A trip to experience Water's blessing and Wellness

A Special Edition supported by Tochigi Prefecture

The Prologue

Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Japan, Oku-Nikko mountains stands out as one of the most rainfall-prone areas in Japan, with annual precipitation exceeding 2,000 mm.

For this reason, this area offers a unique opportunity to witness the different forms of nature water the rain creates. Glistening waterfalls, green forests, and serene lakes all flourish under the nourishing touch of abundant water.

Visit Oku-Nikko, Central Nikko, and Utsunomiya in Tochigi prefecture to embark on a journey through nature to experience the blessing of water and have a relaxing time. 

Things to bring

– A water bottle  (to collect the refreshing natural water to from several water points)

– A comfortable set of walking shoes

– A swimsuit (or extra set of shorts and t-shirt) you don’t mind getting wet in and a additional towel for SUP (on  day 2).



From Tobu-Asakusa station the brand new luxurious SPACIA X train will take you to Tobu Nikko which is the last station on the Tobu-Nikko Line.
SPACIA Luxury Train exterior

We recommend departing on the 9:00am train which will arrive at 11:50 am.

The SPACIA X not only has many luxurious seatings to choose from (see here)  but emits 40% less CO2 than its predecessor so is a good option to choose.

After you arrive at Tobu-Nikko station in Central Nikko you will notice a small sign in front of the station proudly claiming that the water from the tap is the best in Japan. Make sure to have a refreshing sip from this fountain and fill your water bottle before making your way to Nikko’s UNESCO World heritage temple and two shrines. 

Water fountain in front of Tobu-Nikko Station. (central nikko)
Collecting amazing water from Tobu Nikko Station (Water tour in Tochigi)

To visit the temple and shrines of Nikko, many visitors choose to walk (25min), but you can also take the bus (10 min).

*This includes a water stop where you can fill up your water bottle.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan. This is where Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616), the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate was buried and is known for its beautiful 400 year old golden gate and the three monkeys and sleeping cat. After visiting Toshogu shrine make sure to visit Nikko Futarasan Shrine Nikko Futarasan Shrine which is on the east side of Toshogu  known for its natural spring.

At Nikko Futarasan Shrine  you can see  (and drink) the  Futaara Reisui (miracle working spring) .

This spring is where the rainfall water from Oku-Nikko mountains gently flow out from underground. The shrine claims that this water keeps you young, makes you smart, and is good for making Japanese Sake.

Nikko Shrine
Nikko Shrine
Nikko Shrine
Shinkyo Bridge in Nikko nearby Tokyo

You can hire an English audio guide at Toshogu Shrine.

*This includes a water stop (Futaarasan Shrine) where you can fill up your water bottle.


Nikko is known for YUBA (ゆば/湯葉).

YUBA is a dish made with Tofu Skin (ingredients are soybeans and water) which is high in protein and iron. It originally was an vegetarian diet for monks, however its nutritional value has made it a superfood and is now a popular dish eaten widely.

As water is the main ingredient of Yuba, the clear natural water from the Nikko mountains is ideal for making high quality Yuba. There are many Yuba restaurants around the shrines and temple of Nikko as well as on the main road from the station, but they can be busy on weekends, so we recommend booking in advance.

For a traditional restaurant with a long history, we recommend  Takaiya Restaurant (高井屋). This restaurant was established in 1805 and  gained fame among writers and artists during the Meiji and Taisho periods. 

There are many other Yuba restaurants even some with with a western twist so you may have. ahard time choosing.

Eating Yuba at Taiai restaurant on the Water tour in Tochigi
Eating lunch at Takaiya Yuba restaurant (Water tour in Tochigi)


After lunch we recommend you have a stroll or go see a few places of interest. One very popular location is  Kanmangafuchi Abyss by the Daiya river. This gorge starts from Kegon Falls and was formed by lava flow from Mt. Nantai.

THere are also other places such as the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa  or the  Kanaya Hotel History Museum (Kanaya Hotel History House) which are hitorical places of interest.

After spending a few hours exploring, it’s time to travel up the Irohazaka winding road towards Oku-Nikko.

If you not traveling late, you may want to stop at Achechidaira and catch the ropeway that takes you to a view point to see Kegon Falls.

Tabozawa imperial villa
Outside of the Samurai House (Nikko Kanaya History Museum)

If you are taking the bus to Oku-Nikko (Lake Chuzenji), we highly recommend you make sure you have the bus times handy as there are fewer busses available in the evening.

If you prefure staying a night near the shrines there are many hotels that offer accommodation including  Nikko Senhime Monogatari, a traditional ryokan which hosted the welcome reception for G7 Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in 2023.

