Spring in Tochigi is the season for flowers. Ofuji in Ashikaga Flower Park was selected in 2014 as one of the top 10 dream destinations in the world by CNN. Flowers spread one by one throughout the Prefecture. This includes approximately 150,000 tulips blooming at Nasu Flower World, which is located on a plateau at about 600 m (roughly 1968 feet) above sea level. Let’s take a trip to Tochigi, and savor all our time we spend with the flowers there!
Explore the summer beauty of Tochigi by “pottering” with a bike!
As the base of professional cycle road racing team, Tochigi is equipped with easy-to-ride cycling lanes. Stylish rental bikes are also available for cyclists.
Pottering around the towns and tourist destinations by bike is perfect for beginners and tourists. Rent-a-cycle is available in many cities and towns of Tochigi Prefecture. Nasu-machi, known as a resort with the Imperial Villa, offers cycle pits across the town as well as rental cycle facilities to support your ultimate pottering experience in the highland with lush greenery.
Nasushiobara Station, the gateway to Nasu area, is just next stop from Utsunomiya by Shinkansen (approx. 15 min). The landscape of green vegetation welcomes you, once away from bustling station area. Enjoy your own cycling route – watching peacefully grazing cows, stopping over Teddy Bear Museum and Stained Glass Museum etc.
Nasu area is known for the beautiful seasonal flowers such as spring azaleas and autumn gentians. The vast sunflower field in Roadside station “forest, Kuroiso of Meiji” in Nasushiobara City neighboring Nasu-machi is a definite can’t-miss in summertime.
Tochigi is the world’s famous venue for cycling races. The annual “Japan Cup Cycle Road Race” held in October in Utsunomiya City is the only Asian one-day race which ranks in the top category of Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). The main race will be taking place, following the special race called “Criterium” by world’s leading racers biking through the central part of Utsunomiya City. You can witness the star racers’ spectacularly exciting race in the city.
Stunning view of sanctuary-like giant space underground!
With its flexibility and fire resistance, the Oya stone quarried in Oya-machi, Utsunomiya City has been widely used as construction materials for outer walls and warehouses. The former quarry operated from 1919 to 1989 open to the public as “Oya History Museum”.
The giant underground space of 20,000㎡ (approx. 215,278sq.ft.), with 30m (approx. 98ft.) of average depth, looks like a holy sanctuary. With its highly impressive view attracting visitors, the space is often used as a shooting location for films, dramas and promotion videos of Japanese popular musicians as well as a venue for concerts and art exhibition. Accessed from JR Utsunomiya Station by bus for just 30 minutes, Oya History Museum is one of your must-visit.
Reopened in April, 2016 after renovation, the museum shop “OYA MUSEUM ROCKSIDE MARKET” offers perfect souvenirs such as coasters made of Oya stone and Mashiko ware exclusive to ROCKSIDE MARKET. You can also take a break and enjoy meals in the museum café.
Explore World Heritage, Nikko, dressed in Japanese traditional kimono
“Kimono Experience” offering the special cross-town walk dressed up in Japanese traditional costume, is particularly popular among overseas tourists. The “Kimono Experience” exclusive to Nikko is unmatched by any other encounter across Japan.
Nikko is the gateway town of temples and shrines designated as a World Cultural Heritage site. Dressed up in kimono, you can explore 103 historical buildings including Karamon Gate of Nikko Toshogu Shrine (nine National Treasures and 94 Important Cultural Properties) and the beautiful landscape of lush greenery. The special plan is available including the admission to “Shinkyo Bridge”, the entrance to sanctuary Nikko, currently not open to the public.
Under the conventional norm, lined kimono called “awase” is worn from October to May, single kimono “hitoe” in June, and “sha” and “ro” made of summer materials in July and August. In Nikko, you can experience the summer kimono, which is less familiar with even Japanese people as well as the seasonal value of kimono culture.
Enjoy summer sweets exclusive to Nikko
Recorded even in the archives over 1,000 years ago, Japan’s traditional shaved ice dessert “kakigori” is particularly recommended in summer heat. Soft in texture and delicate in flavor, the kakigori made of naturally and gently frozen spring water in winter cold is a definite can’t miss.
Making natural ice requires highly pure spring water as well as the condition at the temperature of minus 7-8℃(19.4 – 17.6℉) without sunshine even during the day. To make distinctively high-quality natural ice involves considerable effort such as lakebed soil making. By this reason, the number of natural ice producers has dropped from 100 to merely five across the nation. Out of five still in operation, three are based in Nikko, which empowers many restaurants in this area serve natural ice kakigori. For further information on the restaurants, visit Tourist Information Center at JR Nikko Station or Tobu Nikko Station.
Enjoy a different selection of toppings and syrup by each restaurant. Summer recommendation is the syrup made of Tochigi’s branded strawberry “Tochiotome”. “Lemon milk” flavored syrup manufactured only in Tochigi is also worth trying.
Enjoy Ayu in best season and traditional fishing method
Inhabiting in clear stream of fresh water, Ayu (sweet fish), one of the best-known river fish, has long been loved by Japanese as a seasonal tradition with its unique aroma and flavor. Along Nakagawa River basin that runs roughly through central Tochigi Prefecture, you can experience traditional trap fishing “yanaryo”* as well as Ayu cuisine from June or July to early November.
*Fishing method by installing ”yana” made of wood or bamboo underwater to trap fish coming from upper stream
At “Kurobane Kanko Yana” (Otawara City, Tochigi Prefecture), “ayu yana” will be starting in late July. Savor finely charcoal-grilled ayu with a wonderful view of clear stream.
Nakagawa River’s largest scale “Takase Kanko Yana” in Nakagawa-machi, offers ayu fishing experience on yana.
Summer and autumn are the best season to enjoy varieties of activities available in Tochigi prefecture. Explore, eat, experience full extent of Tochigi’s beauty!