Nasu with its lush nature, hiking trails and onsen makes a great day trip from Tokyo! Whether you like to just relax in a beautiful hot spring or prefer to be a little more active and climb Mt. Chausu there really is something for anyone.
I recently went on a day trip to Nasu and enjoyed a little bit of both, along with visiting the local shrine as well as discovering more about one of its most prominent legends, the killing stone!
Lush Landscape on Mount Chausu | Photo Cindy Bissig
Traveling from Tokyo will take about 2-3h and is definitely easiest by car. However, public transport is also available and manageable. I took the local train (the Utsunomiya line) from Ueno station to Kuroiso station and then changed for the local Kanto bus that conveniently parks right outside the station. But you could also take the Shinkansen instead from Ueno to Nasushiobara and take the same bus from there.
Kuroiso Train Station | Photo Cindy Bissig
The bus runs every hour and operates on a loop system, which means it is important to plan your visit in advance. Otherwise, you may end up having to go on a full loop again, in case you change your mind. Because the bus only runs every hour and some of the stops are a bit spread out, my recommendation is to try to get to Nasu as early as possible to make the most of your day.
Kanto Bus Stop at Kuroiso Station | Photo Cindy Bissig
With plenty to see in the area, I decided to head first to the Nasu Ropeway, as it is also the furthest away from the station. The journey was really pleasant, however, this leg of the trip will take about 1h and incredibly 40 bus stops.
Other than the Ropeway and its carpark, there is not much here to explore. So I bought myself a return ticket for 1800Yen and within 10min wait the cable car arrived and we ascended to the mountaintops of Nasu. To be precise, Mount Chausu, one of the tallest peaks in the area (1,915 m).
Nasu Ropeway | Photo Cindy Bissig
Once I arrived at the top, I found a beautiful lookout and from there, several hiking paths led even further up. It is good to know, if you are thinking about going all the way to the top, make sure to bring proper hiking shoes as otherwise it can be quite dangerous.
I made the mistake of wearing sneakers and therefore stopped at a just slightly higher lookout. Here the view was still absolutely stunning. However, I kept thinking about the view I was missing out on. Nevertheless, the cloudy sky making the landscape look just a little bit more mysterious made me quickly forget that and I enjoyed the moment before returning back to the Ropeway station.
My tip: If you are hungry, both the top and bottom of the Ropeway station offer some food such as soba noodles and other small dishes. However, I recommend bringing a picnic and eating it on one of the many benches overlooking the beautiful landscape.
Hiking Trails on Mount Chausu | Photo Cindy Bissig
After enjoying the beautiful view I decided to head back down and jump on the bus again. As already mentioned if you are using public transport keep in mind the buses only run once or twice every hour, so be careful not to miss them.
I got off at Nasu Yumoto Onsen and walked along the winding paths leading through the sulfur springs. Prepare yourself, as the smell of rotten eggs, is not everyone’s favorite, but it definitely adds to the experience. And only a short 5-10min walk later I got a glimpse of the main attraction, the killing stone, in Japanese “the Sessho-Seki”!
What is so special about this rock? Well, legend has it that it kills anyone who comes into close contact with the stone. So it came as no surprise that many people were a bit worried when in March 2022 the stone cracked and split into two. Resulting in priests visiting the site to bless it and perform protective rituals in order to keep the bad spirit at bay. You can learn more about the legends of Nasu here.
The Killing Stone or Sessho-Seki | Photos Cindy Bissig
For anyone worried at this point and would like to shake of any bad spirits, it just so has it that one of the oldest Shrines in Tochigi is just next to the Sessho-Seki.
The Nasu Onsen Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Tochigi. A beautiful shrine located in the middle of a forest, such a stark contrast to the stoney path we just left. With many tori gates leading to and from the Shrine, overgrown lanterns and statues, it transports visitors into a different world, peaceful and a little studio Ghibli-like. A nice transition from my active day into a more relaxing mood.
Nasu Onsen Shrine | Photos Cindy Bissig
As I left the Shrine, the small hot spring village was just ahead of me. Heading down another winding path, I could hear the sound of a river, and there in front of me was the famous Shikanoyu Hot Spring. Another Legend of Nasu, this time of a deer being wounded and magically being healed in these waters. It has been told for centuries and has made this hot spring a very popular attraction.
Shikanoyu Onsen | Photo Cindy Bissig
Baths at Shikanoyu Onsen | Photo Nasu Tourism Board
However, as you head up to the bus stop that brings you back to the train station you will find a small wooden building. Here you can enjoy a free foot bath. Perfect after all the walking and great to just relax a little before leaving Nasu.
Nasu Yumoto Foot Bath | Photos Cindy Bissig
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I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.
To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.
Contributor: Cindy Bissig
Cindy is a writer and photographer living and documenting her Japan experience. As a Digital Nomad, she travels all around Japan to discover its beauty and share what she finds on her YouTube channel, as well as through her articles and photographs. She is particularly passionate about local culture, food and sake. Tune into her Podcast “Sake Unplugged” to learn more about it. Her goal is to show you an authentic Japan to make sure you have the best possible experience when you visit!
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