Sano is a city located in Southwestern Tochigi along the JR Ryomo line and Tobu Sano Line, around 90km north of Tokyo. It is the fourth-largest city in Tochigi in terms of population. The city is famous for the Sano Premium Outlet, Yakuyoku Daishi Temple, the city mascot Sanomaru, and local food such as ramen and imo-furai.
Places to visit
Sano Premium Outlet 佐野プレミアム・アウトレット
When I first visited this outlet, I felt like I was back in North America: the style of the outlet was the same as what I was used to back home. There are 170 stores in the outlet, ranging from big-name brands known all over the world to local Japanese brands. Many people take the bus all the way from Tokyo to shop here.
Sano Yakuyoke Daishi Temple/Soshu-ji 佐野厄除け大師/惣宗寺
“Yakuyoke” is the expelling of evil spirit. Soshu-ji in Sano is known as one of the three top temples in the Kanto region for yakuyoke.
The Tenman-Gu shrine enshrines the Heian Era scholar, Sugawara no Michizane. Sugawara is now worshipped as the Tenman-Tenjin, often shorted to Tenjin. Now, the Tenjin is regarded as the God of scholarship. Many students and parents come to the shrine and pray for success before important exams. All Tenman-Gu shrines in Japan are noted for the plum blossom trees either alongside the omotesando (main road) leading to the shrine, or on the grounds of the shrine, for the plum blossoms were Sugawara’s favorite flower. Sano’s Asahimori-Tenman-Gu is no exception. Plum blossoms bloom in February along the omotesando.
Karasawa/Karasawa Shrine 唐澤山/唐澤山神社
Mt. Karasawa is in northeast Sano, the site for the now ruined Karasawa Castle. It is a popular spot for locals to visit for the fall colours and the spring blossoms. The Karasawa Shrine sits on top of Mt. Karasawa and enshrines Heian Era Lord, Fujiwara no Hidesato, the rumoured builder of Karasawa Castle.
Izuruhara Bentenike/Isoyama Benzaiten出流原弁天池/磯山弁財天
The Izuruharabentenike is a beautiful spring-fed pond located in northwest Sano. The spring is recognized as one of the one hundred famous natural spring waters in Japan. The Isoyama Benzaiten, a temple that worships the Japanese Buddhist goddess, is on a hill right next to the pond. You can enjoy a nice view of the Kanto plain from the temple!
Shiroyama Park 城山公園
The North Exit of Sano Station leads right to Shiroyama Park, the site of the Sano Castle ruins. You can enjoy a view of downtown Sano from the park. It is a popular spot for locals to enjoy cherry blossoms in the spring. Besides the cherry blossoms, there are also some wisteria plants at the park.
First and foremost, Sano is famous for its bamboo-beaten ramen noodles, made with Sano’s famous natural spring water. Ramen is such an important part of the city’s identity, there is even a small ramen museum at the Sano station visitor centre. There are so many ramen restaurants in the city. It’s hard to choose which one is the best. Check out this ramen map by the City of Sano and pick one for yourself!
The ear-shaped udon is another local specialty. Unlike Sano ramen that is almost always soy sauce-based, with the ear-shaped udon, there are many different flavours you can try out! The most famous ear-shaped udon restaurant in Sano is 野村屋本店, not far from the station. Check out their website!
Imofurai is another local specialty. It is what the city’s mascot Sanomaru carries with him. It is basically deep-fried steamed potato dressed with specialty sauce. You can get it at food carts during festivals or from supermarkets. There are also a handful of shops in Sano that specialize in imofurai. Check them out here:
Tochigi is famous for its strawberries. You can pick your own strawberries in Sano from December to May every year. Check out this page to see which farm you can visit!