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Autumn in Tochigi: 5 must-visit autumns spots from the 5 areas of Tochigi

Autumn in Tochigi: 5 must-visit autumns spots from the 5 areas of Tochigi

Are you planning to visit Tochigi Prefecture (栃木県 Tochigi-ken) in autumn, and are looking for spots to fill in your itinerary? 


(Image credit: JR Times)


A neighbouring prefecture to Tokyo, Tochigi is a great day trip or weekend getaway for those looking for a break an hour or two away from the bustling city. Here are five places of interest in the five different areas of Tochigi Prefecture you can include in your travel plan for your next autumn trip to Japan.


① Ashikaga Flower Park (Kennan Area)

Illumination of a large wisteria tree in Ashikaga Flower Park during autumn. (Image credit: Ashikaga Flower Park)


Recommended period to visit: From mid-October to mid-November. 

(However, the theme changes to Christmas from late-November to late-December, and to New Year illuminations from New Year’s Day to mid-February.)


The Kennan Area (県南), which literally means the southern area of the prefecture, is the closest to Tokyo. One of the more famous attractions in the area is the Ashikaga Flower Park (あしかがフラワーパーク) in Ashikaga City (足利市). However, apart from the flowering wisterias in spring, the night illuminations in autumn and winter are a must-visit too.


Flowering Mexican sage bush in Ashikaga Flower Park. (Image credit: Ashikaga Flower Park)


‘Flower Fantasy’ (光の花の庭 Hikari no hana no niwa) is held at the Ashikaga Flower Park annually from mid-October to mid-February. During the blooming of the Mexican sage bush (アメジストセージ amejisuto sēji) from early October to late November, the garden of amethyst sage is lit up to create an almost dream-like field of pink, amongst its many displays. The stunning combination of flowers and light displays has earned the award-winning ‘Flower Fantasy’ its spot on the top 3 illuminations of Japan. This is one place you should not miss if you are in the region during the season!


Illumination of a field of flowering Mexican sage bush in Ashikaga Flower Park on an autumn evening. (Image credit: Ashikaga Flower Park)


Ashikaga Flower Park (あしかがフラワーパーク)
Address: 607 Hasama-chō, Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi 329-4216
Nearest station: Ashikaga Flower Park Station (あしかがフラワーパーク駅) along the JR Ryōmō Line (JR両毛線)
Access: 3-minute walk from Ashikaga Flower Park Station
Opening hours (during ‘Flower Fantasy’): 10:00–15:00 (Day tickets), 15:30–20:30/21:00 (Evening tickets)
Admission fee (during ‘Flower Fantasy’): ¥800 (Day tickets), ¥1,200 (Evening tickets)
TEL: +81 284-91-4939

Note: The details provided above are for the ‘Flower Fantasy’ event period, which typically runs from mid-October to mid-February. For details on other periods, please check the official website for more information.


② Entsūji Temple (Kentō Area)

Statue of the Reclining Buddha in front of Issai Kyōtō (一切経塔) of Entsūji Temple, with autumn trees turning red in the background. (Image credit: 益子町観光協会)


Recommended period to visit: Early November


The Kentō Area (県東), refers to the eastern area of the prefecture. The Mooka Railway (真岡鐵道 Mo’oka tetsudō) that serves this area passes through Mooka City (真岡市 Mo’oka-shi), the largest strawberry-producing city of strawberries in Japan, and ends at Mashiko Town (益子町 Machiko-chō).


Autumn colours of Entsūji Temple, with the Kan’non-dō (観音堂 Hall of the Goddess of Mercy) in the background. (Image credit: 益子町観光協会)


Entsūji Temple (圓通寺) in Mashiko Town has a history of more than 600 years and had blended history into its surrounding nature. During autumn, the trees in the area gradually turn crimson, warming up the serene temple. At night, the autumn leaves are lit up, creating a gentle and calming atmosphere as you stroll along the main path within the temple grounds.


Entsūji Temple (圓通寺)
Address: 1770 Ōsawa, Mashiko, Haga-gun, Tochigi 321-4104
Nearest station: Nanai Station (七井駅) along the Mooka Railway
Access: 30-minute walk or a 5-min taxi ride from Nanai Station
TEL: +81 285−72−2724


③ Utsunomiya Station East Park (Ken-ō Area)

Rows of gingko trees during autumn in the Utsunomiya Station East Park. (Image credit: 宇都宮市役所)


Recommended period to visit: First half of November


The Ken-ō Area (県央エリア), lies in the heart of the prefecture. Utsunomiya City (宇都宮市), Tochigi Prefecture’s capital city is located in this area. Many visitors pass by here via local trains or the shinkansen on their way to other parts of the prefecture, or even stop by for a quick meal of gyōza, or pan-fried dumplings (餃子). However, few might have realised that an autumn spot lies within a 15-minute walk from Utsunomiya Station (宇都宮駅).


Aptly named as the Utsunomiya Station East Park (宇都宮駅東公園 Utsunomiya-eki higashi kōen), the local park also has some trees that turn red during autumn. However, the leaves of some 60 gingko trees planted along a straight path in the east side of the park turn yellow, creating a 170m tunnel of gold and becoming a convenient and accessible spot for visitors to simply enjoy the scent of autumn.


