Sano, in Tochigi Prefecture, is a small city that attracts visitors from all over the Kanto region for two main reasons: shopping at the outlets, and trying to eat your weight in Sano ramen. But adventurous visitors, who are able to pull themselves away from frenzied hordes that populate the shopping centers, can discover one of Sano’s hidden treasures, located just minutes behind the Aeon Mall and Sano Premium Outlets.
Mikamoyama is the largest city park in Tochigi Prefecture and is steeped in history. In fact, the oldest collection of Japanese poetry, Manyreiheishi’s “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”, compiled around 759 A.D. mentions the beauty of the trees that grow on the mountain. The trees are indeed beautiful, especially during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season, and the best way to enjoy them is by walking along the many kilometers of hiking trails that the park boasts.
If you’re not an experienced hiker, don't worry. The trails are exceptionally well-maintained, have clear sign posts, and are frequented by the young and young-at-heart alike. There’s a paved road to the top of the mountain as well for bicyclists and guests coming from the outlets who want to avoid sullying their new 20,000 yen hiking boots. An inexpensive tram also runs from the parking lot to the top of Mt. Mikamo for guests who want to enjoy the sweeping, panoramic view but not quite up for the walk.
Aside from excellent hiking, guests can also enjoy the adjacent flower park, playground facilities for the kids, the ruins of a castle from which you can enjoy a stunning view of Mt. Fuji, and even a hang-gliding launch pad for thrill-seeker types with excellent health insurance. Future plans for the park include a bicycle rental shop, a pool, and even an amusement park.
Located only 5 minutes by car, or about 15-20 by bicycle or on foot from Sano Premium Outlets, Mikamoyama Park has something to offer everyone. From active outdoorsman to weary shoppers just looking for a respite from the sensory overload of the shopping centers, this is a stunningly beautiful park that no visit to Sano is complete without.