If you not traveling late, you may want to stop at Achechidaira and take the Akechidaira ropeway which takes you to a view point to see an amaizng vew of Kegon Falls  and Lake Chuzenji  in Oku-Nikko.

Autumn color near Tokyo (Kegon Falls)

At the top of Irohazaka you will be greeted by Lake Chuzenji, a beautiful lake which was created by the volcanic activities of Mt. Nantai. The water of this lake comes from the heavy rainfall in the surrounding mountains, creating beautiful waterfalls, smaller lakes and the Senjogahara marshland (a registered Ramsar site) before flowing into Lake Chuzenji.

There are many hotels near the shores of Lake Chuzenji, but for the ultimate luxury experience why not stay at the The Ritz-Carlton Nikko which newly opened in 2020?

This hotel has the only Ritz-Carlton branded onsen in the world and draws the natural hot spring water directly from Nikko Yumoto Onsen. The Ritz in Nikko also offers many activities to make the most of your stay. Activities include seasonal  outdoor & indoor activities including a Furoshiki art experience free of charge.

A furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth used for more than 1,000 years. It’s used wrap items when carrying them around and can be used as shopping bags so it’s a very eco friendly item to know how to use.

A view of Lake Chuzenji from the Ritz Carlton Nikko
Nikko the Ritz Carlton
Nikko the Ritz Carlton

Other spots to visit


Morning & Lunch

Lake Chuzenji is a large lake in Oku-Nikko at an altitude of 1,600m which was formed 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai erupted. This event dammed the water flowing from the nearby mountains and formed lake chuzenji.

If you would like to enjoy a relaxing morning paired with a bit of exercise, one of the best way activities on Lake Chuzenji we recommend is SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding).

Sup!Sup! Nikko, a local SUP company offers many SUP activities catering for a wide range of needs, skills and budget of their guests

They even offer luxurious private SUP tours by motorboat where you can explore the untouched beaches on the east side of Lake Chuzenji which includes a delicious lunch made with local ingredients to eat on the beach.

Surrounded by clear water, mountains and forest this is an ultimate wellness morning activity.

nikko chuzenji lake SUP
SUP on Nikko chuzenji lake Collecting amazing water from Tobu Nikko Station (Water tour in Tochigi)
nikko chuzenji lake SUP
Lunch on the beach of chuzenji lake in oku-nikko (Sup tour)

Other experiences on Lake Chuzeji are also available from other local activity companies. Activities include going on a sightseeing cruise, hiring a row boat (or paddling boat),  going on a canoeing tour or fishing.


While you are in Oku-Nikko around   Lake Chuzenji you shouldn’t miss a chance to see Kegon Falls (especially if you didn’t see it from Akechidaira Ropeway on your way up Irohazaka road).

At a height of  97m, Kegon Falls is one of Japan’s top three waterfalls and carries water from Lake Chuzenji into Daiya River and then down towards the Central Area of Nikko. If you like nature museums, the Nikko Natural Science Museum is very close to the waterfall so make sure to visit it if you have time.

As well as Kegon Falls we recommend visiting Yumoto Onsen with Lake Yunoko and Yudaki Falls as well as the Senjogahara marshland in the Senjogahara area.

Senjogahara marshland  is a protected wetland with hiking trails. This wetland is designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar convention.

There are also many beautiful waterfalls that were created by water flowing from the surrounding mountains.   Ryuzu Falls is also a great waterfall to visit and especially breathtaking in the autumn. For a great view of Lake Chuzenji you can also take a bus or hike up Hangetsusan. 

Oku Nikko Kegon Falls Summer
Lake Chuzenji in Oku-Nikko during the Autumn season with leaves changing into beautiful colour
Autumn colors in Japan (Ryuzu Falls)
Oku Nikko people hiking at Senjogahara


Stay a second night in Oku-Nikko or make your way down to Central -Nikko and stay a night there.

Other spots to visit



After spending time in the mountains, it is time to follow the water downstream towards the Imaichi district in the Central Area of Nikko.

Some of the rainfall forms lakes and rivers above ground and some of it slowly permeates the soil and flows underground.

At Watanabesahei Sake Brewery this underground water is accessed by a well and used to make delicious sake.

This traditional sake brewery was founded in 1842 when the Watanabe family moved from Niigata prefecture looking for better water to make sake. The secret to their sake’s smooth taste is this water which comes from the Nikko mountains and Lake Chuzenji you visited.

By public transportation you can either take the bus from Tobu-Nikko station or take the train (Tobu Line or JR line to Shimo-Imaichi or Imaich Station) to the brewery.

Before you visit, make sure to book an English tour online so you can learn how sake is made and taste some of the best hand crafted sake in the area.

