Tochigi Prefecture is a landlocked prefecture located in the Kanto Region. The most popular and widely known destination in Tochigi is Nikko. Nikko is one of the most visited spots in Japan by both domestic as well as international travellers. In addition, Tochigi offers beautiful nature, popular flower gardens, interesting museums and much more. Here are our recommended places to visit and things to do in Tochigi.
1. Nikko Toshogu
About two hours from Tokyo by train, you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nikko. Nikko is known for historical shrines and rich nature including the Nikko National Park. The city is a popular spot especially for people from the Tokyo area, and more than 12 million people visit the city each year. The number one tourist attraction in Nikko is the Toshogu Shrine. This shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu who was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 17th century to 19th century. Toshogu complex consists of 55 buildings including Yomeimon Gate which is designated a National Treasure. Do not miss the famous sculpture of the Sleeping Cat and the Three Wise Monkeys representing “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.
To get to Nikko Station, take JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, get off at Utsunomiya station (50 min). From Utsunomiya Station, take JR Nikko Line to Nikko station (45 min).
To Toshogu Shrine, walk for 40 minutes or take the World Heritage Sightseeing Bus from 1B bus stop, get off at Omotesando bus stop (about 8 min).
2. Kegon Falls
There are many waterfalls in Nikko but Kegon Falls, located in the Nikko National Park, is the most famous of all and it is beautiful and dynamic at the same time. This waterfall is ranked as one of the three most beautiful waterfalls in Japan. The main fall is about 97 meters in height and there are twelve smaller waterfalls behind and to the sides of the main fall. If you take a paid elevator (570 yen/round trip), you can observe the waterfall more closely and can feel the splash and sound of this dynamic waterfall. Kegon Falls is also known as one of the best koyo viewing (autumn colors viewing) spots near Tokyo.
From Nikko Station, take Tobu bus bound for Chuzenji Onsen-Yumoto Onsen, get off at Chuzenji Onsen (~50 min).
From Toshogu Shrine, take Tobu bus bound for Chuzenji Onsen-Yumoto Onsen from Nishi Sando Iriguchi bus stop, get off at Chuzenji Onsen (~30 min).
3. Nasu Ropeway
Located in the northernmost part of Tochigi Prefecture, the active volcano Mount Chausu stands as the main peak of Nasu Mountain Range. Mount Chausu with an altitude of 1,915 meters is a very popular hiking spot for its rather easy hiking trails and the beautiful scenery it offers from the top.
You can ascend Mount Chausu by foot from the bottom but also can take the Nasu Ropeway which takes you to the ninth station of the mountain. Nasu Ropeway is a popular way to enjoy the seasonal views of the mountain and surrounding areas.
From Tokyo Station, take JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Nasu Shiobara Station, take a local bus bound for Sangaku Station and get off at Nasu Ropeway Station.
From Shinjuku Bus Terminal, take the highway bus bound for Nasu Onsen, take the local bus bound for Sangaku Station and get off at Nasu Ropeway Station.
4. Kinugawa River Cruise
Kinugawa River Cruise, you can have an interesting boat ride experience in a traditional flat-bottomed, wooden boat down the Kinugawa River. Your guide will be wearing a traditional garb and paddling with an oar. The boat ride will be usually for 40 minutes and travel through mostly undeveloped stretches of the Kinugawa River which is relatively gentle with minor rapids.
Autumn is one of the most popular times for cruising with colored leaves but cherry blossoms and weeping wisteria in spring and verdant green trees in summer are also popular. The cruises generally run from April to November, but might be canceled in case of rain, strong wind or extreme changes in the water level of the river.
The departure point of the cruise is a 5 minute walk from Kinugawa Onsen Station. The cruise ends at the Otoro bus stop, from where a free shuttle bus returns to Kinugawa Onsen Station.
5. Ashikaga Flower Park
Ashikaga Flower Park originally opened in 1968, but it was relocated and reopened in Ashikaga City in 1997 with a huge area of 94,000 square meters. The symbol of the park is the Great Wisteria which was uprooted and transplanted from the original place to the relocated place when the tree was 130 years old. Now it is over 150 years old, but the Great Wisteria still blooms to create a huge umbrella of blue flowers in spring.
In the park there are a lot more wisteria and yellow laburnum trees along with restaurants and shops selling plants and local products. Ashikaga Flower Park is popular in the beginning of May when the wisterias are usually in full bloom. Besides the wisteria season, the park is also famous for its winter illuminations display from late October to early February. Almost every corner of the park grounds is covered with hundreds of thousands of LED lights with various colors.
From Tokyo Station, take JR Utsunomiya Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, or JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Oyama, transfer to JR Ryomo Line, get off at Ashikaga Flower Park Station (~80 min).
6. Edo Wonderland
Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura is a cultural theme park that recreates the atmosphere of the Edo Period (1603-1868). The park features museums, theaters, dining places, shops and many other facilities where you can have a firsthand experience of how Japanese people lived during the Edo Period.
There are two wax museums, Kodenmacho Jail House and Kira-Kozuke No Suke Residence, along with other attractions such as a Haunted Temple, a House of Illusion, and the Ninja Trick Maze.
You will find townspeople in the costumes and you can even become one for a day with rental costumes. This theme park has been used as the setting for TV dramas, and when you walk through the town with the costumes of Edo people, you will feel as if you were in a movie. Also you can see ninjas on the roof of the buildings or on the street if you are lucky!
