The beautiful country of Japan is separated into 47 prefectures, with Tochigi being one of its most inland. Known for cuisine that extends beyond the seafood in the neighboring coastal areas, Tochigi Prefecture boasts both traditional and original fares for every type of traveler. Are you hungry yet? Crispy gyoza, steaming bowls of Sano ramen, and more Tochigi food and drink await!
Tochigi Food and Drink | Strawberries
The colder climate of Tochigi Prefecture, coupled with its sunny winters, allow for optimal strawberry growing seasons. In fact, perfect weather conditions have made this prefecture the largest strawberry producing region of Japan for the past five decades! Tochigi Prefecture is home to the world-renowned Tochiotome and Skyberry varieties of strawberries (plus several others) and is sweetly nicknamed the “strawberry kingdom.” This nature-rich region even offers strawberry picking experiences to go with your berry sampling! Several local producers of Tochigi‘s world-famous strawberry varieties offer tours and picking excursions when strawberries are ripe and in season. Visitors should keep in mind that strawberry-picking experts recommend collecting your haul before 11am for ideal conditions!
3 popular strawberry farms in Tochigi
- Yoshimura Strawberry Park, 520 Hanawa, Mashiko – hours are from 9am to 4pm daily (closed Monday) from mid-December to mid-May. Admission fees are 1,300 JPY (12.15 USD) to 1,800 JPY (16.85 USD) per person, depending on the season, and free for children under 2. Admission covers all-you-can-eat strawberry picking, and there is no time limit per visit.
- Nikko Strawberry Park, 3581 Serinuma, Nikko – hours are from 10am to 4pm daily from early December to late May (closed Tuesday). Admission fees are 1,600 JPY (15 USD) to 1,800 JPY (16.85 USD) for adults and 1,100 JPY (10.30 USD) to 1,300 JPY (12.15 USD) for children, depending on the season. Admission covers 30 minutes of all-you-can-eat strawberry picking, plus access to the gift shop, where strawberries and treats are sold to take home.
- Ichigo No Sato Farm, 408 Okawashima, Oyama – hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from December through May. Admission fees are 1,600 JPY (14.80 USD) to 2,100 JPY (19.65 USD), depending on the season. Admission covers 30 minutes of all-you-can-eat strawberry picking. Reservations are required in advance.
Tochigi Food and Drink | Utsunomiya Gyoza
After World War II, the 14th Division of the Japanese Imperial Army was stationed in Utsunomiya after returning from China with its repatriated militia – and a newfound love for China’s original pot sticker. Adopting and adapting the delicately folded dumpling into Japanese cuisine yielded the first gyoza, and from there, appreciation for this comfort food grew into a regional obsession. In Utsunomiya, gyoza is showcased in many famous specialty shops and food stalls, and the city is on the map as one of two top gyoza consumers in the world. Utsunomiya gyozas’ extra thin wrappings, which allow the dumplings to crisp up when cooked, are what sets them apart from other dumplings served across Japan. Accompaniments to these delicious bites of the region most often include a dipping sauce made of equal parts vinegar and soy sauce, plus a chili oil called rayu.
3 Types of Gyoza
- Yaki Gyoza – pan-fried
- Sui Gyoza – boiled
- Age Gyoza – deep-fried
- Hamamatsu Gyoza – bean sprouts on top of gyoza
It is because of Utsunomiya‘s love for and abundance of gyoza that Tochigi Prefecture is known as the gyoza capital of the world! The prefecture celebrates its love affair with these delicate dumplings every November during the Utsunomiya Gyoza Festival.
Best Places to Eat Gyoza in Utsunomiya
- Gyoza Masashi Miyajima Shop, 4-3-1 Babadori – fried or boiled gyoza are served in simple and classic flavors.
- Utsunomiya Minmin – Main Shop, 4-2-3 Babadori – imaginative takes on gyoza are served alongside local favorites.
Complete your gyoza experience with a photo out front of Utsunomiya Station, where the humble but glorified dumpling is immortalized in a 1.5-meter statue of a gyoza!
3 Original Gyoza Creations Specific To Tochigi Prefecture
- Gyoza burger – crispy, deep-fried gyoza slathered in chili sauce, surrounded by spring onion and sandwiched between soft buns
- Gyoza chips – both salty and sour, these crunchy chips taste a lot like gyoza dipping sauces
- Gyoza panbread – crispy-edged bread surrounds juicy gyoza and mouth-watering chili sauce
Tochigi Food and Drink | Sano Ramen
It’s no secret that ramen is one of the best known dishes from Japan, and tourists shouldn’t miss out on tasting one of the most unique forms of this humble soup that is available only in the city of Sano. Sano Ramen is made with high-quality water from Izuruhara Benten Pond, one of the top 100 spring water sources in Japan. Hand-cut noodles for the dish are beaten with green bamboo stems to encourage aeration before they are submerged in a clear broth flavored lightly with soy sauce. Because of the preparation process, Sano Ramen noodles maintain a smooth, flat texture that is similar to the texture of a wonton wrapper.
3 Restaurants with Must-Try Sano Ramen dishes
- Nikkoken, 138 Wakamatsucho, Sano – open 11am to 8pm daily
- Ramen Yamato, 1-5-2 Kitamorocho, Sano – open 11am to 2pm and 5pm to midnight
- Ramen Ogane, 3229-7 Ohashicho, Sano – open 11:30am to 3pm and 5 to 7:30pm
Tochigi Food and Drink | Sake
Tochigi Prefecture’s ample freshwater supply allows for some of the best sake in the country to be expertly brewed. This soul-quenching tipple is the national drink of Japan for a reason, and can be found in small roadside stalls and grand palaces alike. The mountainous water flowing down from over a dozen surrounding peaks, including Mount Nasu, Mt. Ohira, and Mount Nantai, merges with the three main rivers of the prefecture and is purified as it crosses the landscape, ensuring the base of local sake is crisp and pure. Tours of local sake breweries, along with sake classes and workshops, should be a part of every Tochigi itinerary.
Sake Breweries with Tours in Tochigi Prefecture
- Nishibori Sake Brewery Co., Ltd., 1452, Awanomiya, Oyama – open from 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday (tours are 2 to 3pm Tuesday to Sunday)
- Tentaka Sake Brewery Co., Ltd., 2166, Hiruhata, Otawara – open from 11am to 3:30pm (October through April) and from 9am to 3:30pm (May through September)
- Shimazaki Sake Brewery, 1-11-18 Chuo, Nasukarasuyama – open from 10am to 4pm (mid-March through mid-December)
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