• Seeing, Hearing and Feeling The Grace of Japan, TOCHIGI

    Sport & Nature_Story

    Seeing, Hearing and Feeling The Grace of Japan, TOCHIGI


Tochigi is a tourist destination full of nature, easily accessible from Tokyo. The Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, Oku-Nikko, Edo Wonderland, Mashiko pottery town are just a few of the many celebrated spots worth visiting in Tochigi. The variety of rich natural surroundings including the blossoming flora from early spring to late fall foliage, Tochigi can be enjoyed throughout the year, and cannot fully be experienced in just one or two visits!

National Treasures and The World Heritage Sites

Home to world heritage temples, historic shrines, a profound spiritual legacy, and arguably the most popular destination in Tochigi is the mountain town of Nikko. This town serves as the gateway to the Nikko National Park and is home to the Toshogu Shrine, just one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

When Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan (Edo Shogunate) died in 1616 at the age of 75, he left a will in which he asked to be buried in Kunozan (Mt Kuno), present-day Shizuoka Prefecture where his birthplace is, and, a year later, to be entombed in a small shrine (Toshogu Shrine), which means "the shrine shining from the east" in the Nikko mountains.

The peace-loving Shogun Ieyasu who led the country to a peaceful, amicable world desired to become a “kami” (Japanese deity), and in particular the “God of Peace.” Indeed, he carries on his wishes to establish peace and tranquility in Japan.

He had chosen Nikko as his final and eternal resting place as it is just north of Edo where the North Star shines directly upon the Toshogu Shrine. During the Edo period, the North Star was believed to be the supreme god in the universe, and worshiping the star was popularly practiced. By situating himself there and signifying himself as the North Star, he committed himself to protecting Japan and to bring eternal peace to the nation.

Nikko-bori - The 400 year-old craft that’s accompanied the Toshogu Shrine

During the early Edo Period (17th century), carpenters skilled in woodcarving gathered from all over Japan to help rebuild Nikko Toshogu Shrine into the magnificent structure it is today. The carving technique of Nikko-bori is said to have started during this time.

Hideko Hirano, Nikko-bori carver

Hideko Hirano is the third generation of the Hirano family, a renown carvers in Nikko city. Along with her daughter, Hisako, they became the first female Nikko carvers to be certified as traditional crafter by the prefectural government of Tochigi.

The mother-daughter duo's beautiful carvings are displayed on the walls of The Ritz-Carlton Nikko's Japanese restaurant, highlighting the craft's 400 years of legacy, culture, and values.

Nikko-bori displayed in the Japanese restaurant (The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko)

The Ritz-Carlton Nikko is located on the eastern shore of Lake Chuzenji, in one of the most beautiful areas of Oku-Nikko. A tranquil splendor stay overlooking the picturesque Lake Chuzenji — a view that Thomas Glover, the Scottish merchant and one of the founding fathers of modern Japan in the Bakumatsu era, fell in love with and often visited as a summer hideaway. The hotel boasts a library, 24 hour fitness center, two restaurants, a lakefront terrace with a panoramic view of the lake, and the only Ritz-Carlton hotel in the world with its own onsen hot spring spa.

Lake Chuzenji

The stunning Ritz-Carlton Presidential Suite located on the top floor, offers the ultimate lap of luxury with a spacious 277 square meter layout, a charming mix of stylish modern and traditional decor, a porch with the Lake Chuzenji view, a private spa treatment room and gym. Ideal for getaways with both family and friends.

Time Travel in Edo Wonderland

Nikko’s Edo Wonderland is a village reminiscent of the times past, and is the country's largest Edo era (1603-1868) theme park. Opened in 1986, the park consists of recreated Edo-style communities and experiences with Ninja actors, Geisha actresses, and villagers all dressed as if they traveled in time from 200 to 400 years ago.

Samurais greeting guests at the Edo Wonderland

The secret to enjoying Edo Wonderland is to transform yourself into an Edo person. Let go of today at the Transformation Hall and slip into the shoes of an Edo character of your choice! This is your chance to experience the picturesque, charming world of Edo, including its food culture!

Food – Yuba and Strawberries

Yuba, the tofu layer that forms on top of soy milk when boiled in a shallow pan, is synonymous with the city of Nikko. It was used as a protein source to replace meat and fish by monks and mountain ascetics from all over Japan during the period when mountain worship flourished in Nikko along with Kyoto. Yuba has been handed down from generation-to-generation as an essential food for the imperial family, priests and monks.

Takaiya, a venerable restaurant specializing in Yuba cuisine and seasonal kaiseki courses in Nikko was founded in 1805 when the family moved to the city around the time when the construction of Nikko Toshogu Shrine began; and opened its doors as a Soba noodle and Yuba restaurant. Takaiya’s famously fresh Soba noodles were delivered to the members of the Imperial Family during their retreat visit in Nikko during the Meiji and Taisho periods (early 20th century).

Now as a fine dining Yuba specialty restaurant, Takaiya's centuries-old cuisine is widely appreciated by many guests such as the members of the Imperial Family, prominent figures, and the locals for over 200 years.

In a traditional private tatami room overlooking the beautiful garden, we were greeted by the Okami-san, where we were treated with a glass of plum wine as an aperitif and enjoyed the full Yuba course prepared by the same chefs licensed to cook for the Emperor.

The taste of Takaiya's Yuba kaiseki lunch course, level of service, and location, are next to none. A one-of-a-kind culinary experience true to Nikko!

All beautiful dining experience in Tochigi, is followed by the region’s luscious strawberries. Tochigi is Japan’s largest producer of strawberries.

The prefecture offers the perfect environment for fresh and sweet strawberries; abundant sunshine, clear spring water, fertile land and an inland climate with a considerable temperature difference between its highs and lows.

Tochiotome strawberries rank in the top share in Japan, one of the most beloved strawberries in the country.

And no trip to Tochigi is complete without experiencing strawberry picking (from all-you-can-eat to a few bites here & there). This is a must-try for kids and adults alike, when in Tochigi.

Cover image:
Irohazaka Winding Road

Irohazaka Winding Road is a scenic road connecting downtown Nikko with Lake Chuzenji and Oku-Nikko.

The name "Iroha" borrows its name from the 48 letters of the Iroha alphabet, to illustrate the 48 sharp curves on the two slopes – the first Iroha slope for downhill and the second Iroha slope for uphill.

Each curve is marked with a "I", "RO", "HA"... sign, and the elevation difference amongst the lowest and highest point is 440 meters. On the second Iroha slope is the Akechidaira Observatory, which you can take in the spectacular view of the first Iroha slope (for climbing only).

In autumn, the location is known as one of the most beautiful spots in Nikko for its autumn foliage. But be patient, as traffic jams are common due to the breathtaking view. The usual 20 minute ride may end up taking you 2 to 3 hours, so do plan ahead!

Contact TARO for more information and exclusive offers.

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