North of Tokyo holds one of the best kept secrets for Japanese adventure travel enthusiasts – Tochigi Prefecture. Known for some of Japan's most picturesque landscapes, Tochigi is a perfect place to experience some of the best trekking and cycling experiences Japan has to offer. From charming mountain terrains, pristine lakes, to lush forests, Tochigi offers a wide range of opportunities for outdoor adventurers that promise to leave both your body and mind refreshed and reinvigorated.
The northwestern part of Nikko City in Tochigi Prefecture is referred to as Okunikko, and located in this area is a vast lake called Lake Chuzenji. Lake Chuzenji is one of the highest natural lakes in Japan, situated at an elevation of 4,163 feet above sea level at the foot of Mt. Nantai. It is the result of an eruption by Mt. Nantai approximately 20,000 years ago. The lakeside area has a history of being a popular summer resort destination during the 19th and 20th centuries, with several villas having been constructed by foreign nationals and embassies. Lake Chuzenji is surrounded by a 15.5-mile-long hiking trail, and due to this area being designated as a national park, visitors can enjoy the richness of the surrounding nature in each of the four seasons.
Senjugahama is a sandy beach area that stretches 1.2 miles from north to south at the western end of Lake Chuzenji. From here, you can clearly see the beautiful, clear blue water of the lake, as well as the towering Mt. Nantai rising on the opposite shore.
In the surrounding area, a 200-year-old forest of Mizunara oak and Haru elm trees can be found. In June, pretty pink "primrose" flowers fill this area along with other abundant fresh greenery. It is a perfect place to witness Japan awakening from its winter slumber and coming alive before your eyes.
During the primrose season in June, the Lake Chuzenji sightseeing boat also provides service to Senjugahama, making it easy for everyone, regardless of their fitness level, to be able to enjoy a stroll amongst the flowers.
Mt. Nantai and Lake Chuzenji in Autumn
The fall foliage season will soon arrive, which is the perfect time for hiking. The autumn foliage at Lake Chuzenji is usually at its peak from mid-October to early November, when trees covered in vivid reds, yellows, and oranges reflect like mirrors on the gentle waters of Lake Chuzenji, creating an unforgettable picturesque scene. And if you travel a little bit further, you can also see Ryuzu Falls decorated with an abundant array of autumn colors. The Ryuzu Falls are one of Nikko's signature waterfalls, so named because the middle of the waterfall is divided into two parts that look like the head of a dragon. It is one of the must-see spots during the fall foliage season in Nikko.
Ryuzu Falls (left) | Lake Chuzenji in Autumn (right)
Mt. Chausu in Autumn
Mt. Chausu, also known as Mt. Nasu, located in the town of Nasu in the northern part of Tochigi Prefecture, is a rising symbol that represents the splendor and charm of the area. It is an active volcano that still emits white smoke. Mt. Chausu is also famous for trekking, and there are courses for everyone, from an easy route that children can enjoy to a more challenging course that offers spectacular views, instantly alleviating any fatigue incurred during the climb. The “royal road” is a course that leads to the summit of Mt. Chausu. This route can be completed in roughly half a day using the Nasu Ropeway, which runs along the edge of Mt. Chausu. First, take the ropeway and enjoy floating through the air while viewing the scenery below (highly recommended in autumn). Once you arrive at the top station, this will be your starting point for the climb. The trail to the summit, which takes about 50 minutes one way, is an excellent way to experience alpine flora and enjoy the scenery. When you finally reach the summit, breathtaking and magnificent views of the Kanto Plains await.
For those who want to embark on a more challenging adventure, we also recommend Mt. Sanbonyari, the highest peak in the Nasu Mountain Range, and the beautiful Ubagadaira, where Mt. Chausu can be seen reflecting on the surface of the nearby Hyotan Pond. No matter what you are looking for, there are many ways to enjoy this area.
The magnificent views and crisp mountain air of this region will rejuvenate both your mind and body.
However, when you talk to local hikers, they will tell you that climbing Mt. Chausu just once is never enough.
In spring, the Mt. Chausu area is filled with the blooming of Japanese alpine cherry and the rhododendron pentaphyllum (a type of azalea); the summer brings with it lush green forests, and in the autumn, a leafy canopy like no other takes shape as fiery reds, bright yellows, and rich oranges begin to emerge.
If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path trekking experience with amazing views and that is perfect for both amateur hikers as well as seasoned veterans, Mt. Chausu comes highly recommended.
Mt. Chausu in Spring (left) | Mt. Chausu in Summer (right)
There is no better way to experience the enchanting landscapes of Tochigi Prefecture than with a multi-day cycling tour guided by one of the experts from Ride Experience. The expert guides at Ride Experience have meticulously designed their tours in Tochigi Prefecture to allow guests to immerse themselves in the prefecture's breathtaking natural beauty. Their multi-day tours offer the chance to experience the idyllic volcanic terrains of Nasu as well as to witness the world-famous picturesque landscapes of Nikko, all while exercising your body and freeing your mind from the stresses of everyday life. Moving forward, we will introduce you to three recommended courses offered by Ride Experience.
