Traveling is fun in Japan. There are so many unique experiences to try. When you travel, the thought of getting to your destination should be fun as well. If you’re on your way to Tochigi Prefecture, try driving on Irohazaka Road.
These are a pair of winding roads connecting the lower elevation around central Nikko to the higher elevations of Oku-Nikko, the northwestern part of Nikko.
Irohazaka comes from two words, “Iroha” and “zaka.” Iroha are the first three of the 48 syllables in the old Japanese alphabet while zaka means slope. Together, the roads create 48 hairpin turns. A hairpin turn is named after its bend which resembles that of a hairpin. The bend has an acute inner angle which makes it necessary for vehicles to turn 180 degrees on the road. The roads originated in the year 1954 as some of the first toll roads in Japan. Over the years, it became toll free.
As of today, the old road is open to downward traffic while the new road to upward traffic. There are some stopovers for you to see the amazing waterfalls in the mountains. If you take the new road, you’ll be destined to find Akechidaira Plateau which offers an observation deck perfect for viewing the entire valley below. From the parking lot there is a ropeway which can lift visitors to the observatory in 3 minutes.
The course is divided into two where the first half (downhill) has a rhythm of straight-hairpin-straight-hairpin-straight while the second half (uphill) with circular turns.
Irohazaka winding road is a popular tourist destination especially during Autumn Season. The trees offer a spectacular array of autumn colors along the road. These are best seen from late October to early November. However, you may experience bad traffic as this is the most popular time for visitors to travel. It would be best to go there as early as possible and avoid weekends and national holidays.