3 Tochigi Rest Stops You’ll Actually Want to Visit
Worth a Visit, With or Without a Car!
If your image of roadside rest areas stops at dirty floors and overpriced junk food, then you’ve probably never been to one in Japan! Dotted along Japan’s rural roads, these spots really deserve the moniker “rest stop,” with their sightseeing options, local food specialties, plus plenty of shopping and souvenirs. In Japan, domestic and international travelers alike will make purposeful stops at rest stops, often singling out the country’s “Michi-no-Eki,” which tend to be particularly well-outfitted. Meaning “roadside station,” Michi-no-Eki rest stops are often destinations in and of themselves, so here are just three that are must-sees when traveling through Tochigi Prefecture.
Michi-no-Eki Mashiko: Green Lawns, a Trendy General Store, and Mashiko Art Gallery
Surrounded by grassy fields of green and gold, Michi-no-Eki Mashiko has become a particularly popular Tochigi rest stop in recent years, with its roof shaped like rolling hills, and the tranquil greenery surrounding the building in every direction. There’s nothing better than buying a locally-made drink or bite to eat inside, and then taking it outside to enjoy while sitting on the deck or picnicking in the grass.
Under the high roof, this rest stop is a broad open space selling all kinds of local Tochigi specialties, from the farmer’s market offering local produce and freshly-made food, to products made by local artisans and craftsmen. On one side of the building, space is devoted to a little art gallery, often devoted to showing off pieces of famous Mashiko pottery, or other local exhibitions.
Michi-no-Eki Kitsuregawa: Foot Baths and Hot Springs to Soak Away Travel Fatigue
Located in the city of Sakura, Michi-no-Eki Kitsuregawa is famous for including a full-on onsen bathhouse on the premises, on top of all the basics you might hope for at a rest stop. The hot springs at Kitsuregawa Onsen are said to be amazing at rejuvenating and beautifying the skin, top-three in Japan, making it the perfect place to relax and freshen up before another long day of picture taking in Tochigi! Even if you’re not stopping for a full bath, though, you can still enjoy the steaming water at the rest stop’s convenient foot bath!
This Michi-no-Eki has made a concerted effort to recall the retro style of Japan’s Taisho period (1912–1926), with the era’s unique mix of Japanese and Western design. The main building offers more local souvenirs and Tochigi food options, including a popular local bakery selling “onsen bread” and some impressive produce, like the “onsen eggplant.” It’s actually the first eggplant to be grown using Japanese onsen water, and locals brag about its delicate texture and sweet flavor.
Michi-no-Eki Kitsuregawa (道の駅 きつれがわ)
4145–10 Kitsuregawa, Sakura, Tochigi
Shop Hours: 9:00–18:00 (some food hours vary, closed second & fourth Monday of the month)
Onsen Hours: 10:00–21:00 (footbath 11:00–16:00)
Official Website (jp)
Michi-no-Eki Mibu: Amusement Parks and Strawberry Surprises
Not just a rest stop, this area off of the highway includes Mibu Highway Park (みぶハイウェーパーク), Tochigi Wanpaku Park (とちぎわんぱく Park), Bandai Museum (おもちゃのバンダイミュージアム), bringing together a normal shopping area with parks and plenty of entertainment. Park in the lot, accessible from the highway or normal roads, and you can easily walk to the kid-focused amusement park or the fantastic toy museum for a little fun and relaxation. For road trippers, it doesn’t get much more convenient.
In the shopping area, again packed with local snacks and souvenirs, Tochigi’s famous strawberries are the name of the game. Stop by the “fruit parlor” Mib-Town for shaved ice made not from ice and syrup, but from shaved frozen strawberries — topped of course with a generous pour of sweetened condensed milk.
Plan Your Trip to Tochigi!
Does all this talk of Tochigi make you want to get out there and explore the area? Well, whether you’re planning a road trip where you stop at every rest stop, or hoping to hop around with public transport, there’s tons to do in this prefecture north of Tokyo. Find out more about where to go by checking out our articles on Tochigi in summer, Tochigi in autumn, and Tochigi in winter!