The first course is the Nasu Volcano Ride & Hike Tour - a 2-day, 1-night excursion that combines cycling and trekking around the Nasu Mountain Range. Accompanied by your expert guide, the tour starts off with a downhill cycling session from high atop one of the mountainsides of Mt. Nasu. Depending on your comfort level with cycling, Ride Experience offers both traditional bikes and e-bikes for rent, catering to any skill level. As you pedal through the panoramic landscapes of the Nasu Mountain Range, you will work up an appetite while sampling some delicious local delicacies along the way. The tour culminates with a visit to a local craft brewery called Nasukogen Beer. After relaxing and enjoying the local delicacies, your overnight stay will be at a traditional Japanese onsen ryokan (hot spring inn).
Here, you will enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner (multi-course meal) as well as have the opportunity to relax in the healing waters of the hot springs located onsite. On the next day, you will enjoy trekking on either Mt. Nasu or in the forests of the nearby national park. The trekking location will be decided based on the most suitable location considering the season, weather, or personal preference.
The second course offered by Ride Experience is the Mt. Nasu Self-guided Bike Adventure - a 1-3-day self-guided cycling tour available from April 1st to November 30th throughout the Nasu region. This is a perfect tour for anyone wishing to explore some of the best scenic landscapes in Japan while having total freedom in their itinerary, along with the support of the experts at Ride Experience just in case. With a route based on the number of days of your desired journey, you will set out on your rental bike with a GPS navigation device to explore routes such as Mt. Chausu or the Nasu Highlands. As with the Nasu Volcano & Hike Tour, you will have the option of either a high-performance carbon road bike or an e-bike. Accommodations are available at cyclist-friendly ryokan and hotels for those wishing to stay overnight. (Additional fees apply to arrange accommodations)
The third course offered by Ride Experience is the Hidden Nikko E-Bike Tour – a tour that takes guests outside of Nasu and on a 5-day, 4-night journey through the UNESCO World Heritage area and the much deeper, hidden mountainside of Nikko. With the aid of an expert guide, a support van, and a high-quality electric mountain bike, you will discover the "hidden side" of Nikko, a famous World Heritage site. On the first day and after checking into the tour, participants are free to explore the area around Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which is registered as a World Heritage site and contains the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu. After a good night's sleep at the Kanaya Hotel, the next morning has you cycling off to Lake Chuzenji.
Day two of the tour starts with pedaling along this ancient pilgrimage route, you will stop at the Takio Shrine and the Kanmangafuchi Abyss before climbing the stunningly beautiful Irohazaka Winding Road on the way to lunch. For lunch, enjoy river fish and a local specialty called yuba before embarking on a boat ride across Lake Chuzenji that will drop you off in front of Chuzen⁻ji Temple Tachikikannon. After spending some time at the temple, your day will come to a close as you proceed to your resort hotel for the evening.
Day three of your adventure has you traveling from Lake Chuzenji to Okukinu. The morning’s route will take you to Nikko‘s famous Ryuzu Falls before stopping for some local ice cream. From there, you'll pedal your way up to an elevation of almost 5700 feet before enjoying a roughly 9-mile downhill stretch to the location where you will have a picnic lunch alongside a river. The last leg of the day will have you cycling up a 4.7-mile gravel trail that is inaccessible by car.
The fourth day of the tour covers approximately 31 miles from Okukinu to Yunishigawa Onsen, pedaling through some winding forest roads.
Then, on the fifth and final day, you will head from Yunishigawa Onsen to the historic hot spring village of Kinugawa Onsen to enjoy the hot springs before the tour disbands. This tour offers so much more than a gourmet tour as you will be able to enjoy delicious local cuisine and snacks, as well as craft beer and sake while relaxing at your accommodations.
Tochigi Prefecture is a location with a wide variety of charms. With the beauty of Lake Chuzenji as a backdrop, Senjugahama's hiking trails weave a captivating narrative of seasonal transformation. Embarking on the journey of summiting Mt. Chausu reveals scenery and landscapes that leave a permanent mark on your memory. And Ride Experience's expertly crafted cycling tours truly embody embracing the spirit of outdoor exploration. Tochigi Prefecture beckons any travelers wishing to uncover something truly unique, offering a journey that elevates the ordinary and leaves lasting memories of the time you spent there.
Lake Chuzenji English Website: https://www.visit-tochigi.com/plan-your-trip/things-to-do/753/
Senjugahama English Website: https://www.visit-tochigi.com/plan-your-trip/things-to-do/1948/
Nikko City English Website: https://www.visitnikko.jp/en/
Mt. Chausu English Website: https://www.visit-tochigi.com/plan-your-trip/things-to-do/818/
Nasu Ropeway Website: https://www.nasu-ropeway.jp/
Nasu Town Website: https://www.nasukogen.org/
Ride Experience English Website: https://bicycle-tours.jp/
Ride Experience Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RideExperienceJapan/
Trip Type: Adventure/Eco/Nature
Tochigi’s Website & SNS
Tochigi Website: https://www.visit-tochigi.com/
Tochigi Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064302147126
Tochigi Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/visit_tochigi_official2/
Related Articles from Tochigi
Related Article: https://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/property/tochigi-nikko-part-1
Related Article: https://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/property/tochigi-nikko-part-2
Related Article: https://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/property/tochigi-nikko-part-3
Related Article: https://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/property/tochigi-nikko-part-4