In my search for Santa, one prefecture that stood out for having a good selection of Santa events and attractions was TOCHIGI. So my family of six took to the road to do a bit of reconnaissance. Thanks to the completion of a new stretches of highway, Tochigi is very accessible from Saitama. It took us just under two hours to reach our first stop in Nasu, where much to my delight the first thing we saw was Santa’s private sleigh. It was the start of a magical day for my four kids ages 1 to 6 years old, and I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. We thoroughly absorbed the Christmas atmosphere and came home with a little jingle in our steps! There were so many Santa photo spots, events and attractions and the great news is that there is even more SANTAstic fun planned for many parts of Tochigi for the next few days.
661 Street is a quirky row of shops and a museum, that are all adjoined. The Coca Cola store within 661 street offers two ways to meet Santa each Christmas. One is the SANTA EXPRESS! When you purchase more than 5,000 yen of Coca Cola goods in the Coke Store, Santa will personally deliver your purchases to your home (within the area). This offer runs between December 23rd and 25th. The other is a meet and greet within the Coca Cola store. (Images on the left and right from 661 street).
Apart from being able to meet the real Santa you can also enjoy the Christmas decorations and Santa photo spots. You can even get a photo with Elvis, a regular fixture at 661 street, with Santa in the background. That Santa is in front of the Coca Cola store. They also have inflated snowmen and a Santa display out the front of the premises.
Address: 4328-1 Takakuko, Nasu, Tochigi 325-0001.
FINLAND NO MORI
Finland no Mori also offer two ways to meet Santa. This Saturday, the 19th, between 2 and 3pm anyone can meet him at the bakery for free, or you can pay to meet him at a more leisurely pace at allocated times from the 19th to the 25th. If you purchase 1,000 yen of goods from the bakery or cafe you get a ticket to see Santa. With this ticket you get the opportunity to take photos. Each day the times are a little different and subject to change so please check on the website (below), but generally there is a mid-morning and early afternoon slot.
Apart from the opportunity to meet the real Santa, there are also some fun Santa photo spots around the area. Finland no mori is also home to a Moomin shop and a Hammock cafe among others. More to come on Finland no Mori in the coming days. Not too far from Finland no mori, there is a shop were it is Christmas all year round; Christmas Town.
Address: 2730-36 Takakuotsu, Nasu Tochigi 325-0303
Santa Claus will be hanging out in the Babiesrus in Sano for most of the day on the 19th. He will be walking around the store a number of times during the day; 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm. If you find him, say hello and get a photo with him. Don’t forget your camera!
Address: Aeon Mall, 1324-1 Takahagi Cho, Sano, Tochigi 327-0821
SANTA TRAIN – MOOKA STEAM LOCOMOTIVE
Excerpt from an article on this blog, where you can get all the information you need: http://insaitama.com/santa-train/
This special event is only available for 2 days on December 19th and 20th. The outbound train leaves from Shimodate Station in Ibaraki at 10.35 arriving in Motegi in Tochigi at 12.06. It returns later that day, leaving Motegi at 14.26 arriving to Mooka (not Shimodate)Station at 15.19. It costs for an adult 1030 yen ONE WAY for the event, plus 500 yen for the steam locomotive fare. Children cost 520 yen for the event and 250 yen for the train fare. Preschool children are free. Tickets for the steam locomotive are already on sale at Midori-no-madoguchi (Reservation Ticket Office), View Plaza (Travel Service Center) at Mooka Station in Tochigi.
NAKAGAWA AQUATIC PARK
From December 1st until 23rd the aquatic park in Otawara has Santa visiting. From 11am and 1pm, for an hour each time, you can get a photo of Santa swimming around the tank and interacting with the audience with an etcher sketcher! On Saturdays and Sundays Santa wears a red Santa Kimono instead of his usual suit, at the 1pm showing only. The Santa event doesn’t cost any extra money, once you have a ticket in to the aquatic park. Entry is 600 yen for adults and 250 yen for children over 6. Under 6 are free. Please check the website for up-to-date prices. (Images on the left and right taken from the official website.)
Address: 2686 Sarado, Otawara-shi, TOCHIGI 324-0404
PREMIUM OUTLETS SANO
Santa is available for photos on Saturday the 19th at the outlet. You can find information for Santa Claus at the Premium Outlets in Sano on this blog: http://insaitama.com/santa-premium-outlets/
Address: 2058 Koenacho, Sano, Tochigi Prefecture 327-0822
It is rumoured that Santa will visit Nasukarayama on the 25th to give out sweets to kids. There is a popular winter illumination spot in this area run by the tourist association who can be contacted on 0287-84-1977. The flyer can be found online here: http://park18.wakwak.com/~omotenashi/irumi.pdf
I cannot confirm that Santa will visit on the 25th, but I have added to the list because it is the home of Santa Hills. SANTA HILLS is a cottage and campsite where Santa has a house, hence it is rumoured he will visit his Tochigi house on the way home!! He does visit young guests of this campsite and lodges throughout December, but they also have a Christmas shop open to the general public and the cafe has a Christmassy feel too!
On our own trip, we also went to the Teddy Bear Museum where some of the teddies are dressed up in Santa outfits and Olaf costumes. There were many places we passed on our journey that had Christmas decorations and winter illumination. There wasn’t time to investigate them all. However, what we saw and what we felt was reminiscent of a Scandinavian Christmas and I certainly want to go back to investigate more. If you have anywhere you would like to recommend, please do not hesitate to comment.