Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tochigi Prefecture 栃木県

As I am sure I have stated before on this blog, after I got my first bachelors degree, I moved to Japan, more specifically Tochigi Prefecture, to be an English teacher.  Before I had moved to Japan I had visited the country twice, once to Okinawa and Tokyo, and once more on a mission trip in Tachikawa, a suburb of Tokyo, with some weekend trips to Tokyo and Kyoto.  I had never really been off of any beaten paths and all I knew of Japan was big city, old city, shinkansen, etc.

Lake Chuzenji 中禅寺湖 near Nikko City.
While I was in my last semester of school in the fall of 2006, I began searching online for jobs in Japan.  I didn't know what I wanted to do, I just knew I had to go back to Japan for a more extended stay.  I quickly learned that the only way for a 21-year-old with a degree in political science to get a job in Japan was to teach English.  I applied to about 40-50 different job postings online for an English teaching position and I got about 8 responses and 2 Skype interviews.
Tochigi is the darkened portion, just North of Saitama and Tokyo.
Basically, they both wanted me and I had to say "yes" to one of them, effectively changing the future course of my life forever.  I accepted the job I did because the interviewer was much nicer to me (the woman at the other place was a little rude), the job seemed a lot easier and he was a foreigner (non-Japanese), so I knew I would at least have one person to talk to right when I got off the plane. (At the time, my Japanese was less than "good".)

The "skyline" of my home town, Sakura City. (さくら市)
The only hitch was that it was in Tochigi Prefecture, a place I had never heard of and knew nothing about.  An extensive search on the internet told me very little, and showed me even less.  And so, here for you is a photo dump of pictures of some of the things you can find in Tochigi Prefecture, a wonderful place to live if you like the outdoors and the countryside and don't mind that the biggest city in the region, Utsunomiya, only has about 500,000 people.  It doesn't have the tech of Tokyo, the history of Kyoto, or the mountains of Yamanashi, but I think it has a nice mixture of it all.  Enjoy.

The view out the front door of my apartment: another apartment and Mt. Takahara (高原山).

The Book Off in Ujiie, a nationwide used book store chain.

A rice paddy drainage stream, a common sight in the area.
A random street in Ujiie. (In the fancy, old house part of town.)

A shrine near the old houses.

The same shrine, close up.

A pagoda at Toshogu Shrine (東照宮) in Nikko City. (日光)
The entryway to Toshogu.

The mountains around Nikko, on the way up to Lake Chuzenji.

A cultural ambassador of Nikko. (They're not nice.)

People waiting by the street in Utsunomiya City (宇都宮市) waiting to see the emperor drive by.

Futarasan Shrine (二荒山神社) in Utsunomiya across the street from Parco shopping mall.

The same shrine from the other way.

A strange store in Utsunomiya selling monkey heads and turtles in jars. I never had the guts to go inside.

The trains in Tochigi are often fairly empty during the day and really aren't even that crowded during rush hour.

Mt. Takahara (高原山) my favorite mountain, as seen from Ujiie. (氏家)

Another top-down view of Ujiie from the roof of an apartment building.

An expanded version of the view near my apartment.

I miss how the layers of mountains make a nice gradation of colors throughout the day.

More mountains with Takahara on the right.

Takahara, and rice fields. There are lots of rice fields in Tochigi.

If you want a gun in Tochigi you're just going to have to swallow your pride and buy it at the store.

Ujiie station (氏家駅), my gateway to the rest of Japan.

Mt. Nasu (那須岳) in Nasu, another wonderful place to visit with lots of hot springs.
The view from Mt. Nasu.

Another cultural ambassador welcoming tourists to Nikko.

I've got scores of other pictures from Tochigi and I'll post some more up in a few days.  In the mean time, do a little research on Tochigi and I think you will find it is a wonderful place to live.


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