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Tochigi

Nikko, internationally renowned for many tourist spots, and the heights endowed with natural beauty and hot springs
Situated in the center of Honshu (the main island of Japan), Tochigi is surrounded by mountains and hills in the east, west and north, and the Kanto Plains spread to the south. There are the Nasu, Takahara and Nikko volcanic clusters within the prefecture with a number of hot spring resorts scattered in and around them. Nikko, located in the west of the prefecture, has many historic buildings, which include the Toshogu Shrine sacred to Tokugawa Ieyasu, a warlord of the 17th century, the Rin-no-ji Temple and the Futara-san-jinja Shrine. Recently registered as World Cultural Heritage Sites, these structures deeply fascinate visitors with their sumptuousness.

Utsuno-miya, situated roughly in the middle of the prefecture, is a center of local administration and economy. In the southeast of the city is Mashiko Town well known for the production of ceramics. The town comes alive with many people visiting ceramics fairs in the spring and the fall. In the northern part of Tochigi are the Shiobara-onsen Hot Spring Resort, known for the overwhelming beauty of the ravine created by the Hoki-gawa River, and its tributary stream, the Kanomata-gawa River, and the surrounding areas of the Nasu-onsen Hot Spring Resort. On the Nasu-kogen Heights, you can enjoy visiting places such as the Rindo-ko Family Bokujo Ranch designed for family parties, the Nasu Teddy Bear Museum and the Emile Galle Art Galley, to name a few.

Getting there
It is a 50-minutes ride to Utsuno-miya Station from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line. Two hours and 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

 

  • Kinugawa-onsen Hot Springs and Oku-Kinu
    The hot spring town along the Kinu-gawa River Valley - Oku-Kinu renowned for its hideaway "secret spas"
    Kinugawa-onsen Hot Spring is located along the river valley that lies between Mt. Dai-hyuga-san and Mt. Shaka-ga-take, on the upper stream of the Kinu-gawa River that runs through the central part of Tochigi. Those resorts form a town and it has been 300 years since the first spa opened. The scene of the valley changes its color by azaleas in spring and red leaves in autumn.

    Ryu-o-kyo Valley stretches for about 3 kilometers between Kinugawa-onsen and Kawaji-onsen Hot Spring further up the river and is provided with Ryu-o-kyo-shizen-kenkyu-ro (the nature searching path) along which you can take a walk and enjoy the grand scenery at the same time. You can also take a 40-minute boat ride down the fast-flowing part of the Kinu-gawa River and take a look at the 100-meter high cliffs. The sight is especially popular among tourists when leaves put on their autumn colors.

    Oku-Kinu is the general term for all the hot springs scattered all over the head-spring zone of Kinu-gawa River at the southeast of Mt. Kinu-numa-yama. Hot springs such as Hatcho-no-yu, Kani-yu, Tejiro-zawa, Kawamata stud the area and called "the home of secret spas." Surrounded by forty-eight bogs of various sizes, Oku-Kinu-shizen-kenkyuro is the place to feast your eyes on the alpine plants that come out in the marshland.

    Getting there
    By Limited Express on the Tobu Isesaki-Nikko-Kinugawa Line for 1 hour and 30 minutes from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) to Kinugawa-onsen Station. By bus for 1 hour and 46 minutes from Kinugawa-onsen Station to Oku-Kinu-onsen-go.

     

  • Kirifuri-kogen Heights
    Kirifuri-no-taki Falls, one of the three most beautiful falls in Nikko - Highlands stretching at the foot of Mt. Akanagi-yama
    Kirifuri-kogen Heights are highlands about 1,200 meters above sea level, stretching along the south slopes of the foot of Mt. Akanagi-yama, in the northwestern part of Tochigi. Kirifuri-no-taki Falls in the highlands is 75 meters high and regarded as one of the three most beautiful falls in Nikko. The spectacular waterfall can be viewed up close from an observation point near its base. Kisuge-daira is well known for Nikko-kisuge, alpine day lilies, that grow in bunches.

