Escape To The Natural Beauty Of Tochigi’s Countryside (Sano City)
Tochigi Prefecture is home to UNESCO recognized world heritage site “Nikko” (Known for its famous Buddhist shrines and world renown waterfalls), natural hot springs, breathtaking nature, and a wealth of discovery. Along the border of Gunma and Tochigi lies the unique city Sano.
Like many of Japan’s rural areas, Sano city is proud of their food. Know for their ramen and “Imo fry” (Skewered potatoes which have been lightly breaded and deep fried), you’re unlikely to find a shop that doesn’t sell one or the other. The city’s mascot even wears a ramen bowl on his head and carries “imo fry” skewers in his belt. Although Sano city remains unknown to many, one would be amazed to find how much interesting culture there is and how much work is being put into the city to help it evolve into a destination for tourism.
Little is known about “Sano Castle”, which once sat upon the summit of Mt. Karasawa. The remains of this castle still tell a story and the natural beauty of the forest it was built in is a sight to behold. It is often rumored that the castle was built in 942 by Fujiwara Hidesato, and is thought to have been of great importance in defending the Kanto region from those who wished to conquer and control the area.
Over time the castle was rebuilt with each new lord. Now, the remains of the castle’s stone walls (Built in the late 16th century under the rule of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi) enclose Karasawayama Shrine which is now inhabited by tribes of friendly cats who call the castle on the mountain their home.
Izuruhara Benten Pond
Izuruhara Benten Pond is a place of beauty existing for over 1000 years. This pool of natural spring water is surrounded by an assortment of lush forestry and Japanese architecture. The pond is filled with “Koi” (Japanese carp fish), which captures the essential characteristics of Japanese aesthetics. The peaceful atmosphere of Izuruhara Benten Pond and the beauty of its surroundings are truly unforgettable.
Upon the hill bordering the pond stands Isoyama Benzaiten (Built in 948), a Buddhist shrine dedicated to “Saraswati”, the goddess of everything that flows. This shrine is often visited to pray for children’s health and safe child bearing. The shrine’s unusual structure, assembled by three tiers and painted in a vivid red color creates a stunning visual that makes Isoyama Benzaiten stand out from other shrines in Japan.
Sano city is currently evolving into what could become one of the greatest spots for tourism in Japan. It’s conveniently located next to Ashikaga city (Known for its beautiful Wisteria flower park) and is easily accessible from Tokyo.