207-2 Yumoto, Nasu, Nasu District, Tochigi Prefecture 325-0301
TEL: +81(0)287-74-2301 (9:00~17:00) FAX: +81(0)287-74-2302

NasuKogen Visitor Center | Nikko National Park

Nasukogen Visitor Center

The Nasukogen Visitor Center is located within Nikko National Park in the Nasu-
Kashi area, which straddles Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures. The Center provides
information on activities in the Nasu-Kashi area, offers exhibits that introduce the
area’s history and natural environment, and features monthly displays of craftwork,
photography, and news from local enthusiasts.

A touchscreen panel gives information on outdoor activities and lodgings in English,
Korean, and Chinese. Staff can suggest hiking routes and explain the weather and
mountain conditions.

When the weather is not suitable for hiking, Visitor Center guests can take one of
several “virtual walks” that employ a touch-sensitive floor pad and video screen to
display the routes in first-person view. Children can explore a hands-on exhibit that
includes games, specimens of plants and insects, the sounds of the seasons, gloves in
the shape of animal hands, and an artificial re-creation of the forest floor. Other video
terminals (some with English subtitles) explain the volcanic history of the Nasu
mountains, seasonal scenery, wildlife, and local legends.

The Visitor Center is an eco-friendly building constructed with locally sourced timber
and andesite (volcanic rock). The facility uses long-lasting LEDs and derives part of
its electrical power from solar panels. The heating in the lounge area is provided by a
stove that burns pellets made of compressed wood waste—an efficient use of
industrial byproducts—rather than fossil fuels.

The gazebo and lawn area surrounding the center are ideal for picnics and afford a
splendid view of Mt. Chausu and the rest of the Nasu mountain range.

Restroom break Restroom break

All facilities are available for visitors to use free of charge.


The charm of the four seasons

Nasu in Spring Nasu in Spring

Hiking season in the Nasu area begins in early May, although snow often lingers on
the mountain peaks until later in the month. The forests of beech and birch, which
cover much of the landscape, come alive after a bleak winter. The badgers, raccoon
dogs (tanuki), black bears, and many other hibernating species emerge and begin to
forage. Paradise flycatchers, blue-and-white flycatchers, Japanese thrushes, and other
birds migrating from Southeast Asia arrive between early April and May.

The Manchurian violet, a variety native to East Asia, is the first to flower in low-lying
areas, followed by other plants in the same family. Cherry trees begin to blossom in
April, followed by hydrangeas and rhododendrons. In the western highlands, skunk
cabbage and Oriental swamp pink bloom in the Numappara Marshland as soon as the
snow melts—in fact, eastern skunk cabbage is able to melt the snow itself with its
purple, heat-generating flower spikes. These spikes, which are specialized leaves
wrapped around a hidden flower cluster, are the source of the plant’s Japanese name:
zazensō, or “Zen meditation plant.” The outer spike (spathe) is like the walls of a
cave, and the unformed flower stalk inside evokes the Zen monk Daruma, who is said
to have meditated in a cave for nine years.

On the rocky mountain slopes, endemic hime-iwa-kagami (Schizocodon ilicifolius)
blooms in May and June. Its Japanese name means “lady-rock-mirror,” a reference to
the plant’s dainty, fringed flowers, its glossy, mirror-like leaves, and its rocky habitat.
From mid- to late May, around 200,000 azaleas of several species fill the 23-hectare
Yahata Azalea Park.

Japanese black salamanders and Tohoku salamanders appear between late April and
late May, laying their eggs in streams and wetlands like the Numappara Marshland.
Montane brown frogs and Japanese common toads spawn in mid-May. Forest green
tree frogs encase their eggs in spongelike foam and suspend them from tree branches
that hang over water; when the tadpoles hatch, they fall into the water below.

Nasu in Summer Nasu in Summer

Trees are scarce high in the Nasu mountains, but summer brings plenty of new growth
to their slopes. Flowers appear on Mt. Chausu (1,915 m) in mid-June, among them the
Japanese azalea, birchleaf spirea, and the bell-shaped, bright-pink blossoms of
urajiroyōraku (Menziesia multiflora). A relative of European edelweiss called
usuyukisō blooms in July and August; its name means “plant of light snowfall”
because the white upper leaves look as if they are dusted with snow. Among the birds
living on the Nasu peaks are Asian house martins, alpine accentors, and Pacific swifts.

Visitors to the Numappara Marshland in late June to mid-July will find the wetland
dyed yellow by the blooming Amur daylilies. By early July, the deep violet petals of
wild Japanese irises appear, followed by lacy pink clusters of akabana-shimotsuke-sō,
a variety of meadowsweet that is limited to mountainous areas in central Honshu.

In the lowlands, Latham’s snipes, brown-headed thrushes, and fan-tailed warblers call
to one another. Though seldom seen, several snake species inhabit Nasu: the Japanese
striped snake, Japanese rat snake, tiger keelback, and Japanese pit viper. The latter
two species are venomous, but the keelback is extremely shy, and the pit viper is
found only in a limited area in the north of Nasu. Hikers should avoid going barefoot,
even if encounters with snakes are rare.