    The area is covered over with yellow flowers from early summer to midsummer. There is a lift that will take you from Kirifuri-kogen Heights to Kisuge-daira, and from the terminal of the lift, the Maru-yama Hiking Course is also available, from which you can enjoy the fine views of Nikko City and the Nikko Mountains. There are lots of campsites, such as the Kirifuri, Toyama, and Narusawa camping grounds. At O-sawa Ranch you can enjoy cycling along the cycling road as well as having meals at a rest house, and you can also enjoy tasting fresh milk and soft ice cream just made from it.

    Getting there
    Tobu-nikko Station is 1hour 45 minutes from Asakusa Station by the limited express on the Tobu-Isesaki Line. Then take a bus to Kirifuri-kogen, which takes 25 minutes (the service is not available from early November to mid-April). Tokyo Station is 2 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. Ueno Station is 7 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Yamanote Line. Asakusa Station is 5 minutes from Ueno Station by subway.

     

  • Mashiko
    More than 380 potteries - An internationally known production center of Mashiko ware pottery
    Mashiko is located in the southeastern part of Tochigi, and belongs to the Prefectural Nature Park which is situated in the northernmost part of the Kanto Plain. The town is known as a production center of pottery in Japan and also in the world.

    In the middle of the 19th century, Keizaburo Otsuka found potter's clay at Ohtsu-sawa and built a kiln to bake it, which was the origin of Mashiko ceramics. Later at the beginning of the 20th century, a ceramist, Shoji Hamada, built a kiln in Mashiko. Since then the number of potters there has been increasing, and it now amounts to more than 380. Ceramics fairs are held every spring and autumn, and about 300,000 visitors in spring and 170,000 visitors in autumn attend.

    In Ceramic-Art-Messe Mashiko, a theme park of pottery, you can enjoy the exhibition of works by Shoji Hamada and others. You can find the works of modern ceramists, too. There is a pottery studio at the site where you can try your hand at making pottery and painting it yourself. In Mashiko Sanko-kan, a reference collection museum of Hamada, not only his ceramic works, the kiln with stepped chambers he used, and the house he lived in, but also craftwork made in his lifetime and a collection of works by his associates are on display.

    Getting there
    Oyama Station is 45 minutes from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line. Shimodate Station is 20 minutes from Oyama Station by the JR Mito Line. Mashiko Station is 40 minutes from Shimodate Station by the Mo-oka Line. Tokyo Station is 2 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

     

  • Nasu and Shiobara
    A highland area extending from the foot of Mt. Nasu-dake, with the eleven hot springs of Shiobara dotting the valley of the Houki-gawa River.
    Nasu Heights are located at the upper reaches of the Naka-gawa River in the northern part of Tochigi Prefecture. At 1,917 meters above sea level Mt. Nasu-dake is the main peak of the Nasu Volcano, and has a crater approximately 100 meters wide and 20 meters deep that pours out rich smoke with steam.

    The highland area extending from the foot of the Nasu Volcano is dotted with hot springs including Yumoto, Takao, and Omaru. Together they form the Nasu-onsen-kyo Hot Springs Village, renowned in Japan as a resort offering recreational facilities for golfers and skiers, and for tourists, who visit the area all year round. Covering a large area encompassing both highland and plain are the Rindo-ko Family Bokujo Ranch, where visitors can try their hand at milking a cow or enjoy go-cart-riding, and the Nasu-Dobutsu-O-koku (animal kingdom theme park) where visitors can get close to various dogs and cats and enjoy a special animal show.

