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Chichibu Japan: Best Things to Do in the Secret Paradise Near Tokyo

Chichibu Japan: Best Things to Do in the Secret Paradise Near Tokyo

Date published: 5 March 2020
Last updated: 17 November 2021

Chichibu is a rural city in western Saitama Prefecture. Less than two hours from Tokyo, this area is the perfect spot for a day trip. Surrounded by mountains, Chichibu is a popular tourist destination famous for its rich nature, historic cityscape, and unique local culture.

Loved for its hot springs, delicious food, and power spots, Chichibu has even become the stage for popular movies and anime. Let's take a look at Chichibu's latest recommended attractions, eateries, and fun activities!

Photo courtesy of: Nagatoro Tourism Association

1. Features of Chichibu: What is Chichibu Like?

1. Features of Chichibu: What is Chichibu Like?

Chichibu is located in the western part of Saitama Prefecture in the Kanto region near Tokyo. It is the largest municipality in the prefecture and is mostly known for its nature and history. The basin is surrounded by mountains and an abundant natural landscape, with beautiful flowers and trees that change with the seasons.

There are also many fun outdoor activities and delicious local food you will enjoy. Located about two hours from the city center, Chichibu is the perfect spot for a day or weekend trip. Train aficionados also love watching the rare steam locomotives that run through the area.

Chichibu has crafted its culture since ancient times, with many traditional festivals and historical heritages. As a former post town visited by pilgrims, there are also many shrines, many of which are now known as power spots.

In recent years, the number of foreign visitors to Chichibu as a whole has been on the rise. In 2017, before the onset of Covid-19, the average number of annual visitors was about 130,000.

One reason for its popularity spike was the setting for the popular anime, Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021 since it first aired on TV. Since then, many young people have flocked to the area. The release of the second movie, The Anthem of the Heart (Kokosake), and the third movie, Her Blue Sky, has only strengthened its presence as a sacred place.

Sightseeing Areas
a. Seibu Chichibu Station Area
Seibu Chichibu Station is the entrance to the Chichibu area. Here you will find Seibu Chichibu Ekimae Onsen Matsuri no Yu, a hot springs resort based on the Chichibu Night Festival, and the Chichibu Tourist Information Center.

Within walking distance is Hitsujiyama Park, which overlooks Mount Buko, a landmark of Chichibu. Along the Chichibu Railway, between Chichibu Station and Ohanabatake Station, you will find Chichibu Festival Museum, the Chichibu Shrine for marriage, and the Chichibu Imamiya Shrine for romance.

b. Nagatoro Area
The entire town of Nagatoro is designated as the Prefectural Nagatoro Tamayodo Natural Park. There you will find Hodosan Shrine, which boasts a Michelin Green Guide Japan 1-star rating, and Nagatoro Iwadatami, a designated national scenic spot, and natural monument. Popular activities include rafting down Nagatoro Valley, water sports, and hiking.

The scenic Oyahana Railway Bridge, where a steam locomotive runs over the river, is also a fantastic spot to snap some photos. There are also about 3,000 cherry trees in the city, making it one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots. Visitors flock to this area every spring to look at the cherry blossoms.

c. Okuchichibu Area
The Okuchichibu area is a bit further away from central Chichibu. There are several scenic attractions here, about 75 minutes away from Seibu Chichibu Station by bus.

Mitsumine Shrine is said to be one of the Kanto Region's leading power spots, and Misotsuchi no Tsurara (Icicles of Misotsuchi) boasts a spectacular midwinter view. Other attractions include Nakatsu Gorge, Takizawa Dam, and Lake Chichibu Momiji Lake.

2. When is the best season to visit Chichibu?

Chichibu is a great place to visit all year round, with plenty of activities, events, and festivals you can enjoy in any season. Many big festivals are held every season. (Note that many festivals were canceled in 2021 due to Covid-19).

If you want to see the plants and flowers in full bloom, or visit on the day of a festival, be sure to plan your trip in accordance with the seasons.

Photo courtesy of: Saitama Prefecture Tourism Division

Spring: This is when the cherry blossoms, flowers, and fresh green trees are the most beautiful. Some famous attractions are Hitsujiyama Park's moss phlox (mid-April to early May), the cherry blossom trees along with the approach to Mount Hodo and in Minoyama Park, and the blooming poppies of Chichibu Highland Ranch (May-June). We also recommend springtime hiking through the abundant natural landscape.