Utsunomiya Station East Park (宇都宮駅東公園)
Address: 5-10-1 Motoimaizumi, Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi 321-0954
Nearest station: Utsunomiya Station (宇都宮駅)
Access: 15-minute walk from Utsunomiya Station
TEL: +81 28-632-2529


④ Kegon Waterfall (Nikkō Area)

Kegon Waterfall, taken from the observation deck at the base of a paid elevator ride. (Image credit: Pakutaso)


Recommended period to visit: Mid to late October


The Nikkō Area (日光エリア) is popular among seasoned travellers to Japan due to its accessibility from Tokyo, its lavishly decorated yet well-preserved places of worship, and the breathtaking beauty of the natural scenery this area has to offer. Visit here in the right time of the season, and watch the mix of flaming colours ignite popular autumn photo spots such as the scared bridge of Shinkyō (神橋) of Futarasan Shrine (二荒山神社 Futarasan-jinja) and the Kegon Waterfall (華厳の滝 Kegon-no-taki).

A view of Kegon Waterfall with Lake Chūzenji during autumn, taken from Akechidaira Lookout. (Image credit: 公益社団法人栃木県観光物産協会)


The Kegon Waterfall is located beside Lake Chūzenji (中禅寺湖 Chūzenjiko), which is located much further in the mountains than the UNESCO area of shrines and temples of Nikkō. During autumn, the backdrop of the 97m majestic waterfall fades through different gradients of orange and paints a beautiful and memorable picture for any visitor. 


You can choose to view the waterfall from three different spots: (1) take a paid elevator 100-metres down to an observation deck where you can see the thundering waterfall and its plunge pool from below, (2) visit the free observation deck accessible to the right of the entrance to the elevator and view the waterfall surrounded by autumn shades, or (3) take the Akechidaira Ropeway (明智平ロープウェイ) up to the Akechidaira Lookout (明智平展望台 Akechidaira tenbōdai) to get a panoramic sight comprising of Kegon Waterfall, Lake Chūzenji in the distance, and its surrounding mountain ranges.


Elevator to Kegon Falls (華厳滝エレベーター)
Address: 2479-2 Chūgūshi, Nikko, Tochigi 321-1661
Nearest station: JR Nikkō Station (日光駅) or Tōbu-Nikkō Station (東武日光駅)
Access: 40-minute bus ride from Tōbu-Nikkō Station to the Chūzen-ji Temple bus stop, then a 5-minute walk
Opening hours: 09:00–16:30 (December–February), 08:00–17:00 (March–November)
Admission fee: ¥570 (Round trip)
TEL: +81 288-55-0030


Akechidaira Ropeway and Lookout (明智平ロープウェイ・明智平展望台)
Address: 709-5 Fukasawa, Hosoomachi, Nikkō, Tochigi, 321-1445
Nearest station: JR Nikkō Station (日光駅) or Tōbu-Nikkō Station (東武日光駅)
Access: 35-minute bus ride from Tōbu-Nikkō Station to the Akechidaira bus stop. (Note: Buses in the opposite direction do not stop at Akechidaira.)
Opening hours: 09:00–15:30
Admission fee: ¥600 (One-way), ¥1,000 (Round trip)
TEL: +81 288-55-0331


⑤ Momijidani Suspension Bridge (Nasu Area)

The entrance to the Momijidani Suspension Bridge. (Image credit: ringonome)


Recommended period to visit: Late October to mid-November.


The Nasu Area (那須) is located at the northeastern end of Tochigi Prefecture. One of the more famous cities in this area is probably Nasushiobara City (那須塩原市), which is one of the closest places from Tokyo to enjoy a hot spring bath at the resorts of Shiobara Onsen (塩原温泉).


If you are heading to the Shiobara Onsen area from the JR Nasushiobara Station or the JR Nishi-Nasuno Station, you would pass by 森林の駅 (Mori no eki). Apart from the restaurant and souvenir shop at this rest stop, you can find the Momijidani Suspension Bridge (もみじ谷大吊橋 Momijidani Ōtsuribashi).


The Momijidani Suspension Bridge in autumn. (Image credit: クルマ旅写真館)


This 320m long suspension bridge runs across the Hōki River (箒川 Hōkigawa) and provides great scenic views of the valleys of Shiobara on normal days. However, when the autumn colours are in season, the mountains and their reflections in the waters below add another layer of seasonal beauty to this panorama.


Mori no Eki (森林の駅)
Address: 1425-60 Sekiya, Nasushiobara, Tochigi 329-2801
Nearest station: JR Nikkō Station (日光駅) or Tōbu-Nikkō Station (東武日光駅)
Access: 30-minute bus ride from Nasushiobara Station to Momijidani Ōtsuribashi bus stop via the JR Bus bound for Shiobara Onsen, and a 3-minute walk
Opening hours: 08:30–18:00 (April–October), 08:30–16:00 (November–March)
Admission fee (To access the bridge): ¥300
TEL: +81 287-34-1037


No matter which time of autumn you are visiting, there is definitely a spot in Tochigi Prefecture waiting for you to visit and fall in love with fall (pun intended), so consider including these spots in your travel itinerary when you are visiting Tokyo in autumn!


Writer’s Profile 

2023-10 - A Day in Nikko (4).png (530 KB)

Having worked and lived in Japan, Jason now researches for the best ways to explore all corners of Japan. He shares his discoveries and adventures (and travel hacks too!) on his YouTube channel, ‘Japan Explained’.

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