Just few hours north of Tokyo, Tochigi Prefecture encompasses the rural and ancient Japan. The area is not only blessed with the most famous Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which is over 400 years old UNESCO World Heritage Site but also have onsen (hot springs), gorgeous seasonal parks and traditional crafts.
The grand Nikko Toshogu Shrine which is over 400 years old is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This shrine consists 103 religious buildings within two Shinto shrines, the Toshogu and the Futarasan-jinja and a Buddhist temple, the Rinnoji as well as other neighboring buildings. This is where the famous warrior Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried. You can also spot the famous carvings such as the “Sleeping Cat” and the Three Wise Monkeys depicting the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” proverb.
The geographical location of Tochigi surrounded by mountains and volcanoes creates an ideal environment for outdoor adventures year-round including thrilling white-water rafting and canyoning. The hike to Oku-Nikko region in the northwest direction to see Kegon-no-taki waterfall, walking on the Senjogahara Marshlands, a Ramsar-registered wetland and climbing to Mt. Chausu-dake to enjoy the panoramic views and plumes of white volcanic smoke emitting from the summit are another popular outdoor activity. During winter skies/snowboard are available at Nikko Kirifuri Kogen Ski Resort both popular among locals and tourists. For a bit of natural beauty in the more serene and silent region, the onsen (hot springs) at onsen-kyo (hot spring towns) at Kinugawa, Nasu and Shiobara would be a perfect option.
Kegon-no-Taki waterfall, one of the three finest waterfalls in Japan
The highlight of Tochigi is not just the nature nor historical architectures, but also fast food. Utsunomiya is the prefectural capital, right in the center of Tochigi. It is not only a convenient 50 minutes shinkansen ride from Tokyo but also holds the competitive title of Japan’s best gyoza, the delicious fried dumplings that form an important part of Japanese fast food culture. There are more than 200 specialty stores playing various versions of the delicious gyoza.