Summer: Summer is full of fun activities on the rivers and lakes surrounded by lush green trees. Unique summer activities include rafting in the Nagatoro Valley, obstacle courses, fishing, BBQ, and camping.

Photo courtesy of: Nagatoro Tourism Association

Autumn: One of Chichibu's best, must-see natural landscapes are the beautiful autumn leaves. Depending on where in Chichibu you go, you can see the leaves from mid-October to early December. In November, autumn leaves festivals and illuminations are held throughout the region.

Okuchichibu's Nakatsu Gorge is a designated scenic spot in Saitama Prefecture. In Nagata Valley, you can enjoy a clear stream descent through the autumn leaves. Tsukinoishi Momiji Park has beautiful illuminations and a fantastic atmosphere.

Other famous places include Mitsumine Shrine, Hodosan Shrine, Chichibu Muse Park, Jomine Park, Takigawa Valley, Mameyaki Bridge, and Karisaka Bridge.

Photo courtesy of: Nagatoro Tourism Association
2021 Autumn Leaves Festivals
Okuchichibu Otaki Autumn Leaves Festival
Canceled
Nagatoro Autumn Leaves Festival 2021
November 1-30, 2021
Tsukinoishi Momiji Park Illumination
November 12-23, 2021 4:00-9:00PM
Hodosan Shrine Illumination
November 6-23, 2021 5:00-9:00PM

Winter: Winter also has plenty to see! In December, the Chichibu Night Festival is registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. (2021 Shinto rituals held less frequently).

We also recommend checking out Chichibu's Icicles of Misotsuchi (mid-January to mid-February), only visible in the cold winter. Afterward, warm up your body and replenish your energy with a soak at the hot springs.

3. Getting around Chichibu

3. Getting around Chichibu
©Seibu Railway

a. Access from major cities such as Tokyo
From Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station: head to JR Ikebukuro Station, take the Seibu Railway to Seibu Chichibu Station. From Seibu Chichibu Station you can ride the Chichibu Railway or a bus to each attraction.

From Tokyo Station to Ikebukuro:
Take Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line or JR Yamanote Line to Ikebukuro Station (approx. 20-30 min)
From Shinjuku Station to Ikebukuro:
Take JR Saikyo Line, JR Shonan Shinjuku Line, or JR Yamanote Line to Ikebukuro Station (approx. 5-10 min)
From Ikebukuro Seibu Chichibu:
Take Red Arrow Limited Express train directly from Seibu Railway Ikebukuro Station (approx. 80 min). If riding a regular train, transfer at Hanno Station on the way (approx. 100 min).

▼Check here for discounted ticket information for all areas of Chichibu

Chichibu Unlimited Ride Ticket
This set includes a round-trip ticket from your departure station on the Seibu Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station, plus a two-day unlimited ride ticket for stops between Ashigakubo-Seibu and Chichibu Station, as well as the Chichibu Railway (between Nogami Nagatoro and Mimineguchi Station). It also includes discounts for participating shops and facilities.

Price: 2,350 yen from Ikebukuro (*Price may vary by boarding station.)

Chichibu Man'yu Tour Ticket
This deal includes a round-trip ticket from your departure station on the Seibu Line to Seibu-Chichibu Station and a two-day unlimited ride ticket for stations between Koma Station and Seibu-Chichibu Station. It also includes coupons for the bus, rental cars, and the hot springs in front of the station. The main difference between this ticket and the Chichibu Unlimited Ride Ticket above is that this one doesn't include the Chichibu Railway.

Price: 2,230 yen from Ikebukuro (*Price may vary by boarding station)

SEIBU 1Day Pass / SEIBU 2Day Pass
The SEIBU 1Day Pass is an unlimited ride ticket for foreign tourists on all Seibu Lines (excluding Tamagawa Line).
Prices:
・1-day Ticket: 1000 yen
・2-day Ticket: 2000 yen

b. Traveling Around the Chichibu Area
Because Chichibu is such a vast area, you'll need to use a train, bus, or rental car to get around. Depending on where you're going, the number of hourly trains may be limited, so be sure to check the timetables before you leave.

