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Tochigi Prefecture, a History, Nature and Gastronomy Paradise

Magazine

UpdateSeptember 12, 2018
ReleaseMarch 10, 2018

Just a couple of hours from Tokyo and filled with historic architectural structures, onsen hot springs and spectacular nature, Tochigi is a destination that will certainly delight you.

History

Nikko Toshogu (Nikko City)
A shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate that ruled Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The famous Yomeimon gate, a National Treasure featuring over 500 sculptures, is a luxurious and splendid work of art. After its recent renewal, the marvelous colors of the original sculptures have come back to life, and from April 29 to May 5 for a limited time, visitors will have a rare chance to see the gate in all its glory lit up.

Oya History Museum (Utsunomiya City)
A space with a temple-like atmosphere that used to be a mine for the stone known as “Oya stone” peculiar to the area. Its main space is an enormous cavern 20,000 square meters,140 meters high, 150 meters wide and 30 meters deep where you can actually feel the warmth of the huge Oya stone and experience an almost magical aura. The old mine has gained considerable attention recently having been used as location for films including “Ruroni Kenshin” and various events.

Kura no Machi (Tochigi City)
In the Edo Period, transportation on the Uzuma River contributed to Edo’s (Old Tokyo) prosperity and established Tochigi as a merchant capital of the Northern Kanto region. Numerous warehouses were built along the Uzuma River and the main street. You can see and appreciate them either on foot or by going down the river on a boat.

Experience

Utsunomiya Jazz and Cocktails (Utsunomiya City)
Arguably the most famous is alto saxophone virtuoso Sadao Watanabe, a native son, but Utsunomiya has connections with many more jazz musicians and has developed a jazz culture of its own. Also, with its bartenders creating cocktails that have been awarded first prizes for the last four years, the city has become a hub for bartenders from all over the country creating unique cocktails. Barhop around and taste delicious concoctions that can’t be found anywhere else!

Zen and Waterfall Purification Experience in Izurumachi (Tochigi City)
Just 30 minutes by car from the center of Tochigi you come across Izurumachi on a rocky terrain rising perpendicularly and standing out from the background. There in the midst of the thick vegetation of Mt. Izuru’s virgin forests you can find Mangan-ji Temple, which offers zazen meditation and waterfall purification ritual experiences. And since you’re there, why not try the local specialties of Izuru soba noodles and visit each restaurant which has cuisine that has a reference of literature from the Edo period?

Nature

Ashikaga Flower Park (Ashikaga City)
A spot to enjoy the flowers of each season as well as a striking illumination show. Mid-April to early May is the best season to see wisterias of up to 150 years of age; their beauty will leave you speechless. Access will become easier from April 1, 2018 with the opening of the Ashikaga Flower Park Station.

Nikko National Park (Nikko City)
Having opened in 1934, this is one of the first of Japan’s national parks. Mt. Nantai and Mt. Nikko-Shirane are among the area’s volcanoes mountain, while other famous spots of scenic beauty are the marshlands of Senjogahara and Odashirogahara, Lake Chuzenji, and the Kegon no Taki waterfall.

・Senjogahara
A marshy grassland at 1,400 meters above sea level. During the day you can enjoy a relaxed stroll in nature while at night you can marvel at the open starry sky that has made this a favorite spot among astrophotographers.

・Kegon no Taki Falls
Together with Nachi no Taki (Wakayama Prefecture) and Fukuroda no Taki (Ibaraki Prefecture), Kegon no Taki is one of Japan’s Three Most Famous Waterfalls. The water of Lake Chuzenji falls from a steep cliff, 97 meters high, creating a magnificent sight that you can enjoy from a viewing platform at the falls’ bottom.

Wakayama Farm’s Bamboo Thicket (Utsunomiya City)
A site that impresses with its vastness, and that from mid-April to mid-May offers takenoko (bamboo shoot) picking that you can actually try. From April 1 to June 30, 2018, a lighting-up is scheduled.

Dining

Gyoza (Dumplings)
Tochigi boasts one of the largest gyoza dumpling consumption amounts in Japan, and particularly famous are the gyoza of Utsunomiya that are brimming with a lot of vegetables. Following are some of the city’s most popular (and unusual) gyoza restaurants.

・Utsunomiya Minmin
Opened in 1958, it offers pan-fried, boiled and deep-fried gyoza. One portion of each (6 pieces) goes for 248 yen.

・Iki-iki Gyoza
A shop offering gyoza of 600 different varieties. The founder’s assortment of 10 pieces goes for 1,300 yen and includes gyoza made with 10 different ingredients such as curry and cheese.

・Utsunomiya Gyozakan
Besides the usual gyoza, this shop offers tonkatsu made of gyoza filling wrapped in pork (930 yen) and gyoza and onigiri rice-ball combos (3 pieces, 380 yen).

・Miso and Gyoza’s Aogen
A shop that offers dumplings and miso collaboration that you can enjoy. Green onion miso dumplings with special miso sauce (6 pieces, 420 yen).
At gyoza theme park “Kirasse” you can compare the taste of various gyoza specialty shops as well as try your own hand at making the delicious dumplings.Gyoza making experience (reservation required, from 5 persons and above) 1.5-hour course, 1,500 yen
(starts with gyoza filling preparation) 2-hour course, 2,000 yen (starts with gyoza dough preparation)

Strawberries
Tochigi Prefecture has been Japan’s premier strawberry-producing area for 50 consecutive years. Its climate, with big temperature differences between day and night during the winter and with long daylight hours is very suitable for cultivating strawberries. Furthermore, local farmers have put much effort in the creation of various new types of strawberries.

Tochigi original strawberry varieties
・Tochiotome
A very sweet variety despite its big size, the Sky Berry is exceptionally juicy and with an elegant flavor.

・Sky Berry
A very sweet variety despite its big size, the Sky Berry is exceptionally juicy and with an elegant flavor.

・Tochihime
Tender flesh and juicy sweetness are the characteristics of this strawberry, which, because of difficulties in transportation, it can only be found (and enjoyed) within the boundaries of Tochigi Prefecture.

The best way to enjoy strawberries as fresh as they come is strawberry picking! (From mid-December to early May.)
*Before visiting, please contact the strawberry farms for information about business days/hours or the need for reservation.
http://www.agrinet.pref.tochigi.lg.jp/strawberry-kingdom-tochigi/

Lemon Milk
Lemon-flavored dairy products with a nostalgic taste combining the mellowness and sweetness of milk and the lemon’s sour scent (No lemon juice is used in their production). A popular local drink that has survived in recipe and packaging from the period after World War II until the present day.

Onsen

Starting with Nasu Onsen and Kinugawa Onsen, Tochigi has several hot springs spots. After having experienced its sights and cuisine, relaxing in a hot spring is a must!