Tochigi Prefecture (栃木県) is located in central Honshū and bordered by Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Saitama prefectures. The Yamizo Mountains (八溝山地) on the east and the Taishaku (丹生山系) and Ashio mountains (足尾山地) on the west are separated by a central plain watered by the Nakagawa and several other rivers. The climate is distinguished by moist, hot summers and dry, cold winters.
Known as Shimotsuke Province (下野国 Shimotsuke-no-kuni) after the Taika Reform (大化の改新 Taika no Kaishin) of 645, the area came under the control of the Ashikaga family in the latter part of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). It was divided into numerous daimyō domains in the Edo Period (1600-1868).
In 1432, one of Japan’s oldest educational institutions, Ashikaga Gakko, was re-established in the city of Ashikaga. It reached its zenith in the late sixteenth century when it was said to have attracted some 3,000 students and mentioned by the Spanish missionary Francis Xavier as Japan’s leading school. In 1617, Tokugawa Ieyasu was enshrined at Tōshō-gū (東照宮) in Nikkō. The Nikkō Kaidō (日光街道) became a major traffic artery between Edo and Nikkō.
In 1873, after the old han system had been abolished by the Meiji government, the prefecture was merged with Utsunomiya Prefecture and given its present name and boundaries. In 1884, the prefectural capital was moved from Tochigi City to Utsunomiya.
Things to see
The Nikkō National Park (日光国立公園 Nikkō Kokuritsu Kōen), which includes the Tōshō-gū shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s son, Hidetada, and reconstructed by Ieyasu’s grandson, Iemitsu, the Rinnō-ji (輪王寺) temple complex, as well as Lake Chūzenji (中禅寺湖 Chūzenji-ko), the Kegon Falls (華厳滝 Kegon-no-taki), Mount Nikkō-Shirane (日光白根山 Nikkō-Shirane-san), the Kinugawa (鬼怒川) and its hot springs, and the Nasu Highlands (那須高原 Nasu kogen), where the imperial household maintains a villa, draw visitors from far and near. The town of Mashiko (益子町) in southeastern Tochigi is famed for its handmade pottery, known as mashikoyaki (益子焼). Utsunomiya (宇都宮市), the capital, about 100 kilometres north of Tōkyo, is famous for its gyōza (餃子), filled and fried dumplings.
Tochigi can easily be reached by Tōhoku Shinkansen and the JR Utsunomiya Line. Shinkansen run from Tōkyō Station to Oyama (小山) in southern Tochigi in 43 minutes, Utsunomiya can be reached from Tōkyō in less than one hour.
- 1,969,042 residents (May 2016)
- 6,408.28 square kilometres
- Population density: 307.27 inhabitants per square kilometre (May 2016)
- Tochigi Prefecture (from the Japan Directory)
- Tochigi Prefecture Official Web Page (in Japanese and English)
- Nikkō Tōshōgū (in Japanese)