You should not miss the live shows held at various theaters around the town.
Take Tobu Bus from Kinugawa Onsen Station to Nikko Edomura (Edo Wonderland) (~20 min).
7. Oya History Museum
Located in Utsunomiya City, which is the capital of Tochigi Prefecture, Oya History Museum is featuring the history of Oya Stone, created in the vast underground space of the former stone mine with a depth of 30 meters and area of 20,000 square meters. Oya Stone is a soft yet durable volcanic stone which is only found locally. The mine was originally developed during the Edo Period.
Many of the halls in the museum are lit up with colorful lights. Some rooms serve as event spaces for concerts, weddings, art exhibitions and shooting locations for various TV series and music videos.
You may want to bring warm clothes because these man-made caves serve as a natural air conditioner with an average temperature of around ten degrees Celsius.
From JR Utsunomiya Station West Exit, take bus #45 bound for Tateiwa, get off at the Shiryokan Iriguchi bus stop (~30 min).
8. Gyoza Hopping
The prefectural capital, Utsunomiya, is well known for gyoza, the delicious small meat and/or vegetable dumpling served pan-fried, deep fried or steamed. There are dozens of restaurants specialized in gyoza, and many people come to Utsunomiya to try the tasty gyoza.
Gyoza Dori (Gyoza Street) is about a 150 meters street stretching from Akamon Street to East Street where five popular gyoza restaurants are located. You can also find some interesting Gyoza shaped signs, street lamps, manhole covers and so on.
Minmin is one of the most famous and long-running gyoza restaurants in Utsunomiya opened in 1958. There is always a long line and on the busiest time, you have to wait for a couple of hours! Masashi is another oldest restaurant running for about 50 years. Here in Gyoza Street, it’s the take-out only shop so you can enjoy them while walking or waiting in line for the other restaurants (yes, many people do restaurant-hopping to compare the different style and taste of gyoza!)
Kirasse is a perfect spot for a try-it-all. Gyoza from five popular restaurants including Minmin plus 30 different daily menus are gathered in one place. There are not only restaurants but souvenir shops too, if you want to bring them back home, frozen gyoza and other cute and funny gyoza shaped souvenir gifts are available.
If you don’t want to wander around the town or don’t have much time, visit Kirasse!
From JR Utsunomiya Station, take a city bus Kibuna, and get off at Futaarayama Jinja Shita bus stop.
A 10 minutes walk from Tobu Utsunomiya Station or take a city bus from JR Utsunomiya Station and get off at Babacho bus stop
Opening hours 11am-8:30pm (weekdays), 11am-9pm (weekend)
9. Mashiko Pottery Town
Mashiko is a pottery town and every year Pottery Market is held and attracts many tourists.
Started in 1966 and held twice a year in spring and autumn. It’s a popular market where you can find your treasure that brightens up your table! There are about 250 studios making Mashiko ware and there are some places offering pottery classes. Fuwari is a pottery studio offering classes in English (2 hours/ ¥3,000).
If you like antiques, visit Mashiko Kotto Mura (Mashiko Pottery Village). There are 6 stores selling antique pottery and arts, treasure troves of antique items are crammed in the stores. The huge Tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog) statue in front of the stores is the landmark of this place!
In 2021, Pottery Market is cancelled due to covid-19, but instead they hold the fair online and will be held in February 2022 next time. (Mashiko Web Pottery Market: website only available in Japanese)
A 23 minutes walk from Mashiko Station
Sukkansawa River is a hidden gem in Tochigi where you can see beautiful waterfalls alongside. The hiking season is from summer to autumn, but in winter you can see icefalls! A hiking trail starts from Yuhi Bridge, where you can find the map for the route. On this trail you will see three waterfalls. At some spots, the basin of the waterfall is a beautiful blue color.
▶Book the tour at Sukksansawa (Family friendly!)
50 minutes drive from Tohoku Expressway Yaita IC or 40 minutes drive from JR Yaita Station
11. Lake Odashiro
Lastly, we introduce Lake Odashiro, nicknamed Phantom Lake. You are lucky if you can see this lake since it only appears once a few years when it rains heavily. Last time it appeared was in 2019 after the typhoon.
Located at the marshland Odashirogahara, once it appeared, many people visited to see the stunning view of the mysterious water with a reflection of the mountains and forests.
MitsunoriEgawa (Licensed under CC BY 4.0)
From JR Nikko Station, take Tobu Bus bound for Yumoto Onsen (about an hour) and get off at Akanuma bus stop then walk for 30 minutes
Where to stay in Tochigi
Kanaya Hotel Kinugawa – 3 minutes walk from Tobu Kinugawa Onsen Station, you can enjoy the beautiful river and mountain view from the room
Nasu Onsen Sanraku – Traditional Ryokan (Japanese style inn) offers you the open-air bath with a quiet time surrounded by nature
Asaya – Breakfast and dinner buffet consisting of 100 different kinds of foods and the open-air hot spring on the roof will be the perfect choice for your trip!
Enjoy Japan at home with our online tours!
We offer multiple online tours where you can enjoy Japan at home. It is the best way to plan your future trip to Japan and learn the culture while interacting with a local guide.
How did you think about Tochigi? Tochigi is best known for Nikko City and Kegon Falls, but the prefecture offers much more. We hope you enjoy Tochigi for your next day trip.
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