Odigo Trip: Two Winter Days in Tochigi

At Odigo our aim is to help visitors travel all over Japan, not just to the main hotspots. We want to help others explore and have great adventures. One way we create great curated information for travelers is to get out of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and other well-known areas, take a walk off the beaten path and share our experiences. We sent our Social Media Marketing guru Kuv on a trip to Tochigi Prefecture. You can read her report below:

One reason I'm happy to have joined Odigo is because I love adventure. I was keen to take my first exploring assignment outside of Tokyo to Tochigi and set off to see some new sights. The journey from Ueno station to the prefecture’s main city, Utsunomiya, only took me fifty-odd minutes by bullet train.
Before leaving I prepared for my excursion by creating a two-day “trip” using Odigo. A quick search of the area's spots showed some pretty interesting sights so I added in as many as I could to my customized trip. I love great food so I also made sure to add in places to stop off for food and drink. I couldn’t find the hotel we had booked, but I could write about it after my stay and add it into Odigo which is one of the joys of the application we are building. “Plan, Go, Discover and Share.”

Odigo Trip PDF of Tochigi -- Photo by Kuv
Booking a hotel near the train station was a wise choice. Getting around the main city was very easy but it was also simple to head over to Nikko for the day. I used our handy Odigo printed PDF which I had downloaded from the website to figure out where the first stop would be.
The day was beautiful, sunny and clear, and cold but crisp. I decided to walk to my first spot down the main stretch of road which led me over a bridge. From here I could see Tagawa River run through the city. In the distance, I could see the mountains of Nikko.
My first stop was Utsunomiya Futaarayama Jinja Shrine in the heart of the city. There were a few people climbing up the steep stairway to visit the shrine and pray. I read that the shrine is beautifully lit up in the evening. Next time I’ll definitely make a night visit to see the view.

Outside Futaarayama Jinja Shrine -- Photo by Kuv
After leaving the shrine I headed further up the main road to the Gallery of Fine Art. I enjoyed the walk and the seasonal exhibit. The exhibition wasn't crowded and I could spend time relaxing and reflecting.
Later in the evening, after I had checked in and rested from my day of walking, I set off for dinner. The wonderful concierge at the Richmond Hotel helped me plan my travel to Nikko the next day. The concierge also recommended a popular dining spot to try out some gyoza (dumplings), for which the city is famous. The residents of Utsunomiya consume the highest number of gyoza in Japan! I decided to join their numbers and my gyoza were delicious. I will add my dinner spot into Odigo so that the next Tochigi visitor using our trip planner can try them too.

Utsunomiya is Famous for Gyoza -- Photo by Kuv
The next day I spent about 40 minutes on the train heading over to Nikko on the local JR line. I stopped by the tourist information centre located just up the road in Tobu Nikko station. I could fortunately book a tour for the afternoon which would cover the area around Lake Chuzenji. However, I  recommend doing any tour booking beforehand. The reason I managed to get on the tour at the last minute was because I was on my own, and I was there so early in the morning!

Nikko Shrine Area -- Photo by Kuv
I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikko. On the way I passed the beautiful Shinkyo bridge. Once I reached the shrine and temple area I spent most of my time taking in the buildings' beautiful intricate details, the patterns, the colours and the carvings. I spent over two hours exploring this area because there is a lot to see and plenty of nooks and crannies where you can wander off and explore. Using the Odigo PDF I could navigate my way around. I could also read up on the individual shrines and temples so I could really understand what I was looking at.
By the time I got back to the station where the tour was leaving from, it was around lunchtime. I'd had a big breakfast at the hotel so wanted a light lunch. Luckily enough, I saw a stall set up close to the station which was selling Age Yuba Manju, a Nikko treat. Even though I had never tried this snack before I knew it was exactly what I wanted. I was right, the Age Yuba Manju was certainly a treat: sweet bean curd fried into a crispy batter, salty and crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet in the inside. The stall staff served the manju on a small tray along with a cup of hot tea -- perfect for the crisp cold weather! The queue around the stall started to build up quite fast so I enjoyed people watching while I snacked.

Age Yuba Manju Make a Tasty Snack -- Photo by Kuv
The tour I went on took me around the Oku-Nikko area and was managed by Tobu. The tour was the best way to see everything around Lake Chuzenji. The tour included not only trips around the beautiful lake itself, but also trips to Senjogahara, the Chuzenji temple, Ryuzu Waterfall (a.k.a Dragon’s Head waterfall), Kegon Waterfall, The Akechidaira Plateau, Futarasan Shrine...The minibus drove through the Irohazaka Winding Road which has 48 turns, the same number as the characters in the Japanese syllabary. Each turn has a sign post with a different Hiragana character which I thought was a really nice touch.

Snowy Nikko -- Photo by Kuv
Overall I would highly recommend a trip to both Utsunomiya and Nikko. Getting around is much easier than what I thought, especially when using Odigo. Tochigi is the perfect location for a weekend break. I have barely scratched the surface of the prefecture and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the area.
You can see my Tochigi Winter Trip here and use it to create your own bespoke version and include the things you love to see and do. When you go, please add in your own discoveries to Odigo and continue to share the adventure we are building together.

Kuv works on marketing and content for Odigo. She's been in Japan, living in Tokyo, for less than a year. She is obsessed with washi tape (Japanese paper masking tape). You can see Kuv's favourite spots in her profile below.