4. Where to stay in Chichibu

4. Where to stay in Chichibu

While Chichibu makes a great day-trip destination from the city, we also recommend staying overnight to enjoy the hot springs. The vast area expands from the easily-accessible, urban vicinity of Chichibu Station to the nature-rich area of Okuchichibu. There are plenty of facilities to choose from, from city hotels to hot spring inns.

5. Where to eat in Chichibu

5. Where to eat in Chichibu

Chichibu has plenty of famous local foods. As a land suited for soba cultivation, Chichibu Soba is one of its main specialties, along with Waraji Katsudon (breaded pork cutlet), Buta Miso Don (miso pork rice bowl), Miso Potato, and Natural Kakigori (shaved ice). Enjoy not only lunch and dinner meals but also snacks and take-out in one of the many famous local shops!

Recommended places to eat in Chichibu

6. Culture in Chichibu

6. Culture in Chichibu
Photo courtesy of: Chichibu Tourism Association

Chichibu boasts the largest number of festivals in the Kanto Region. There are many festivals in every region in every season, with about 400! Although many were canceled or postponed last year due to Covid-19, it is said that there is usually some festival going on nearly every day.

Even if you don't get to see it in person, you can experience the Chichibu Night Festival virtually at the Chichibu Festival Museum at any time, which has exhibits and demonstrations.

There are also some great cultural facilities. Chichibu Meisenkan is a handicraft museum that displays all kinds of textiles, designated as a national traditional craft of Japan. The Yamato Art Museum displays the works of Shiko Munakata, a leading Japanese woodblock printer.

7. Things to do in Chichibu

7. Things to do in Chichibu

Many activities you'll experience in Chichibu will leave you feeling at one with nature.

In spring, enjoy the flowers and fresh greenery as you visit Chichibu's 34 sacred Kannon sites (Chichibu 34 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage), or hike Mount Buko.

In summer, get outdoors with camping and water activities such as rafting and playing in the river. If you're feeling adventurous, bungee or zip line over the Arakawa Valley at Chichibu Geo Gravity Park, or challenge the new, large-scale obstacle course at Forest Adventure Chichibu.

In the fall, surround yourself in the spectacular autumn colors with a hike or a trip down the river in a canoe or kayak. In the winter, you can even enjoy a ride on the Kotatsu Boat, which, as the name implies, has a kotatsu on the boat!

8. Shopping in Chichibu

8. Shopping in Chichibu

Nakamise-dori is a shopping street lined with specialty Chichibu foods and goods near Seibu-Chichibu Station that tourists love. Each shop boasts plenty of its own souvenirs unique to the region and store.

Typical Chichibu souvenirs are sweets such as Mitoya's Chichibu Mochi (rice cake confectionery), Yahataya's Chichibu Manju, and Wado Monaka, Chichibu Tamakiya's Chichibu Potato (Japanese sweet potato), and Nakamuraya's Chichibu Mayu (marshmallows). Other recommendations are shakushina pickles (pickled shakushi greens), oname (miso side dish), pork miso pickles, sake, and wine!

You can find many of these Chichibu specialties at the Chichibu Jibasan Center Bussankan on the first floor of Chichibu Station. The Chichibu Furusatokan also sells and displays local products, cuisine, and sake.

9. Sightseeing around Chichibu

Because Chichibu is so vast, you won't be able to explore both the Chichibu Station vicinity and Okuchichibu in a single day. However, each individual area makes a great day-trip destination. Before picking where to visit, be sure to check out what highlights and activities are available for that season!

Since 2021, Chichibu has shifted its focus to local revitalization by promoting and developing new cafes, restaurants, and accommodation facilities in historic buildings and old folk homes in the city center.
Explore the history and nature of Chichibu, and see why it is quickly becoming one of Japan's more popular destinations!

Translated by: Krys Suzuki

Written by:

Miyuki Yajima

Miyuki Yajima

After working in planning, editing, and business development/sales at a continuing education business, she is currently working as a writer, yoga instructor, and traveler in pursuit of a multi-career lifestyle that combines hobbies and work. She also likes fashion, Japanese culture, and music.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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