Water and Wellbeing in Tochigi

Chapter 1 : Nikko - where the Rain meets Land

Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of Japan,Oku-Nikko 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 rain creates. Glistening waterfalls, verdant forests, and serene lakes all flourish under the nourishing touch of abundant rain.

Embark on journeys through vibrant forests and meandering trails, where the symphony of raindrops accompanies your every step. Discover the historical treasures that testify to the area’s rich heritage, all set against the backdrop of the soothing rain. 




After meeting at Tobu-Asakusa station you will board the new SPACIA X train departing a 9:00 am for Tobu-Nikko. This train has many luxurious seatings to choose from (see here)  and is environmentally friendly. It emits 40 percent less CO2 than previous models and the all the power needed to run the train comes from renewable energy (read here).


After arriving at Tobu-Nikko station in Central Nikko  you may notice a small sign in front of the station proudly claiming that the water from the tap is the best in Japan.


After having a refreshing sip from the tap, it’s time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Shrines and temples of Nikko. This includes the  Nikko Toshogu Shrine with its impressive golden gate (and three monkeys and sleeping cat), Rinoji Temple  and Nikko Futarasan Shrine. During this tour, a local guide will guide you through Toshogu shrine as well as take you to see  Futaara Reisui (miracle-working spring) in Nikko Futarasan Shrine.

This ancient spring is where the rainfall water from Oku-Nikko mountains gently bubbles from underground. The shrine claims that this water keeps you young, makes you smart, and maybe most importantly, is good water source to use for making excellent sake!



After a tour of the shrines,  lunch will be prepared at  Takaiya Restaurant (高井屋).

This restaurant  a historic Japanese restaurant established in 1805 and over time gained fame among writers and artists during the Meiji and Taisho periods. Today, they offer Yuba (Tofu skin) cuisine, a Nikko specialty honoring the local tradition.

Good quality water is essential to making Yuba and Nikko is ideal as there is abundance of clear clean water from the mountains.



After lunch we will introduce you to Nikko Senhime Monogatari, a traditional ryokan which hosted the welcome reception for G7 Ministerial Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in 2023.


After visiting Nikko Senhime Monogaratari, its time to drive up the Irohazaka winding road to Oku-Nikko. 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) while flowing towards Lake Chuzenji.


After checking into The Ritz-Carlton Nikko you will be invited to join a Furoshiki Art Experience at the hotel. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth used in Japan for more than 1,000 years to wrap items when carrying them around.

With a need to care more for the environment, the Furohshiki is a very eco friendly-sustainable tool and an excellent item when known how to use.


Dinner is offered ‘Lake House’ restaurant by Lake Chuzenji inside The Ritz-Carlton Nikko.


You will be staying at The Ritz-Carlton Nikko on the shore of Lake Chuzenji. This hotel has the only The Ritz-Carlton branded onsen in the world and draws the natural hot spring water directly from Nikko Yumoto Onsen.

Other spots to visit next time

Water fountain in front of Tobu-Nikko Station.

Arrive at Tobu-Nikko Station

Take a sip from the water fountain in front of Tobu-Nikko Station

Toshogu Shrine
& Nikko Futarasan-jinja Shrine

Visit the Futaara Reisui (miracle-working spring)

Lunch in Nikko

Enjoy Yuba for Lunch

Lake Chuzenji

Enjoy the calm lake view

A veiw of Oku-Nikko in Autumn from Tachiki Kannon (Chuzenji temple)

Chapter 2 : Water's Blessing

The water of Oku-Nikko creates many blessings for visitors to see, taste and experience.

Starting from Yumoto Onsen, this is an area with relaxing onsen and rich nature including Lake Yunoko and Yudaki Falls. In the winter there is a small Ski slope that is popular with families with small children. Next there is also the Senjogahara marshland which is a protected wetland with hiking trails registered as a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Water flowing from the high mountains also create numerous waterfalls.  In addition to the most famous Kegon Falls there are Ryuzu Falls, Urami-no-taki Falls, Kirifuri Falls, and Jakko Falls and many more waterfalls to visit.

Then there is Lake Chuzenji, the larges lake in the region where visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery as well as cruises and outdoor activities such as SUP, kayaking, rowing and fishing.

Lastly the water is the source of the unique culinary culture in Nikko. The clear fresh water from the mountains is essential for making Yuba, Soba, and Nikko Kakigori (a summer ice desert using ice made naturally in the mountains during the winter), as well as drinks such as Beer and Sake.

Water’s blessing is also prominent along the Nakagawa River which runs down the East side of Tochigi prefecture. Towns such as Nakawgawa and Nasu-karasuyama prospered from the river and visitors can experience authentic Japanese countryside.


Morning & Lunch


Depart The Ritz-Carlton Hotel


You will first visit the Kegon Falls nearby (3min by car, 7min by foot).

Kegon Falls is named one of Japan’s top three waterfalls. At a hight of  97m, it carries the water which flows from the mountains into Chuzenji down the mountain towards the Central Area of Nikko.