Development, pollution, and pesticides threaten fireflies on a global scale, but several
species still inhabit the clean waterways of Nasu. The Genji firefly, the smaller Heike
firefly, and the obabotaru (Lucidina biplagiata) light up the summer nights.

Many varieties of mushrooms—such as oyster mushrooms, late oyster mushrooms,
and honey fungus—are found in ravines and along the Yosasa River. Another species,
the “moonlight mushroom” (tsukiyotake), glows faintly green in the dark. Although it
closely resembles the edible oyster mushroom, the tsukiyotake is poisonous.

Nasu in Autumn Nasu in Autumn

Autumn comes early to the mountainous areas of Nasu, and fall flowers like the
gentian species ezorindo bloom here as early as late August. By mid-September, the
leaves of the Japanese rowan, Japanese oak, redvein maple, and other trees start to
turn, reaching the height of color at the end of October. The migratory chestnut tiger
—a stunning pale-blue, black, and russet butterfly found in montane zones in summer
and fall—flutters among thistles and flowers of the daisy family. Other high-altitude
blooms include monkshood, false snowparsley, and the clustered yellow heads of
iwainchin, a type of chrysanthemum. The first snowfalls arrive in late October, and
the hiking season ends in early November.

At lower elevations, beech nuts and acorns begin to ripen between September and
November. They provide a feast for flying squirrels, Asian black bears, dormice,
squirrels, and monkeys, and are a vital source of calories to survive the winter. On the
outskirts of the forest, Japanese gentian is the last plant to flower in the region.
Appearing in late September through October, its deep blue petals open fully in
sunshine—distinguishing the plant from its relatives ezorindo and pasture gentian,
which open only partially.

Winter migratory birds, such as the rustic bunting, brambling, Eurasian siskin, and
hawfinch, begin to arrive from Siberia and other cold climes in mid-October. Lucky
visitors may come across the green pheasant, Japan’s national bird, foraging in
grasslands or harvested rice fields.

Nasu in Winter Nasu in Winter

Among the trunks of bare trees, the dense green-and-white leaves of kuma bamboo
grass peek through the snow. Cold seasonal winds called the Nasu Oroshi blow in
from the northwest, and average January temperatures are below freezing. Snow
accumulation averages between 20 and 30 centimeters.

During the winter, black bears, dormice, badgers, raccoon dogs (tanuki), and other
animals are in hibernation. The tracks of still-active mammals such as Japanese
serow, foxes, and Japanese martens crisscross the snowy landscape of the lowlands.
The serow—resembling a shaggy antelope but actually a member of the bovine family
—lives primarily in mountainous areas. It was once hunted nearly to extinction, but a
protection law passed in 1955 has allowed populations to recover. Japanese martens,
which are related to weasels, are dusky brown during the warmer months, but in
winter transform into a vivid yellow for camouflage. In recent years, wild boar have
been sighted in the forest. This encroaching species disturbs the ground while digging
for insects, and in the process damages the roots of more delicate plant species.

In February, forests echo with the hammering of woodpeckers as they stake their
claims to territories and seek out mates. Four species of woodpeckers—the Japanese
pygmy woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, Japanese green woodpecker, and
white-backed woodpecker—inhabit the region year-round. Abandoned woodpecker
nest holes become home to small creatures like the dormouse.

Camellias bloom in the urban areas of Nasu from mid-February until mid-March,
when the snow melts and the purple blooms of Asian fawnlilies signal the coming of

Activities in the Nasu Highlands

The Nasu Highlands (Nasukōgen) have been a popular destination since the first hot
springs were discovered in the seventh century. Today, hiking, camping, skiing,
golfing, museum-going, and other leisure activities—including simply lounging at a
resort—have joined hot springs as the main attractions of the area.

The Nasu Ropeway carries visitors close to the peak of Mt. Chausu, which can be
reached in about 50 minutes on foot from the ropeway station. Alternatively, hikers
can take the 40-minute path to Mugen Jigoku, or “Infinite Hell,” where fumaroles
emit clouds of sulfurous gases. From Mugen Jigoku, hikers can backtrack slightly to
signpost 24 (Ushigakubi Junction), then continue south to Mt. Minamigassan and Mt.
Shirazasa, eventually reaching the Numappara Parking Area. The hike from the
ropeway station to the parking lot takes around 3.5 hours.

The Nasu Nature Study Path is a 7.6-kilometer loop trail that begins at the Nasukōgen
Parking Area and passes Ōmaru Onsen. In the spring, visitors walk through a tunnel
of blooming azaleas, then emerge to a fine view of Mt. Chausu. Yahata Azalea Park,
adjoining the Nasukōgen Parking Area, offers a 1.6-kilometer loop trail that takes
around 30 minutes to hike. The park’s many boardwalks give easy access to guests in
wheelchairs or those who have difficulty with uneven terrain.

Rental bicycles are available for exploring the highlands. Many accommodation
facilities provide pumps, tire patch kits, and other services to cyclists. Taxis fitted
with bicycle racks can be called in the event of a flat tire.