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Chichibu: Japan's Secret Paradise

Chichibu: Japan's Secret Paradise

Date published: 5 March 2020
Last updated: 12 May 2020

Chichibu is a region just less than two hours away from Tokyo by train, located in western Saitama Prefecture and the perfect spot for a fulfilling day trip from the city! Surrounded by mountains for as far as the eye can see, the beautiful natural landscapes it produces all year round makes it a popular destination among visitors of all sorts.

The main town itself exudes a quaintness that reflects its deep history, with many people visiting specifically for the traditional feel still present in the region. Ladies also love the area for its delicious food and amazing power spots, or places of spiritual energy.

Chichibu has recently been the backdrop for some films and popular anime, giving the region recognition among a more diverse group of local and international audiences.

If your curiosity in the area has been piqued for any reason at all, we're sure you'll enjoy this carefully prepared compilation of must-visit Chichibu places of interest!

Chichibu - a land surrounded by rivers, mountains, and lush nature

Chichibu - a land surrounded by rivers, mountains, and lush nature
picture cells / Shutterstock.com

Chichibu is surrounded by Arakawa River's clear currents and the mountain ranges of Chichibu Basin, where the central city of the region is located.

All year round, the rich natural environment presents a different scene to onlookers depending on the season - sakura, or cherry blossoms in spring, river activities in summer, red leaves in autumn, and icicles formed from mountain runoff in winter.

Full of attractive power spots that refresh and rejuvenate

Full of attractive power spots that refresh and rejuvenate
atsushi nemoto / Shutterstock.com

In olden times, Chichibu was an inn town often visited by pilgrims, which explains the presence of many temples and shrines, nowadays better known as "power spots", or places of spiritual energy.

Is there something you're dealing with that may need a little bit of spiritual boost? Chichibu Shrine helps with those looking for a marriage mate. Chichibu Imamiya Shrine - especially its sacred tree and Ryujin Pond will give you a boost in your romantic relationships! Deeper into the region, in Oku Chichibu, there's also the Mitsumine Shrine, the Hijiri Shrine that blesses business endeavors and increases your luck with money, and the Michelin Green Japan Guide one-star rated Hodosan Shrine that will help keep your family safe by warding off evil influences in the house.

Thinking about doing something a little different? Explore the Hashidate Limestone Cave or visit Taiyo Temple - both power spots that have deep ties with the natural world!

One of the Kanto region's top festival organizers!

One of the Kanto region's top festival organizers!
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Festivals large and small are held throughout the year in Chichibu, depending on the specific area. On average, about 400 festivals are held here every year, which means there's likely to be a festival being held somewhere every day in the region!

One of the most well-known festivals here is the Chichibu Night Festival. Known as one of the three Great Hikiyama Festivals of Japan alongside Kyoto's Gion Festival and Hida's Takayama Festival, this event is a registered UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

If you're wondering what a Hikiyama Festival is all about, it's basically an celebration that features a colorful parade of wheeled festival floats - all flamboyantly designed.

・Besides floats, the Chichibu Kawase Festival also features a mikoshi, or portable shrine being carried into the river.
・Yamada Spring Festival heralds the arrival of spring.
・Nagatoro Funatama Festival is held to pray for safety from water disasters and floods.
・Ryusei Festival is an exciting event where handmade rockets are blasted into the sky!

And this is only a sampling of some of the unique and distinctive festivals you'll get to see if you visit Chichibu!

Riding on Chichibu Railway's steam locomotive is a dream for all train enthusiasts!

Riding on Chichibu Railway's steam locomotive is a dream for all train enthusiasts!

Steam locomotives (SL) are a rare sight in Japan nowadays, and the nearest place to Tokyo where you can catch a glimpse of one is right here in Chichibu, via Chichibu Railway.

Chichibu Railway's main line starts from Hanyū Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line and goes through stops like Kumagaya Station on the JR Takasaki Line and Seibuchichibu Station on the Seibu Chichibu Line before reaching its final destination at Mitsumineguchi Station - a total distance of 71.7 kilometers (about 44.5 miles).

The SL Paleo Express is put into service between Kumagaya Station and Mitsumineguchi Station on the Seibu Chichibu Line for a certain period of time once a year, mainly on weekends. The mere sight of this train chugging along is a joy to behold for many enthusiast!

Plenty of specialty local food for all taste buds!

Plenty of specialty local food for all taste buds!

As the location of the headstream for Arakawa River, Chichibu is a fertile land where many crops are being cultivated, and one of the representative local specialty food is Japanese soba, or buckwheat noodles.

A mid-tier gourmet dishes adored by locals is "Waraji Katsudon", which is a rice bowl topped with a piece of fried pork as large as a waraji, or straw sandal, hence the name.

