Located in Saitama Prefecture, this mountainous locale is the prefecture’s largest municipality known for its outdoor attractions as well as a thriving brewing industry. Here’s why Chichibu should be the site of your next mini getaway.
Journeying to Chichibu by public transport isn’t too difficult. Make your way to Ikebukuro Station and catch the Seibu Ikebukuro Line Limited Express train, which is a direct line to Seibu Chichibu Station. The commute takes about 90 minutes and travelers can opt for a La View special reserved seat. This option offers more privacy in addition to very comfortable, reclining seats.
1. Chichibu Shrine
Culture buffs need to make a stop at Chichibu Shrine, which is over 1,000 years old. First built-in support of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shrine is famous for its intricate animal and mythical beast carvings around the main hall. Surrounding the buildings are lush trees that create a sense of tranquility. The shrine is also home to the Chichibu Night Festival, often considered one of the top three festivals to participate in for its ornate floats and fireworks display. One can find out more about the festival by visiting Chichibu Festival Hall, a short walk away from the shrine.
2. Nagatoro Iwadatami
About 30 minutes outside of Chichibu city lies Nagatoro Iwadatami, a naturally occurring rock formation that is about 80m wide and 500m long. The formation itself is called ‘Iwadatami’ for its resemblance to tatami mats. This is a great area to explore on a sunny day, as you can climb over rocks, observe fish in the clear stream or catch a ride on a tour boat to see Myojin Falls.
3. Hiking Hodosan
Stretch your legs on a family-friendly hike up to Hodosan. The hike starts in the nearby town of Nogami which is easily accessible along the Chichibu Main Line. You can follow the signage at the station which will help guide you to the trailhead. On the way down, you’ll also come across Hodosan Shrine, one of the three major shrines of Chichibu. For those who just want to enjoy the view, start your hike at Nagatoro Station instead. You’ll come across the shrine first and then the ropeway terminal that will take you to the top.
4. Washoku to Buta Miso Don Chinbata
No trip to Chichibu would be complete without trying its famed miso katsu. This is the region’s signature breaded deep-fried pork cutlet marinated in miso sauce. Most restaurants serve it atop a bed of rice as a miso katsu don and Washoku to Buta Miso Don Chibata (a mouthful, we know) offers some of the best. These thick slabs are savory and unctuous. What’s more, they come with a drizzle of miso sauce which makes them perfect for coating the fluffy white rice. The portions are incredibly generous with cutlet sizes that can be bigger than an entire hand and most bowls come with multiple pieces. Chinbata also has some great non-pork-based options and an enticing drinks bar.
This rustic izakaya with its floor seating and intimate booths is a great place to chill out while enjoying some sumptuous food. The menu showcases a variety of foreign dishes, some of which have a washoku twist. The goma-negi grilled chicken lunch plate makes for a yummy feed, as does their signature Watage Margherita pizza. Summon up that second stomach for a waffle dessert, the restaurant’s monthly recommendation will guide the way to it. More information on this restaurant can be found here.
6. Sun Dolce
Sun Dolce is Chichibu city’s fun and beach-themed ice cream shack. Expect rich ice creams as well as sorbets, plus other cold desserts, perfect for a hot day. Unlike other typical ice cream shops, Sun Dolce provides interesting flavors like calpis, pitaya and even some options based on local dishes like miso potato-flavored ice cream. Pro tip: Grab a couple of scoops of Ichiro’s Malts ice cream to enjoy while people watching on their outdoor deck.
7. Chichibu Asahiya
Fans of Ichiro’s Malts, the area’s world-renown brand of whiskey, need not fret. The region’s distillery, Chichibu Asahiya, is open and what’s more it’s well-stocked. Inside the cellar you’ll find a number of the brand’s global and domestic blends as well as Japanese single malt varieties. There’s more than enough in there to prepare for your next home party. Be sure to pick up a bottle or two, or some of the refreshing regional sake as they make great souvenirs for friends and family.
Where to Stay
From cozy Airbnbs to business hotels, Chichibu has accommodation to suit every traveler. One top recommendation is Chichibu Onsen Hananoya, a wonderful little ryokan situated just out of town in Arakawahino. Expect generous meals, complimentary sake and ice cream in the main area. There’s also lobby entertainment and even a chartered bus that takes guests on a nighttime illuminated tour of Chichibu Muse Park. Most of the rooms also come with their own rotenburo (open-air bath), perfect for those who prefer privacy while they soak. Due to Chichibu Onsen Hananoya’s location, it’s best that guests drive as it takes just 15 minutes from the center of Chichibu. Alternatively, public transport will get you there in slightly over 30 minutes, including some walking time.
For a unique accommodation experience, check out Chichibu Natural Farm City Noen. The hotel itself is perched on a hill, providing wonderful views of Chichibu city from its restaurant in addition to some of its rooms. Surrounding it are also beautiful walking paths that burst with cherry blossoms in spring. The hotel also has both Japanese and Western-style rooms to suit a variety of preferences. Depending on the season, guests can also book the hotel’s summer vegetable plan which comes with a special option, allowing guests to participate in harvesting the hotel’s very own on-site summer vegetables.
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