The Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest was created in 2011. The forest occupies nearly half
of the former Nasu Imperial Villa estate, land previously reserved for the imperial
family’s use. In 2008, Emperor Akihito (reigned 1989–2019) granted the land to the
Ministry of the Environment to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his
ascension to the throne. Its approximately 560 hectares form a protected environment
where people can interact with nature while preserving it for future generations. Nasu
Heisei-no-mori Forest opened to the public in 2011 as part of Nikko National Park.
Prior to the twentieth century, the land now occupied by Heisei-no-mori was used for
logging and horse pasturage. When the area became part of the Nasu Imperial Villa
estate, its use was restricted, and the land began to return to its natural forested state.
Today, this young forest continues to grow and develop, and with proper care it may
someday rival the world’s most pristine ecosystems.
The Field Center is the forest’s main facility and serves as a gateway to the forest’s
two zones: the Forest Recreation Zone and the Forest Learning Zone. The Forest
Recreation Zone, with wheelchair accessibility, fulfills Emperor Akihito’s desire that
everyone have unrestricted access to Nasu’s natural environment. Visitors may
wander its paths freely, and the trails are suitable for all ages and ability levels.
Between 1997 and 2001, the Tochigi Prefectural Museum identified 3,492 species of
wildlife in the Nasu Imperial estate. Of these species, 23 were previously unrecorded,
and 25 were recorded in Japan for the first time. Preserving and studying this
ecological diversity is the goal of the Forest Learning Zone, Heisei-no-mori’s second
area. Ongoing scientific studies are conducted in the Learning Zone, and visitors can
only enter on guided tours led by experienced naturalists known as “nature
These highlights are only examples. There are many other unusual animal and plant species to encounter!
Nasu Heisei-no-Mori is a natural treasure trove.
For a limited time, you can encounter rare characters that can’t be found anywhere else!
Feel free to ask your interpreter for more information.
The Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest opened to the public in 2011 as part of Nikko
National Park. The Field Center is the forest’s main facility and serves as the gateway
to the Forest Recreation Zone and Forest Learning Zone.
Visitors can explore the Forest Recreation Zone at their leisure or participate in the
free short programs offered by the Field Center: half-hour guided walks that highlight
seasonal sights. There are three loop trails in the Recreation Zone. The longest, about
3 kilometers, leads to the Komadome Waterfall Observation Deck. For a shorter
route, guests can take the 1-kilometer Footpath. The final path is only 300 meters,
but it is entirely accessible by wheelchair.
Access to the Forest Learning Zone is restricted in order to maintain a balance
between using the forest as a teaching tool and conserving the natural environment for
future generations. Visitors can enter it only on pre-booked guided walks led by
“nature interpreters.” These guides explain the interdependence of plants and animals,
point out easily missed signs of animal activity, and encourage participants to
appreciate not just the sights, but also the sounds, scents, and textures of their
surroundings. The Learning Zone trails follow the same paths once used by the
The Field Center also has exhibits that explain the forest’s ecology and the story of its
transition from Imperial estate to public park. The staff will arrange guided walks or
provide information on the forest and the local area. Even the building is ecologically
conscious, with toilets designed to minimize the impact on the surrounding
Coffee lovers will appreciate the Field Center’s outdoor coffee shop, where
local companies offer small-batch, house-roasted beverages on a rotating basis.
The Forest Recreation Zone offers admissions-free access to Heisei-no-mori’s
relaxing woodland environment. The zone’s main entrance is through the Field
Center, but visitors also can access the area from Komadome Waterfall Parking.
The zone has three loop trails. The hike to the Komadome Waterfall Observation
Deck is about 3 kilometers long and takes around 90 minutes to complete. For those
with less time, the 1-kilometer Footpath takes about 40 minutes. The third trail, a 300-
meter surfaced path that is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, takes about 15
In winter, the Recreation Zone offers two guided snowshoe walks. The shorter route
takes about 2 hours, and the longer one about 3 hours. Snowshoes and poles can be
rented at the Field Center, or visitors can bring their own.
The Field Center offers 30-minute instructional programs, free of charge, with no
reservations required. These programs are held partly within the exhibit hall, and
partly in the Forest Recreation Zone. Guides point out seasonal aspects of the forest,
and use visual aids, props, and samples to give participants a deeper understanding of
Azaleas bloom throughout the area in spring, and the frail, pale-blue flowers of nettle-
leaved hydrangeas appear along the trails in June. In early summer, visitors may find
tiny, curled leaf packets along the trails. These are cut and rolled by female leaf-
rolling weevils, which lay a single egg inside each leaf. The scroll-like appearance of
these packets gives the species its Japanese name: otoshibumi, meaning “dropped
The Forest Learning Zone is returning to the wild. Prior to 1926, the land was used for
logging and pasturage, but with the construction of the Nasu Imperial Villa, the forest
began a return to its natural state. It is still young, as forests go, but with proper care it
will one day become a mature forest.
To maintain the delicate balance between conservation and educational use of the
natural environment, access to the zone is limited. Visitors can enter the Forest
Learning Zone only on pre-booked, guided tours led by specialized “nature
interpreters.” The guides explain the interdependence of life in the forest and point out
details such as an unusual bark texture, an echoing bird call, or the astringent scent of
a crushed leaf. Using samples and visual aids in addition to the forest around them,
the guides reveal aspects of forest ecology that hikers might never notice on a simple
walk through the woods.
One concept the guides discuss is that of a “keystone species.” In the Learning Zone,
the four resident species of woodpecker are considered keystone species because they
play an unusually large role in maintaining the entire ecosystem. Since most
woodpecker species only use their nests for one year, their abandoned holes provide a
constant supply of new homes for dormice, Japanese giant flying squirrels, owls, bees,
little Japanese horseshoe bats, Japanese tits, and other small animals.
Nature interpreters might point out the tactile differences in two varieties of bamboo
grass that carpet the forest floor. Miyakozasa leaves have hairy undersides, but
chishimazasa leaves are smooth on both sides. The two species are found here
because Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest straddles two climatic zones: miyakozasa is
typically found along the Pacific coast, while chishimazasa is common on the Sea of
Japan coast, which receives heavier snowfalls.
The Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest is a diverse ecosystem. Between 1997 and 2001, the
Tochigi Prefectural Museum conducted a monitoring and research project that
identified 3,492 species of wildlife; 23 of these were previously unrecorded species,
and 25 were recorded in Japan for the first time. The project also found several
species classified by the Ministry of the Environment as Vulnerable (VU) or Near
Threatened (NT). Vulnerable species include the balloon flower, greater tube-nosed
bat, and spotless grass yellow (a butterfly). Species on the near-threatened list include
the Japanese dormouse, northern goshawk, and Japanese fire belly newt.
After the Nasu Heisei-no-mori Forest was established in 2011, the beech forest by the
Yosasa River was selected as part of the Ministry of the Environment’s Monitoring
Site 1000 project, which observes environmental changes and aims to develop
conservation measures. Other current research includes creating an inventory of plants
and animals in the forest, recording their populations and conditions, and assessing
the water quality of the Yosasa and Shirato Rivers. Small, roped-off areas indicate
where yearly acorn densities are being calculated. Flash-enabled cameras are installed
in 15 locations to monitor the movements and behavioral patterns of mammals.
Researchers are particularly interested in the behavior of black bears in the forest.
Access to the Forest Learning Zone is restricted in order to minimize human impact
and help the forest achieve a natural primary-growth state. Visitors are allowed in
only as part of guided walks, and they must clean their shoes before entering to
prevent the accidental introduction of non-native seeds or diseases.