Utsunomia City Travel Guide
by Phil Roohaa
About this Utsunomiya City Travel Guide
This Utsunomiya City travel guide talks about a few locations in Utsunomiya along the main drag, known as ‘oodori’ and a few offshoots as well, like the well known ‘Orion doori’. There are mostly places to eat and drink for an exciting night out with one or two other nice sights as well to spend some time before the night kicks into full swing.
Who is this travel guide for?
This Utsunomiya City travel guide is aimed at a traveller interested in food and drinks looking for some excitement and a hot meal after a day of travels. And a few more tame options as well for families and people who like long walks and nice views.
Taking a stroll and enjoying the sights only? Free. Enjoying only one meal and a drink? Maybe 2~3000 Yen Enjoying a handful of places until the sun comes up? 5000~+ Yen!
A lovely walk in the park, great for families
About a 15 ~ 20-minute walk from JR Utsunomiya station is one of the largest and most popular parks in Utsunomiya. Known for the plethora of beautiful cherry blossom trees it is a classic standby for locals when enjoying picnics during the hanami season. It is also a wonderful location for families and those with children thanks to the large playground which features a go-kart track, and also a small zoo as well. Great for a lovely view of the city and its surroundings from the top of the largest hill in the park marked by the large tower. Walking around the park during daylight hours and enjoying the zoo is free, and go-karts only cost 140 Yen per ride, but only for younger visitors aged 3~14. If you are interested in climbing the tower, there is a nominal fee of 190 yen during operating hours.
A view from the top
When I have friends in town who are interested in seeing the city, I sometimes pop by the kencho and take them to the observation area on the top floor. During regular operating hours of this building, the public is free to enter and make their way up to the observation deck, a large room with dioramas of places in the city as well as huge windows showing off a great view in almost all directions. Also, there are many plaques which detail locations and natural formations in the horizon like mountains as well. Nice to get a view from up top without taking a hike to the top of a park in the rain making it a perfect and free all-weather pit stop.
Come for the Chicken Tempura, Stay for the Soba
Tochigiya at first appears as one of many unsuspecting restaurants but has been a mainstay for many many years in the area. They are famous for their nira soba, which is quite delicious and only 750 yen, but I love them for their excellent tori ten sets. Which is to say, a few huge chunks of tempura-battered chicken breast with a side of tangy and flavorful ponzu sauce and a large frosty mug of draught beer for 880 yen. When the sun goes down and I have a proverbially long night ahead of myself, this is usually my first or last stop on my tour around Utsunomiya. Rain, sleet, or shine, this is an easy place to get to and thanks to the roof over Oriondoori’s shopping street you will stay dry on your way there.
The launchpad for many night time adventures
Ikkenme sakaba is quite literally ‘The first place you go to drink’ and they know what the ‘cost conscientious’ customer is looking for and provide them with what they need. With two locations in Utsunomiya, one close to each of the main train stations in the area, it is very convenient to get to. The menu has a pretty good variety of izakaya classics and while the portions are occasionally small (At least to a big eater like myself), they are extremely cheap. If there is anything on the menu that costs more than 300 yen I would be surprised, so it is a great opportunity to order and try lots of new things without a huge investment. That is also true for the drinks, almost all of them being 290 yen or less. The prices don’t get much better than this and is a solid place to refuel on the cheap for those on a budget.
Foreigner friendly night Spot with excellent atmosphere
One of the more well-known establishments among foreign residents in Utsunomiya is called Banban. Banban has excellent quality food at reasonable prices. Izakaya classics like gyoza(380 Yen) and Special karage(780) are piping hot and delectable in good quantity as well. The owner and some of its staff also speak multiple languages making it very appealing to those who are a bit more intimidated at the prospect of ordering in Japanese. In the winter months, many of the dining tables are fully functioning kotatsu making for some super warm legs and an intimate at-home atmosphere. Make sure to tell master san ‘Roohaa San no osusume de kimashita!’ and there is no doubt that something good might happen. Location (Google)
Western / Other
A world of rum served by pirates
The first time I entered Pirate Bar Buccaneer, I was very surprised to see how far they went in on making the atmosphere of place feel right. Besides the customers (The ones that don’t arrive in cosplay that is.) everything is on the theme and extremely pirate-like. The owner and the staff all wear garb you would expect right out of a pirate movie. The food selection is vast as the seas and the quality is there as well for reasonable prices. Most of their side menu items are all in the 500 ~ 800 yen range with some stand out items that are a little more costly, but we are talking thick slices of perfectly cooked roast beef with sides of sauces and spices to compliment them for 1,250 yen for the medium size. Their rum selection is excellent as you would expect and price fairly from 400~900 yen depending on the age and variety of the poison you pick. Location (Google)
Local writer: Phil Roohaa
Phil Roohaa is an ex-pat who has lived in Japan, primarily in their beloved Tochigi prefecture for over ten years. A lover of the nightlife, good food and drink, and even better company, they revel in a chance to share even a sliver of the information to people looking to explore the clean air and open spaces that greater Tochigi zone has to offer. Also, they love jaga butter with corn a bit TOO much! See more of Nearby Tokyo guides: Travel Guides