    Shiobara-onsen-kyo Hot Spring Village is located slightly to the southwest of Nasu along the Shiobara Valley at the upper reaches of the Houki-gawa River, and is commonly known simply as "Shiobara's Eleven Hot Springs" due to the presence of eleven hot spring sources. The valley, which offers spectacular views, particularly when the autumn tints are at their best, is also known for its two suspension bridges: the 320-meter Momiji-dai Suspension Bridge at the mouth of the Village, and the Mikaeri-no-Tsuribashi Suspension Bridge (literally "the bridge of retrospection") along the promenade. Mikaeri-no-taki Falls is a well-known scenic spot.

    Getting there
    An hour 15 minutes to Nasu-Shiobara Station from Tokyo Station by the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line, or 3 hours 45 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station with a change at Tokyo Station, by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line.

     

  • Nikko
    Luxurious and elaborate architecture of temples and shrines
    Nikko lies at the foot of Mt. Nyoho-san in the western part of Tochigi and it has developed as the temple town for Futara-san-jinja Shrine, Toshogu Shrine and Rin-no-ji Temple. There runs the Nikko-Suginamiki-Kaido (Nikko's Japanese- cedar-lined Road), which is designated as a natural monument. And the city forms a part of the Nikko National Park. Toshogu Shrine is where the famous Shogun of the Edo Period in the 17th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was worshiped after his death. It became as luxurious and elaborate as it looks today when the grandson of Ieyasu, the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, reconstructed it. The engravings on the Yomei-mon Gate are especially overwhelming, provided with every luxury imaginable and redolent in gorgeous colors. The engravings of the three monkeys in Shinkyu-sha and the statue of Nemuri-neko, the sleeping cat, are also well known.

    Rin-no-ji Temple was built in 766 and was developed from the 12th century to the Kamakura Period in the 14th century. Sanbutsu-do, (Three Buddhas' home), O-goma-do with the painting of the Nobori-ryu (rising dragon) inside and Homotsu-den (the treasury) are definitely worth seeing. Futara-san-jinja Shrine is said to bring happiness and marriage for those who visit. Legend has it that the Futara-Reisen, the sacred fountain there, has water that restores youth. The buildings in Mt. Nikko-san and the forest areas in the surroundings are registered as a World Cultural Heritage site and as a cultural property where nature and buildings are united.

    Getting there
    By the Tobu-Nikko Line for 1 hour and 50 minutes from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) to Tobu-Nikko Station.

     

  • Oku-Nikko
    Waterfalls, lakes, high marshland, Oku-Nikko is full of nature - Fishing in the lake that is 1,250 meters above sea level
    Oku-Nikko is located in the northwestern part of Nikko, the western part of Tochigi, and forms a part of Nikko National Park. Kegon-no-taki Falls, which is known as one of the three most famous falls in Japan, drops from a 100-meter-high cliff. You can get a spectacular view of it from an observation point at the lower reaches of the falls. At the foot of Mt. Nantai-san, lies Lake Chuzenji-ko where you can fish for Hime-masu (kokanee salmon), or Niji-masu (rainbow trout). You can also enjoy the magnificent view of Mt. Nantai-san while on board a sightseeing boat.

    In the north of Lake Chuzenji-ko, there are some more falls such as Ryuzu-no-taki and Yu-taki which is also at the southern end of Lake Yuno-ko. Senjo-ga-hara, the marshland region that is 1,400-meter high above the sea level, where alpine plants and marsh plants grow in colonies, is also found here. This marshland region, where a nature-searching path is provided, is an all-time attraction for those who enjoy wild bird watching or simply like to hike.

    On the north side there are hot springs, such as Yumoto-onsen, Kotoku-onsen, while camping sites, ski resort, and fishing ponds stud nearby Suge-numa and Maru-numa. Oku-Nikko's natural beauty provides a good contrast to the Toshogu Shrine, the main part of Nikko.

    Getting there
    By the Tobu-Nikko Line for 1 hour and 50 minutes from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) to Tobu-Nikko Station. Fifty minutes from Nikko Station to Chuzenji-ko by bus.

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  Information provided by Japan National Tourist Organization.

 

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