Outside of Watanabesahei Sake Brewery
Mr. Watanabe pointing where Watanabesahei Sake Brewery is in the photo during the Water tour in Tochigi
Mr. Watanabe giving a tour at Watanabesahei Sake Brewery during the Water tour in Tochigi
Watanabeisahei Sake Brewery rice steaming place

Make sure to book a English tour.

*This includes a water stop where you can fill up your water bottle.


After passing by Watanabesahei sake brewery, the underground water from Nikko continues to flow south where it bubbles out at Wakayama Bamboo Farm (Four Seasons Bamboo Forest Wakayama Farm) in Utsunomiya forming a stream which starts Kamagawa River.

Research has shown that the water takes two to three years to journey from Lake Chuzenji before reaching this area. During this time it is  filtered naturally and collects minerals on the way.

The bamboo grove here is one of the most cared for and one of the mostbeautiful bamboo groves in Japan. And because of this, it has appeared in many films and TV commercials. It is open to the public and we highly recommend visiting here . (Many visitors say it’s much nicer that Kyoto’s bamboo grove!)

At Wakayama you can even book a guided tour in English as well as book a workshop where you can make a cup and a plate from a bamboo tree. You can also visit their museum and learn about bamboo and its sustainable characters as well as sip on matcha tea in their cafe.

During the tour through the bamboo grove, you will learn about different bamboo trees and see where the water appears from below the ground. You will also have a chance to try the fresh underground water from their tap.

To get to Wakayama Bamboo Farm from Watanabesahei Sake Brewery, you can either drive or take public transport.  You can catch a bus from in front of Watanabesahei sake brewery which only takes 45 min to Oosugiya Bus stop and another 8min walk from there.

Mr Wakayama showing his bamboo farm (Water tour in Tochigi)
utsunomiya wakayama bamboo farm
Utsunomiya wakayama bamboo farm (Water tour in Tochigi)
utsunomiya wakayama bamboo farm

For an English tour please book in advance and let them know what kind of experience you would like to have. 

*This includes a water stop where you can fill up your water bottle.


Further downstream from Wakayama Farm in central Utsunomiya is HACHINOJO restaurant, which offers a one-of-a-kind 10 course dinner/lunch inspired by the local delicious water.

This course only uses local ingredients within Tochigi prefecture and the plates are made by upcoming local potters from Mashiko. The meal starts with a glass of delicious Tochigi water, which is so popular it is even used in some high-end restaurants and hotels in Tokyo.

If you made a bamboo cup at Four Seasons Bamboo Forest Wakayama Farm you can use the  bamboo cups and plates as part of the dinner. We think the water tastes even better when it is poured into your own hand made bamboo cup!

Each dish features a vegetable or an ingredient grown in the the areas delicious water.

The course is gulten free, but includes fish and meet (beef), so let the restaurant know ifn advance if you have dietry requirements.

Hachinojo Restaurant in Utsunomiya city
Salad on Wakayama's bamboo plate in Hachinojo restaurant
Nasu Wagyu and water crescent, Water course
Water served in the water course at Hachinojo restaurant

Please book this course in advance. (The maximum setting for this course is 8 guests at a time)

Utsunomiya has plenty of nightlife to enjoy. It’s known for Cocktails and Jazz (as well as it’s Gyoza dumplings)!

We reccomend checking out Jazz bars such as JAZZ BAR Indulz Dream.

Live jazz playing at utsunomiya's indulz dreem


Utsunomiya is only an hour from Tokyo by Shinkansen, but has many affordable hotels near the station. One popular hotel is Utsunomiya Tobu Hotel Grande  which is located near a lot of bars and restaurants.

Other spots to visit

Make it an extra Day!

If you have an extra day, we highly recommend visiting Shoai Samurai, a unique indigo dyeing (Aizome) studio in Tochigi city.

This Indigo Dyeing facility (Aizome facility) is run by a Social Welfare Corporation offering employment for individuals with disabilities, and useful skills to high school children who have a hard time going to school.

They also preserve the authentic indigo dyeing method which doesn’t use any chemical dye so is kind to the environment and gentle to sensitive human skin. The leftover Indigo dye is a natural insecticide and is used to grow organic vegetables and fruits (Mangos). Recently their Mango’s were even served at the 2023 G7 ministerial meeting in The Ritz-Carlton Nikko.

Visitors can dye an item of their choice and learn about Japanese Indigo as well as about their institution.

The facility also runs a cafe offering meals sourced from their fields and indigo-flavored tea, enriching the visitor experience.

Looking at Indigo dyeing at Shoai samurai in Tochigi city
Shoai Samurai Indigo Dyeing

Want to visit?

If you need help visiting these destinations or if you would like a tour, please feel free to contact these companies below.

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