Difference between revisions of "Utsunomiya"
Revision as of 17:28, 6 February 2007
Utsunomiya has more streets lined with horse chestnut trees (栃の木 tochi-no-ki), and more places and products labeled Marronnier (French  for Aesculus hippocastanum) than any other city in Japan's Tochigi ("Buckeye") Prefecture.
From Narita Airport, take the Narita Express train to Tokyo Station and transfer to the Tohoku Shinkansen (about 2-1/4 hours, ¥7510).
From Haneda Airport, take the Keikyu Line train to Shinagawa, then the Yamanote or Keihin-Tohoku line train to Tokyo Station. From there, take the Tohoku Shinkansen (about 1-3/4 hours, ¥5200).
Infrequent buses (eight per day) run directly to JR Utsunomiya station from Haneda (2.5 to 3 hours, ¥3500).
The Marronnier Bus makes 10 runs from Narita Airport to Utsunomiya between 8:10 am and 8:50 pm. The price is about ¥4000 for adults and ¥2000 for children.
Utsunomiya is a major train hub served by the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, JR Tohoku Main Line, JR Nikko Line and Tobu Utsunomiya Line.
Tohoku Shinkansen Yamabiko, Max Yamabiko, Nasuno and Tsubasa trains depart from Tokyo station about three times per hour, with more trains during the evening. The ride costs ¥4800 and lasts just 50-55 minutes.
Direct runs on the regular Tohoku Main Line depart from Ueno station 3-4 times per hour. The trip takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes at a cost of ¥1890.
There are also hourly departures on the Shonan-Shinjuku line from Shinjuku station, reaching Utsunomiya in roughly the same time it takes from Ueno, and at the same price.
JR Nikko Line trains, appropriately bound for Nikko, depart from Utsunomiya.
Tobu line trains run to Tobu-Utsunomiya station from Tochigi every 30 minutes or so. From Asakusa, you can reach Utsunomiya by Tobu rapid train, changing in Tochigi, in about 2 hours, but for only ¥1160.
With the exception of the Tobu line, all of these trains can be used at no charge with the Japan Rail Pass.
Kintetsu operates the Tochinoki overnight highway bus service from Osaka and Kyoto to Utsunomiya Station. It takes 10 hours from Osaka and 8 1/2 hours from Kyoto and costs ¥11000 and ¥10400 one way, respectively.
The city does not have a subway system, but the bus system is very thorough. Most buses converge on JR Utsunomiya station's West Exit. The city information desk near the Shinkansen gates will help point you at the right bus and platform. There also is a bus named "Kibuna" which you can ride and see around the city. You can get off at any bus stop and it costs only 100yen.
Hachimanyama park is about 1km northwest of JR station and a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing (hanami). Futa-ara-san (二荒山 "Two Storm Mountain") is Utsunomiya's main shrine, located on a small hill in the city center, about 600m west of JR station. The Art Museum in the northern part of the city also has a park nearby.
Utsunomiya's main pedestrian shopping street (Orion-dōri) runs east from Tōbu station towards JR station, just south of main street (大通り, Ō-dori) and parallel to it. West of Tōbu station is Union-dōri, a pedestrian street lined by fashion stores. PARCO and 109 are also on the street. They are big department stores for buying clothes and cosmetics. Another big shopping mall, BellMall Utsunomiya, is about 2km southeast of JR station. In front of PARCO, there is a shop famous for green tea called Sekiguchien. In summer, it sells refreshing green tea ice cream to passers-by on the street.
Utsunomiya is most famous for its gyōza (餃子) dumplings, available sauteed, deep-fried, boiled, or and steamed with all sorts of stuffings all around the city. But the area also produces 90% of Japan's kanpyō (干瓢) dried gourd strips, and Tochigi Prefecture is Japan's largest producer of strawberries (ichigo), so many local foods feature these products. The strawberries produced in Tochigi is called "Tochiotome", and it is a bit sweeter than strawberries that are produced in other prefectures. In spring, many people in and out of the prefecture visit strawberry fields to enjoy picking strawberries.
A good place to stay, convenient to both the JR station and the Tobu station is the Tobu Utsunomiya Hotel Grande. It has several restaurants, including a nice breakfast buffet, both westerna and Japanese. The staff is friendly, and the rooms are typical business Japanese single rooms (a few doubles and suites are also available). High speed internet is also available upon request. The hotel is located about a 15 minute walk or a short bus ride west of the JR station on the north side of the Grand Avenue (take the number 10 bus from stop 7 and get off on the second stop after the Parco department store. It will be across the street on the north side.