Day One: The Beauty of the Nasu Highlands
Our journey begins in the invigorating northern reaches of the prefecture. Hop on the Tohoku bullet train in Tokyo and you’ll arrive at Nasushiobara Station in an hour and ten minutes. The station is your gateway to Nasu Kogen (“highlands”), which extend downward in a gentle slope from the 1,915m (6,282 ft) peak of Mount Nasu. The natural beauty of the highlands is evident throughout the seasons.
In recent years, Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest has garnered particular attention as the former location of the Nasu Imperial Villa, after which it was opened to the general public in 2008. You can explore this expansive forest after just a one-hour bus ride directly from either Nasushiobara or JR Kuroiso stations.
The 560ha (1,383 acre) Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest is mostly populated by Mongolian and Konara oak trees, with the new green leaves of spring and colors of autumn particularly vivid. Two clear streams run through this forest, where you may spot Japanese hares, foxes and other wildlife. Wear light, comfortable clothing and some good walking shoes and rejuvenate yourself in this enchanting forest.
Venture 45 minutes from the Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest Field Center and you’ll arrive at Komadome Waterfall. The observation deck provides the best view of these double-basin falls. The contrast of the crystal blue waters against a backdrop of autumn colors is stunning.
During the December to March winter season, a special paid program offers the chance to trek through the forest in snowshoes. (Schedule can change depending on snowfall conditions).
The area is also well-known for its hot springs. After an activity-packed day, you deserve a long soak!
Talk a walk through a mythical marsh in Nikko
Aside from the Nasu Highlands, Senjogahara in Oku-Nikko is another natural destination in Tochigi Prefecture you won’t soon forget. According to legend, these vast 400ha (988 acre) marshlands were fought over by the Gods (Senjogahara means “field of battle”). You can traverse this mythical land on boardwalks, taking a lighter two-hour course, or a more advanced seven-hour course.
There are more than 350 varieties of wild plant life in Senjogahara, with mid-June to mid-August, and late September to early October being the highlights of the year. It’s also a much-loved area for bird watchers.
It takes approximately two hours from Tokyo to JR- Nikko station or Tobu-Nikko station, followed by a 50-minute bus ride to reach Senjogahara. You’ll want to make Nikko’s World Heritage sites and fruit picking opportunities part of your plans.
Day Two: From Fruit Picking to Kimono Wearing in Tochigi
Pick Japanese fruit until your heart’s content.
After a restful night at the hot spring, set out early and pick some of the freshest fruit you’ll ever taste.
There are tourism orchards throughout Tochigi where visitors can pick fruit nearly year-round – strawberries (early December to mid-May), blueberries (mid-June to early September), grapes (early June to early October), pears (mid-August to mid-November), and apples (early September to late November).
Strawberries are the most popular bounty, with over 40 varieties in Japan, many of them native to Tochigi. For thirty minutes you can pick and eat as many strawberries as you like. Not a child or adult will come away unsatisfied. [Price] ¥1,000-¥2,000 /30 minutes (price depends on breed of strawberry and orchard)
The chance to wear a traditional kimono in Tochigi
After you get your fill of fruit, hop on the bullet train to Oyama City in the south of Tochigi to take in some traditional culture.
Oyama is known for its “Yuki-tsumugi” silk weaving technique. These silks are used to make prized kimono. You can even wear one yourself and take a stroll through the town. Guides are on hand to help you put it on.
Aside from kimono, you can try weaving “Mamadahimo” – the strings used to fasten samurai helmets and swords. Even complete beginners can produce a finished item in around 20 minutes. Make a key holder or other souvenir to remember your trip.
40 minutes from Oyama City by JR train you’ll reach Ashikaga City. Here you’ll find kimono fashioned from Ashikaga Meisen silk. These kimono were all the rage from the 1920s to the 1940s, and you can try one on today! These vividly-colored kimono are a rare sight in other parts of Japan. Post a picture of yourself wearing one on Instagram or Facebook and be ready for a lot of “likes”!
Yuki-tsumugi (Oyama Honba Yuki-tsumugi Craft Museum)
[Price] Free (separate cleaning cost of ¥2,000)
[Reservations] E-mail email@example.com (English accepted)
Ashikaga Meisen (Ashikaga Machinaka Yugakukan)
[Price] ¥3,000 (90 minutes after kimono dressing complete. Additional ¥500 for each 30 minutes)
[Reservations] E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (English accepted)
[Reservations] E-mail email@example.com (English accepted)
Extend your stay and craft some Japanese ceramic pottery
If you’re able to stay an extra night in Tochigi, set out from Oyama station on an hour-and-ten-minute journey on the JR line and a private railway to the town of Mashiko, where you can make your own pottery in the unique style of the town’s namesake. Famed British potter Bernard Leach tried his hand at Mashiko ware, with some of his works on display at the local museum.
Visitors can choose from two pottery courses – free-form pottery-making, or your own painted design.
As it takes time to dry and fire your creation, it’ll arrive on your doorstep back home approximately 40 to 60 days later. Look forward to receiving your own work of art created in Japan!
*Not all pottery-making facilities offer international shipping. Please confirm in advance.
Mashiko Pottery Ware-Making
[Price] ¥500~ (Depends on design and size. International shipping extra)
[Duration] 45-90 minutes (Depends on course)
[Reservations] E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (English accepted)
Spend one night and two days in Tochigi Prefecture for an unforgettable journey filled with nature and cultural experiences! For more information on these sightseeing routes, please see the link below.