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- Tochigi, Japan
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Known as Shimotsuke Province up until the Meiji Restoration, Tochigi is a landlocked prefecture in the northern part of the Kanto region. It has a population of nearly 2 million with 520,000 of those people residing in the capital city of Utsunomiya, which is located on a large plain in central Tochigi surrounded by mountains. The climate is mostly humid subtropical climate with hot and humid summers and cool winters, but temperatures become colder with snowfall in the mountain areas. Toichigi is best know for its historic and scenic sites at Nikko, which is one of the leading tourists destinations in Japan.
Called the "monozukuri (making things) prefecture, manufactured goods account for one-third of Tochigi's GDP. Leading products include automotive, aerospace, medical equipment, optics, environmental and food products. Rice, vegetables, and livestock comprise the bulk of the agricultural output while the area is also known for its strawberries, Chinese chives, Japanese pears (nashi) and shiitake mushrooms. There are about 80 English conversation schools that hire native English teachers with most of them located in capital city and about half as many other types of educational institutions that may employ foreign teachers. Then, there is a substantial hospitality industry, particularly around Nikko, that may hire foreigners on a proper visa.
Nikko is the main attraction in Tochigi, centered around the magnificent Tosho-gu Shrine where Ieyasu Tokugawa was enshrined. Other things to see in Nikko are Cedar Avenue (road lined with 400-year-old, towering cedar trees), the Shinkyo Bridge (one of the symbols of Nikko), Kegon Falls (one of seven famous scenic water falls in Nikko), Tobu World Square (a theme park with over 100 replicas of world famous architecture), the Nikko Botanical Garden, the Tamozawa Imperial Villa, Futarasan Shrine, Rinno-ji Temple and Taiyu Mausoleum, the three wise monkeys ("See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"), Shoyo-en Garden, Lake Chuzenji, Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura (historical theme park), Jizo Bosatsu statues on the Kanman Walk the Kanmangafuchi Abyss (formed from the lava Mt. Nantai's last eruption), Akechidaira Ropeway (aerial lift to Nikko), Kinugawa Onsen, Okunikko Yumoto Onsen Shiunsou, etc. Wild monkeys can also be seen around Nikko, particularly in the winter when they are looking for food.
Outside of Nikko there is Nasu Highland Park (an amusement park), Nasu Safari Park, Nasu Animal Kingdom (petty zoo with naimal shows), Ashio Copper Mine, Michinoeki Utsunomiya Romantic Village, Nakagawa Aquatic Park (swimming and aquarium), Nasuonsen Shikanoyu Hot Spring, Tenkaisan Oya Temple, Banna-ji Temple, Orihime Shrine. Then the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit multipurpose race course with both an oval track and Formula One course. It hosts the only IndyCar race outside the United States, Formula One races and motorcycle races as well as festivals and fireworks events.
Major museums include the Tochigi Prefectural Museum in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts in Utsunomiya, the Utsunomiya Museum (art), the Ashikaga Museum of Art, the Oya History Museum (mining museum) in Utsumomiya, Tochigi Kuranomachi Museum of Art, etc.
Tochigi has several traditional festivals such as Tosho-gu's 1000 Samurai Procession and Horseback Archery Festival (Hyakumonozoroe Sennin Gyoretsu) in May, the Tochigi Autumn Festival on November (procession of towering wheeled floats with robed figures (ningyo) on top of them), the Watarase River Fireworks display in Ashikag on the first Saturday of August, Toshogu Shrine's Autumn Grand Festival in mid-October (various rituals such as riders on horsebacks shooting arrows and a parade of 800 people in samurai warrior outfits), etc.
Utsunomiya is famous for its gyoza (Chinese dumplings or pot stickers). With recipes initially brought back from China after the war by Japanese soldiers, gyoza popularity and restaurants have spread throughout the city, which is said to consume more gyoza than any other city in Japan. Utsunomiya has more than 30 gyoza specialty restaurants, and there is even an annual Gyoza Festival at Castle Ruins Park. Local ramen specialties are divided by region. In the east there is motegi yuzu salt ramen, which is made with the juice or skin of locally produced yuzu (citrus fruit) and seasonal vegetables, and in the south there is sano ramen, which features a shoyu-based clear soup with wavy noodles. Other local foods include shimotsukare (simmered vegetables, soybeans, abura-age, and sake kasu), chitake soba (soba made with the chitake mushroom), and Nikko yuba (a thin wavy layer of tofu membrane that is included in a variety of dishes).