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There were several weekends during October where we went on road trips on the motorcycle. This particular time our goal was to go to the Gyoza festival in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi prefecture. Our route took us through Kiryu City in Gunma to Ashikaga City in Tochigi, then on to Utsunomiya. We stayed the night in Utsunomiya, and then the next day swung up to Nikko to see the autumn colors and then returned to Gunma. So basically we did a big circle.

We got up Saturday morning and headed strait out to Ashikaga. I thought maybe we could stop in Kiryu, but we decided to press on. After eating in Ashikaga, however, while trying to get back to the main road, we accidentally went the wrong way down a one way street, where a newbie cop happened to see us and give us a ticket. The guy was new so it took forever, and really was something that should have just been a warning, so that put a big damper on us for Ashikaga. We were going to see some temples and shrines there, but decided instead to just get the hell out of the city. Our first real sight-seeing stop was a bit later on the road to Utsunomiya, in smaller Sano City, at an interesting temple overlooking a few man-made ponds. It had a great view of the surrouning areas, so finally our mood began to improve!

Spotting the temple was pretty easy due to its position on the small mountain

Matching colors!

It was a short walk to the top area, and from there a nice temple and a fantastic view of the surrounding area! The only thing that would have improved it would have been more fall colors, but it was still really nice.

You could even go up to the top area, up and down a SUPER steep staircase. Kenji looked like he barely fit!

The ponds at the bottom were also nice.

After that we continued on to Utsunomiya, and hit our second snag of the day. Our hotel had only a single room booked, and wouldn’t let us double up (We had done it before no problem, so I assumed it would be fine this time as well, but apparently not… because bad things come in threes, you know). So I ended up having to book another room, the thought of which still annoys the hell out of me.

By the time we finished at the hotel, I was in a bad mood, and Kenji just wanted gyoza. We walked to the festival only to find all the booths closing up for the day. We were too late! ARG! Neither of us was happy at this point, so instead we found a regular gyoza restaurant to buy from, then wandered until we found an interesting restaurant, had dinner, then headed back to the room to go to sleep and hope the next day would work out better.

Shrine with many food booths around it, although they were packing up by the time we got there

Walking around Utsunomiya; there were a ton of live jazz bands playing

Kenji finally got his gyoza, and we got beers at a german-style restaurant we decided to eat at

The next morning was a nice day, and we woke up refreshed and determined to make the most of the rest of the trip. We headed immediately for the shrine we saw yesterday to kill time in the morning before the festival got started, then headed right after that to the gyoza festival, got in line, and got our gyoza, and enjoyed ourselves before heading out towards Nikko.

Around Utsunomiya

Shichigosan festival at the shrine in the morning

The festival was held on the old castle grounds

The lines were already long when we got there, so we grabbed a few souvenirs then got in line and got our gyoza

Posing, eating..

We were still a bit hungry but didn’t want to wait in the now 80 minutes plus lines forming for lunch, so we started back. When we caught sight of these giant hunks of meat being grilled, we also stopped to eat there as well before getting back on the bike and heading to Nikko.

The road to Nikko wasn’t terribly crowded, but Nikko itself was PACKED. We were lucky we were on the motorcycle and able to pass all the cars, but I can’t imagine coming in a car. You’d spend most of the day in it, and barely any time enjoying the temples and fall colors! Trying to get to Lake Chuzenji was a nightmare, and by the end of it we were exhausted and just wanted to go home… and still had to head back to Gunma.

A popular picture spot

The leaves were certainly nice though!

Back down the road towards central Nikko were the best colors yet! Unfortunately, the light was not great.

Waterfalls and crowds


The ride home was exhausting and cold. We stopped for ramen, and then finally reached home with relief, had a nice hot bath, then collapsed into bed. Altogether, while parts of the trip was fun, it wasn’t the most successful. But ah well, it was a good experience!

Shuuin from Utsunomiya’s Futarasan shrine

Tochigi collectable postcards