Utsunomiya City (宇都宮) is between Tokyo and Nikko (日光) a UNESCO world heritage site further north in the mountains. When traveling back to Tokyo from Nikko with a JR pass, you need to change trains at Utsunomiya Station which is in the center of the city. The vibrant nightlife with its famous JAZZ & Cocktails bars, many independent Japanese Izakaya bars and of cause trying the city’s most know dish Gyoza dumplings is an ideal way to end a day. Accommodation is very affordable so you can save money by choosing to stay a night here instead of Tokyo.
Other than Food & Nightlife, Utsunomiya is home to the Oya district, a stone town registered as a Japan Heritage. Visitors can learn about the mining the culture (and see where tanks were made during WW2) as well as visit to an ancient shrine with the oldest stone carved buddha in Japan.
Another very popular and recommended destination near Oya district is the Four Seasons Bamboo Forest Wakayama Farm (若山農園), the largest bamboo forest open to visitors in Japan!
During the year, there are many events in Utsunomiya not to miss. Sakura cherry blossoms in the spring and summer festivals and fireworks in the summer. Utsunomiya also hosts world sport events such as the Japan cup (Bicycle racing) and the 3×3 word basket ball championships.
Utsunomiya is most known for Gyoza dumplings, Small dumplings filled with meat and vegetables (vegetarian options available at some restaurants). There are hundreds of restaurants, but if you need recommendations see our Utsunomiya night guide’s TOP 5 Gyoza restaurants.
Utsunomiya’s JAZZ & Cocktails are also the best in Japan. It has one of the most award winning mixologists as well as home to many world famous Jazz musicians such as Sadao Watanabe (Sax) and Yoshio Toyama (Trumpet).
Locals in Utsunomiya love eating out (they spend the most per capita in Japan!), so it is no surprise that there are some very nice independent Izakaya’s and restaurants. For ideas of where to go, see our Utsunomiya night guide’s 10 Things in Utsunomiya page.
From the city center you can hire a bicycle or catch a bus/taxi or even walk to visit the main attractions in the city center. Shinohara-tei, Futaarasan Shrine, and Gallery Hanna which was Hayao Miyazaki’s childhood home are good places to visit.
The stone city of Oya is a Japan heritage that produced stone for some world famous architectures. There is a popular museum (Oya history museum) , stone mine (Kanehon), cave shrine (Oyaji), walking tours (Oya Underground) as well as many excellent cafes to experience.
Close to Oya is Wakayama Bamboo Farm which is the largest well-kept bamboo forest open to the public in Japan. Very popular with overseas visitors!
Experience traditional Japan in Japan’s largest bamboo forest! Stroll through the bamboo groves, capture precious memories with photos, and enjoy a Kimono experience. Exciting bamboo-themed activities for kids too! Don’t miss the impressive view that rivals Kyoto!
Utsunomiya has more than 300 Gyoza dumpling restaurants! And many are within walking distance from both JR and Tobu Utsunomiya stations. Have a look at the Top 5 Gyoza Restaurants we recommend in our Utsunomiya Night Guide.
After WW2, many Jazz and cocktail bars opened in Utsunomiya to cater for the allied forces in the area.
Since then, Utsunomiya’s reputation continued to grow and now has the best bartenders and mixologists in all of Japan. Check out the TOP 5 cocktail bars in our Utsunomiya Night Guide.
Utsunomiya is a vibrant city with a population of half a million people so there are many restaurants and bars that cater for a wide range of needs. See below for as well as Utsunomiya night guide’s 10 Things in Utsunomiya page for ideas.
Enjoy an elegant dining experience at Hachinojo. Try their signature ‘Water Course’ (full-course meal) or other western style dishes and light meals such as delicious pizzas and pastas. Visit Hachinojo for an unforgettable gastronomic journey!
Take a bite at one of Utsunomiya’s best Gyoza restaurants. It’s famous for its variety and tasty flavors, so try to have as many as you can! All Gyozas are handmade and make the most of the all-natural ingredients.
There are many affordable western style hotels in Utsunomiya.
Want prices? Find the full list of hotels on Booking.com here.
Wondered what Primitive life was like? Sano offers unique accommodation where you can stay in replicas of homes from 5,000 years ago.
Each of these places are within a day trip away. Click on the image to find out more.