After visiting Kegon fall, next it is time to enjoy a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) experience on the beautiful Lake Chuzenji. The lake was formed 20,000 years ago when Mount Nantai erupted and dammed the water flowing down from the nearby mountains and is the highest natrually formed lake in Japan.

Sup!Sup! Nikko will take you on a private tour to the East side of Chuzenji Lake which has untouched beaches and beautiful coasts. After enjoying SUP here, there will be a box lunch to enjoy on the quiet waterfront surrounded by water and forest.



After lunch on the lake it’s time to follow the water and drive back down Irohazaka road to the Central Area of Nikko.

Here you will visit Watanabesahei Sake Brewery (Watanabesahei Shoten). Watanabe Sake Brewery was founded in 1842 when the Watanabe family moved from Niigata prefecture looking for good water to make sake. The secret to their sake’s smooth taste comes from using groundwater from the Daiya River, originating in the Nikko mountains, and a well that’s been in use since its inception. 90% of their rice from Tochigi Prefecture, with 60% of it coming from the local Nikko area.

During the tour, you will have a chance to see how sake is made and taste some of the best sake the brewery makes.


After visiting Watanabesahei sake brewery it’s time to visit Nakagawa town which took its name from Nakagawa River which flows through the middle of it.

Nakagawa river is one of the cleanest in the Kanto area and is home to a type of fish called Ayu (Japanese sweetfish).  The town beautiful countryside is a  combination of clear river and the lush hills.

Here you will first visit Bato Hiroshige Museum. This  small but lovely museum was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (he also designed Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center) and dedicated to Utagawa Hiroshige’s (1797-1858)  work. Hiroshige was an leading ukiyo-e artist who even influenced western painters such as Vincent van Gogh who based ‘Bridge in the Rain, after Hiroshige (1887)’ on Hiroshige’s work.


After visiting Bato Hiroshige Museum, it is time to check-in the Iizukat-tei hotel where you will be staying. Iizukate-tei is significant as it’s a national tangible cultural property renovated into a hotel. It has been featured in JNTO’s 100 experiences in Japan magazine (read here) & a collection of 50 sustainable travel destinations in Japan (read here).

Dinner will be a prepared in a nearby Japanese farm offering a chance to talk to locals and experience warm Japanese hospitality.

Other spots to visit next time

See kegon falls (rainy season activities near Tokyo)

One of Japan's most famous waterfall

Take a morning stroll to see Kegon Falls

Enjoy SUP on Lake Chuzenji

Exclusive tour surrounded by nature

SUP (Standup paddle boarding) on Chuzeniji Lake in the Autumn (Nikko)
Watanabeisahei Sake Brewery rice steaming place

Watanabe sahei Shoten (Sake Brewery)

Learn about Sake at a traditional brewery in Nikko

Bato Hiroshige Museum

Learn about Ukiyo-e paintings

Hiroshige Bato Museum in Nakagawa Town (architecture by Kengo Kuma)

Stay at Iizuka-tei

Experience he Japanese countryside in luxury

Chapter 3: Exploring the Countryside Along Nakagawa River

The Nakagawa River (那珂川) is a river that flows through Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures into the Pacific Ocean. It is the third largest river in the Kanto region, with a length of 150 km, and is one of the clearest.

The basin is rich in fish, with over 50 fish species living in the river, such as dace, chum salmon, ayu, and herring.

In early summer, Yana traps (fish traps made with bamboo) are set up in the middle part of the river to catch Ayu. Tourists and anglers can take part in fishing and grilling the freshly caught ayu. Nakagawa Aquarium, one of Japan’s largest freshwater fish aquariums, is also located in Nakagawa Town.

Areas such as Nakagawa Town, Nasu-Karasuyama city, Ichikai Town which surround Nakagawa river have rich countryside culture visitors can enjoy. Iizuka-tei, a hotel which is a national tangible cultural property offers luxury stays as well as English guided countryside tours to visit local farmers, potters and sake breweries. Shimazaki sake Brewery, Japan’s leading ages sake maker, is also near Nakagawa river. This brewery  ages sake in a cave hand-dug during WW2 which visitors can explore.



8:45  Leave Iizuka-tei hotel

9:15- 10:30

After leaving the hotel you will to travel to Shimazaki Sake Brewery in Nasu-Karasuyama city which is the next town down the Nakagawa River from Nakagawa Town.

Shimazaki Sake Brewery is a traditional sake brewery using underground water to make their award winning aged sake. This brewery is also know as the ‘cave brewery’ as they use a cave to store and age their sake. The cave was originally dug (by hand) by locals at the end of WW2. Mr. Shimazaki will take you on a special exclusive tour taking you behind a locked area that stocks rare sake.


After a short drive to Ichikai Town next to Nasu-Karasuyama city (north of Mashiko Town) you will next visit Musyae no Sato Ohata.

