The Japanese Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton
Tochigi Prefecture, located just north of Tokyo, is an easy day trip away from Japan’s capital. It is the notable home of Utsunomiya. the prefectural capital; Nikko, with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites; and the Nasu district, which is a resort area featuring ski slopes and onsen (hot springs).
In the capital, Utsunomiya, attractions include the Utsunomiya Castle Ruins, which is surrounded by a moat and where exhibits display artifacts and reproductions related to the history of the city; and Oya Temple, an impressive Buddhist temple that is over 1200 years old, featuring statues of Buddhas, a traditional Japanese garden, and treasure hall with ancient relics.
For nature lovers visiting Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko awaits! A sight to behold in autumn, with fiery foliage, Nikko offers a variety of hiking courses and sightseeing spots, like the Senjogahara Marshland and Kegon Falls in Nikko National Park. For history and architecture buffs, the UNESCO-recognized Nikko Toshogu Shrine is the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three great unifiers of Japan. The shrine grounds include several buildings, like the five-story pagoda and museum of art, all built and arranged to compliment the natural topography of the site.
Nasu is another getaway in Tochigi that would be perfect for hikers in autumn (to see the stunning leaves) and skiers in winter. And, after a bit of physical activity, visitors can reward themselves with a nice soak in the Nasu or Shiobara Onsens, while overlooking the gorgeous mountainous scenery.
Must-try Tochigi foods include Nikko yuba (“tofu skins” made from the layer that forms atop boiled soymilk), Utsunomiya gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) which use locally-grown chives, and Sano ramen with a light shoyu broth and handmade noodles. Second to Hokkaido, Tochigi is one of the largest producers of dairy products in Japan, known for delicious soft serve ice cream. In addition, strawberries are a main agricultural product of Tochigi, lending the prefecture the nickname, “Strawberry Kingdom.”
Tochigi is a great place to try gyoza (Japanese potstickers) as the prefecture is the #1 producer of an essential ingredient in these dumplings: nira or “Chinese chives.” Enjoy the dumplings steamed, pan-fried, or with soup in the city with the highest consumption of gyoza, Utsunomiya. Book the Katsuniman and Steamed Gyoza Cooking Class to learn how to make these famous Tochigi gyoza.
Nikko Toshogu Shrine, located in Nikko, is the spiritual final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Toshogu Shrine, along with Futarasan Shrine and Rinnoji Temple, make up the Nikko UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Other structures within these sites are considered National Treasures of Japan.
Hachimanyama Park in Utsunomiya is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot due to its hillside location with 840 sakura trees. The park is large, so visitors will definitely be able to find a picnic spot to camp out and view the blooming sakura.
Japanese strawberries are known for being sweet and juicy, and Tochigi is famous for having the highest production of strawberries. For one of the most breathtaking views in Tochigi, head to Kegon Falls in Nikko. Outdoor activities are also very popular such as hiking, canoeing, and water rafting.
If you can’t bring fresh strawberries home with you, buy a box of Koisuru Ichigo as a Tochigi souvenir. The strawberries are freeze-dried and covered in white chocolate, for the perfect combination of tangy and sweet flavors.
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