There's also "Pork Miso Don" featuring pork pieces marinated in miso stock. For dessert, go with a bowl of refreshing "Kakigōri", shaved ice flavored with sweet syrup. Looking for light food? Try some sushi made with freshwater fish as ingredients!

The variety of mouth-watering dishes you'll find in Chichibu will make you wish you had a few more stomachs to take them all in!

Chichibu in the eyes of foreigners

There's been a recent upward trend in the number of foreigners visiting Chichibu, with about 130,000 visitors every year.

As it was the stage for popular anime "Anohana", which was released only not too long ago, the area has also become a place of interest for many of the younger generation as well. As a region with plenty of history, Chichibu has developed quite a number of its own unique customs and traditions.

Because of that, the area evokes a sense of nostalgia despite being a short distance away from modern Tokyo, and this adds to its charm. Bonus trivia: The region's original specialty gourmet food also has a great reputation among foodies!

Chichibu Area 1: Seibu Chichibu Station vicinity

Seibu Chichibu Station is like the gateway to Chichibu. The Nakamise Shopping Street next to the station is a place that's always abuzz with activities and filled with visitors looking to try out Seibu's gourmet food and other specialty goods.

You can always relax at Seibuchichibu Ekimae Onsen Matsurinoyu, a hot spring facility that is designed after the street stalls of Chichibu Night Festival. Are you a fan of the anime "Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day"? Because the anime made use of location shots from Chichibu, maps are available for fans to retrace their favorite characters' footsteps in real-life! These maps can be picked up from the Chichibukanko Total Information Center right in front of Seibu Chichibu Station.

One of Chichibu's natural landmarks is Mount Bukō, which can be admired in its full glory from Hitsujiyama Park. This park itself is famous for its beautiful moss phlox flowers that spring up during the month of April. Within the park premises is the Yamato Art Museum, which focuses on exhibiting the artwork of Shikō Munakata, a woodblock printmaker.

Chichibu Area 2: Chichibu Station vicinity

Located near Chichibu Station and Ohanabatake Station on the Chichibu Railway are Chichibu Shrine, a power spot where people pray for luck in finding a marriage mate, and the Chichibu Imamiya Shrine, another power spot that helps with luck in one's love life.

Inside the Chichibu Festival Museum, you can experience the Chichibu Night Festival for yourself in virtual reality. Chichibu Meisenkan is a cultural facility that introduces you to "Chichibu Meisen", a textile fabric that is known as one of Japan's traditional crafts.

Nagatoro Area

The center of this area is Nagatoro town, the entirety of which is designated as the Prefectural Nagatoro Tamayodo Natural Park.

This is where you'll find Hodosan Shrine, which was rated one-star in the Michelin Green Guide Japan, and the Nagatoro Iwadatami Rocks, an unusual natural rock formation that was designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty.

Sports lovers may also enjoy popular activities in Nagatoro Canyon such as river rafting, water sports, and hiking. Hanging over Arakawa River where these activities take place is Arakawa Bridge, where the steam locomotive train runs through whenever it's in operation. The sight of the train passing along the bridge makes for a great photograph!

The town of Nagatoro also boasts about 3,000 sakura trees and is considered one of the 100 best places in Japan for sakura viewing. Many visitors throng to the town every spring in hopes of securing a good spot to admire these pretty blossoms.

Oku Chichibu Area

This refers to the Mitsuminesan area in Oku Chichibu, where you can find Mitsumine Shrine, said to be one of the best power spots in the Kanto region; the stunning Misotsuchi no Tsurara, a scenic spot during winter for icicles that almost look like frozen weeping willow leaves; and assorted hot springs using spring waters from Oku Chichibu. It's a little distance away from central Chichibu, but for the sake of experiencing these amazing little-known scenic sights and power spots, a trip to the area will be well worth your investment in time and effort!

Going to Chichibu from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station

From Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station, the most convenient way to reach Chichibu is to come out at Ikebukuro Station and use Seibu Railway to go to Seibu Chichibu Station. Seibu Chichibu Station is well-connected to other popular areas in Chichibu via Seibu Railway trains or local buses.

- From Tokyo Station: Head to Ikebukuro Station via Tokyo Metro's Marunouchi Line, or JR's Yamanote JR (about 20 to 30 minutes).
- From Shinjuku Station: Head to Ikebukuro Station via JR's Saikyo Line, Shonan–Shinjuku Line, or Yamanote Line (about five to 10 minutes).

Once you reach Ikebukuro Station on the Seibu Railway, hop on the Red Arrow Limited Express for a direct trip to Seibu Chichibu Station, which should take about 80 minutes. You can also take the local trains if you like, but you'll have to stop at Hannō Station halfway through to change trains. The local train method will take about 100 minutes to reach Seibu Chichibu Station.

Main image: picture cells - Shutterstock.com

*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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