Musyae no Sato Ohata is the only Musha-e (武者絵, Samurai Banner) museum of its kind in Japan, in a renovated 300-year-old house where the visitors can look at hand painted Musha-e  banners created by the three generation family artists.

The Musha-e banner is a type of traditional Japanese art which developed during the late 18th century. With images of warriors and samurai from Japanese history and mythology the banners are put out on ‘Boy’s day’ which is 5th of May. (Read more here wikipedia)



After driving back to Utsunomiya city, you will visit Wagyu Steak Sakura (Wagyu Beef restaurant) for lunch.



Arrive at Utsunomiya Tobu Hotel Grande


Business networking at Utsunomiya Tobu Hotel Grande

Download the Schedule here.

Download the Network program here.

(You will have an opportunity to meet 6 operators in Tochigi prefecture)



Leave Utsunomiya Tobu Hotel Grande (Meet at the lobby)


Enjoy a meal, cocktails and live music and unwind at JAZZ BAR Indulz Dream.


After enjoying a night out with cocktails and Jazz you will stay at the Utsunomiya Tobu Hotel Grande (Business Networking Venue).

Other spots to visit next time

Shimazaki Shuzo (Sake Brewery)

Explore the Cave and enjoy sake tasting

Mushae no sato Oohata

Private museum of handmade samurai banners (musha-e)

Mushae on display

Utsunomiya's night life

Enjoy JAZZ & Cocktails late into the night

Chapter 4: The Culmination

Apart from the water that forms lakes and rivers above ground there is also water from Oku-Nikko and Central Nikko that seeps underground and flows slowly downstream.

This water passes near Watanabesahei sake brewery in central Nikko, and after two to three years appears from the ground in the West Benten Pond in the Four Seasons Bamboo Forest Wakayama Farm forming the start of Kamagawa river in Utsunomiya city. Visitors can walk through their bamboo forest (the largest of its kind in Japan) to take photos, enjoy bamboo craft activities as well as sip on matcha tea and relax.

9km downstream from Wakayama Farm in Utsunomiya city is Hachinojo restaurant that offers a unique dinner/lunch course showcasing Tochigi’s delicious water using only local ingredients from within Tochigi prefecture. The meal starts with a glass of delicious Tochigi water which is also used at high-end restaurants in Tokyo. If you made a bamboo cup at Four Seasons Bamboo Forest Wakayama Farm the restaurant will pour their delicious water to try from your cup as well. Each dish that follows features a vegetable or ingredient grown in the abundance of quality Tochigi water.

Finally, the development of traditional Japanese crafts such as Aizome (Indigo Dyeing) also relied on having a clean natural water source. In Mibu town (a short drive from Utsunomiya ) is Shoai Samurai, where visitors can dye their own items and have a tour of the facility. They are a Social Welfare Corporation fostering a circular economy around this tradition. They employ individuals with disabilities, teach dyeing skills to children facing school challenges, and cultivate indigo plants for chemical-free dye production. Leftover dye serves as natural insecticide for organic farming, including mangoes which was served at the G7 ministerial meeting in the Ritz-Carlton in Nikko. The facility runs a cafe offering meals sourced from their fields and indigo-flavored tea, enriching the visitor experience.




Leave the hotel and take the bus to Wakayama Bamboo Farm


Wakayama Bamboo Farm is the largest Bamboo forest open to the public in Japan. Here you will have a guide of the forest and a chance to make a cup and a plate from a bamboo tree. During the tour, you will also learn about an underground stream that springs out at West Benten Pond (Nishi Benten Ike) within the bamboo forest. This spring is the source of Kamagawa river and originates from the heavy  rainfall in the Oku-Nikko mountains journeying underground for 2-3 years being filtered by natural minerals before bubbling out here. You will have a tour to the small spring and a chance to drink the fresh underground water with the cup you made.



At HACHINOJO restaurant  you will be presented with  a 10 course meal inspired by  Tochigi’s delicious water.

After arriving the restaurant will use the bamboo plate to serve you food and you can use the bamboo cup you made to drink the delicious natural water the restaurant offers.

The ten course is gluten free and is made from ingredients only locally (in Tochigi prefecture) down to ingredients such as soy source and wasabi. The plates are also made by local Mashiko Pottery potters



After traveling to Mibu town (30min away) you will visit Shouai Samurai. 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.

You will have a chance to see how Indigo plants are grown and learn how indigo dye is created naturally as well as dye a handkerchief. totake home.



After visiting Shoai Samrurai we will take you to JR Oyama station to catch the 17:33 Shinkansen back to Tokyo (arriving in Tokyo at 18:16 ) 

Other spots to visit next time

Stream in Wakayama Bamboo Forest

Wakayama Bamboo Forest

Visit the Water which flows from Oku-Nikko

Hachinojo Restaurant

Enjoy a 10 course meal insired by local water

Hachinojo Restaurant in Utsunomiya city

Shoai Samurai

Learn about Japanese Indigo

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