, Aisu Koujou Momoi)
Address: 5033 Otsu Takaku, Nasu, Tochigi
Hours: 10:00~17:00 (~18:00 during summer), Closed Wednesdays
- With great dairy comes great yogurt!
- A mouth-watering selection of ice cream flavors.
If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth, or you can't live without dairy, you can't miss this fun stop in Tochigi!
④ Center Yourself in Otawara
Wend your way through the mountains in Otawara and you'll find yourself at Daioji Temple, a temple built 600 years ago that is still an important center for Zen Buddhism. Not only are the structures beautiful to admire, the temple also offers a chance for visitors to enter and have their own Zen experience. Spend some time with a monk, work on your meditation, and feel at peace in these beautiful surroundings.
- Traditional Freshwater Fishing
- Freshwater Fish, Just Caught and Ready to Eat!
This traditional freshwater fishing method has been used at this river for more than 300 years! More freshwater fish are caught here, using traditional bamboo structures, than anywhere else in Japan. Once they're caught, you can try the super fresh fish being grilled on skewers at the eatery nearby
⑤ Noodles and Picture Books in Nakagawa
Nakagawa is a quiet village, populated by lots of the fishermen working in nearby rivers. But it has its own charms, with famously delicious soba made by masters, and an unusual museum. Visitors traveling with children will be excited to learn that Nakagawa has a picturebook museum, called "Ehon no Oka" (絵本の丘), or "Picturebook Hill"!
⑥ Celebrate the Yama-age Festival in Nasukarasuyama City
Nasukarasuyama City is famous for intangible cultural heritage (as designated by UNESCO), particularly a historical legend involving a three-legged crow! Apparently this crow helped a military commander find the perfect place to build the local castle. Nowadays, the local Yama-age Festival helps tell the story as something of a traveling performance. If you don't have impeccable timing and arrive just in time for the festival, though, don't worry! During the rest of the year many of the props and items used in the festival are stored in the Yama-age Kaikan Museum, where you can check them out and watch some short performances on their stage.
Address: 2-5-6 Kanai, Nasukarasuyama City, Tochigi
Hours: 9:00~16:00 (Closed Tuesdays)
⑦ Freshen Up in Sakura City
With beautiful cherry trees all around town, it's no wonder this place is called Sakura City, or cherry blossom city! But the city's real claim to fame is its hot springs. They're said to be emerald-green and beautiful to look at, and also to be supplied by mountain waters that beautify any bathers.
- The Retro Atmosphere is Popular with Locals
- Green Waters, Perfect for Bathing!
There are lots of cats living around and wandering by the hot springs as well, if you're looking for some pleasant company.
⑧ Food and Flowers in Ashikaga
Some of you may be thinking that these tasty snacks look like Osaka's famous takoyaki, but they're actually Ashikaga's steamed dumplings, filled with vegetables. They're a whole new and different experience!
While there's plenty to eat in Ashikaga, the true draw might be Ashikaga Flower Park, where yearly blooms of wisteria flowers bring crowds from all over. Admire sweeping curtains of purple and white blossoms, and stroll through tunnels littered with lovely petals, at this beautiful park.
Ashikaga Flower Park
Address: 607 Hasama-cho, Ashikaga City, Tochigi
Hours: 9:00~18:00/10:00~17:00 (Seasonal Hours)
⑨ Ramen in Sano City
Sano City is said to be one of Japan's cleanest water sources; impressive in a country that values high-quality water! Maybe that's one of the reasons why it's also famous for its ramen. There are so many famous ramen shops in the area, the city is trying to make an official map of them all. Hopefully we'll get that map soon, so we can check out all of the amazing bowls to be found in the city.
⑩ Famous Toys in Mibu-machi
Another great choice for families traveling with children, Mibu-machi is home to the Bandai Museum! If you're not sure why that seems important, keep in mind that Bandai makes toys that use the characters from: Sailor Moon, Gundam, One Piece, Dragon Ball, Digimon, Kamen Rider, and more. Pay a visit to the museum to spend time with some of your favorite characters, plus a few rare antique toys that join the museum's collection!
I mean, are you really going to pass up a chance to take a picture like the one above?
Bandai Toy Museum
Address: 3-6-20 Omocha no Machi, Mibu-machi, Shimotsuga, Tochigi
⑪ Strawberries in Kanuma City
If you're craving fresh fruit and want to try picking it yourself, Kanuma City is the place for picking apples, pears, strawberries, and even tomatoes. The fruit is completely organic, so the whole experience is both fun and healthy.
⑫ A More Relaxing Cruise in Tochigi City
If river rafting in Kinugawa sounded just a bit too intense for you, the boats floating along
Tochigi City's Uzuma River might be more your speed (literally). The relaxing cruise will run you about 700 yen for adults. The whole town rings with old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere, though, and a stroll through the streets will bring you in contact with some well-preserved Edo period buildings. Tochigi City has even earned awards for having such beautiful and quaint streets.
⑬ Modern Coffee and Old Buildings in Shimotsuke City
Shimotsuke has a wealth of old, historic buildings, making it a great place to visit for travelers interested in Japan's past. If you need a break during all your exploration, though, head to this fun cafe
for modern refreshments in an old-fashioned environment.
⑭ Braiding Silk in Oyama City
Oyama City is in an area known for great natural resources, which is why it's also famous for its silkworms! The silk produced here is used to make braided cords, called "kumihimo" (組みひも). If you've ever seen the popular movie Your Name, you might know about these cords already. Now you can try your own hand at the silk braiding, with helpful guidance from staff of course.
Address: 1325-2 Mamada, Oyama City, Tochigi
Hours: 10:00~19:00 (~18:00 Weekends and Holidays)
⑮ Jazz Bars in Utsunomiya
Utsunomiya City has two claims to fame: jazz, and gyoza dumplings! The father of Japanese jazz, saxophonist Sadao Watanabe, was born in Utsunomiya, and the city now has neighborhoods filled with jazz bars. On top of that, the small city has some of the highest gyoza consumption rates in Japan. It doesn't get much better than chowing down on dumplings while listening to some smooth jazz tunes! Don't miss out on the experience.
- Gyoza of All Kinds
- An Atmospheric Jazz Bar
⑯ Ceramics in Mashiko
Hop on a bus from Utsunomiya and in an hour you'll get to Mashiko, home to beautiful hashiko-yaki ceramics. Both practical and beautiful, this pottery has been made here for over a hundred years!
- Each Piece is Unique and Beautiful
- But Which to Choose!?