Tochigi is a northern Japanese prefecture easily accessible from Tokyo. Its beautiful scenery and proximity to the country’s capital make it a highly popular tourist destination throughout the year. The prefecture is landlocked and mountainous, with quaint hot spring villages like Yunishigawa Onsen, large natural areas like the Nasu Highlands, and fantastic hiking and sightseeing opportunities. Every season in Tochigi has its unique perks and charms. That’s what makes Tochigi travel appealing year-round! Let’s take a look at the top things to see and do in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Tochigi Travel | What to Do in Spring
Springtime in Tochigi is characterized by mild temperatures and the stunning bloom of colorful flowers. Like the rest of Japan, the prefecture comes alive in swaths of light pink cherry blossoms. Tochigi is also known for its delightful wisteria flowers, which paint the landscape in their soft purple hues.
For a unique photo opportunity of Japan’s cherry blossoms, head to Kita-Mo-Oka Station in the city of Moka (Mo-Oka). Near the station, there is a long row of cherry trees lining the tracks. Not only is it a lovely sight on its own, but on weekends and holidays, Moka Railway operates a steam locomotive through the area. Photographers and tourists line up to snap a picture of the train in front of the cherry blossoms. You can ready yourself by listening for the train’s whistle as it approaches.
Ashikaga Flower Park
The best place to see the wisteria flowers in Tochigi is at Ashikaga Flower Park. A flower garden with different seasonal displays, the park is most known for its spring wisteria festival. You will see more than 350 wisteria plants in many different color varieties, including purple, pink, blue, white, and yellow. The main attractions at Ashikaga Flower Park are the 87-yard wisteria tunnel that visitors can walk through and the century-old wisteria tree located in the middle of the park. Wisteria flowers in Tochigi typically bloom in early May.
Hours: Ashikaga Flower Park is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in Summer Season (normally March through October) and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Winter Season (normally November through February).
Admission fees: tickets range from 400 JPY (3.80 USD) to 1,900 JPY (18 USD) for adults and 200 JPY (1.90 USD) to 900 JPY (8.50 USD) for children, depending on the season and condition of the flowers.
Tochigi Travel | What to Do in Summer
Summer is the perfect time to get out and explore the outdoors in Tochigi. The hot season lasts from the end of June to the middle of September and sees pleasant daily average high temperatures of 79 F (26 C). The prefecture provides an escape from the Tokyo summer heat and humidity.
In the summertime, you’ll want to head to an area known as the Nasu Highlands in the north of the prefecture. Many southern city residents keep seasonal cottages here, where they come to enjoy some time in nature. Forests, waterfalls, and hiking trails await in this picturesque mountain region, as well as plenty of restaurants and lodging options where you can stop to refresh and relax. The Nasu Highlands are centered around Mount Nasu, a group of active volcanoes and a popular hiking destination. You can catch a ropeway at the base of the mountain to the start of a 45-minute hike which leads up to the summit of Mount Nasu‘s highest peak, where you are treated to incredible views. Make sure you also visit Yuai no Mori, a transit hub for sightseeing buses to other Nasu Highlands attractions.
Tochigi Travel | What to Do in Fall
Tochigi is one of the best areas in Japan to see the country’s magnificent fall foliage. Witness the countryside in a fiery display of yellows, oranges, and reds as different species of trees change into their fall finest. The leaves start changing color around October and can be viewed until early December.
Shrines and Temples of Nikko
Nikko is a city in the northwest of Tochigi famous for its religious buildings, which collectively make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the Shrines and Temples of Nikko. The site consists of 103 structures spread over two Shinto shrines, Nikko Tosho-gu and Nikko Futarasan Jinja, and the Buddhist Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple. One of the most outstanding features of the Shrines and Temples of Nikko is how they are arranged harmoniously into the mountainside, which makes them an excellent place to view the fall foliage. They also are all within walking distance of one another.
Oyama Sando is a road in the city of Nasushiobara that leads up to the tomb of Prince Oyama Iwao, a founder of the Imperial Japanese Army. Both sides of the road are lined with large maple trees, which number about 80 in total. The trees form a canopy of bright red foliage in the fall, making for a lovely afternoon stroll. The ideal time to walk the Oyama Sando for maple fall leaf viewing is typically from mid- to late-November.
Tochigi Travel | What to Do in Winter
Winter in Tochigi lasts from early December to mid-March, with average daily highs around 54 F (12 C). The cooler weather makes it even more enjoyable to go for a dip in the prefecture’s famed hot springs, known as onsen. Tochigi is home to over 600 different hot springs, and “onsen hopping” is a favorite activity.
Yunishigawa Onsen is a mountain village in a remote valley of Tochigi. According to legend, the town’s hot springs were discovered by samurai warriors who used the waters to heal their wounds. Today, Yunishigawa Onsen is famous for its outdoor hot spring baths, which line the rivers that flow from Yunishikawa Lake and are surrounded by deep snow in the wintertime. The village also has an open-air museum, the Heike no Sato, where you can discover more about Yunishigawa‘s past.
- Another reason to visit Yunishigawa Onsen in the winter is to see the Yunishigawa Kamakura Festival. The festival is held every year in February, and the main attraction is the hundreds of mini illuminated snow huts (igloos) known as Kamakura set up around town. It is also a great opportunity to try the delicious local cuisine, which is served and enjoyed around a fireplace. You can take part in activities like snow sliding and building your own Kamakura as well.
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