As more and more people realise that Japan is not a country you can only visit once, day-trips outside of major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo are being researched now more than ever – especially during return trips to this wildly exciting country.
Unlike many other countries, even suburbs situated right next to each other in these gloriously populated cities offer different experiences, especially to foreigners. With this in mind, you can imagine what a simple day trip that’s a few hours outside of the main cities will entail.
Chichibu is one such day trip. Located only 90-minutes on the train from Tokyo, here, you’ll be able to experience what a city rich in cultural and natural attractions can offer. During various times of the year, there are major celebrations that happen right in this region, all of which draw crowds of thousands there to celebrate and admire the beauty of it all.
Whilst it’s still relatively unknown to foreigners, Chichibu’s legendary Night festival (which happens every December) is considered one of the top three celebrations across Japan, alongside Kyoto’s Gion Festival and the Takayama festival.
If you’re planning to visit this city, we recommend allocating at least an entire day to truly make the most of it.
How To Get To Chichibu from Tokyo
From Ikebukuro station, take the Seibu Ikebukuro ‘Red Arrow’ Line (Limited Express) towards Seibu Chichibu. This will take 90-minutes, and cost 1,500 yen. You will need to reserve a seat when you purchase this ticket. Check out the website Hyperdia for train times.
If you’ve planned out a proper itinerary and realise you’re going to want to thoroughly explore the area, then maybe the Seibu 1-Day Pass is something you should consider. Purchased through Klook, you can choose to pay 1,000yen for the 1-Day pass that will allow you to enjoy unlimited train travel on the Seibu Line (excluding the Tamagawa line), meaning you can hop on and off any station along the line for a full 24-hours! If you’d like to also visit Nagatoro, you can upgrade your ticket to the 1,500 pass and include a fantastic trip to Nagatoro if you want.
Now let’s see what are the best things to do in Chichibu!
Hitsujiyama Park during Spring
One of the best time to visit Chichibu would be during late April to early May, when Hisujiyama Park becomes an absolute dynamite flower park. Known for its beautiful moss pink shibazakura, the Hill of Pink Moss fields attracts literally thousands of people every day to its gorgeous expansive fields of various pink hue flowers.
The gardeners here, they know what they’re doing. Strategically planting different types of shibazakura around the park, every year they amaze with their incredibly aesthetic display of fresh blooms. From families who just want to have a good time, to couples looking for a romantic date idea, to photographers who want to capture the beauty that is unique to Japan, this flower festival is one that shouldn’t be missed!
- Address: 6360 Omiya, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0023, Japan
- Access: From Seibu-Chichibu Station, the park is located only 15 to 20-minutes away on foot.
- Price: 300 yen
- Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Nagatoro River Cruises
Imagine cruising along a scenic river in Japan in an old-school wooden boat, looking at mountains in the distance, thousands of trees in the foreground, and gliding along the edges of detailed rock formation – all whilst floating on water that is so still, you can see your clear reflection in it. That’s exactly what the cruise along the Arakawa River within the Nagatoro region is like.
This activity is popular amongst families looking for an activity that everyone can enjoy, as well as couples who are looking for a romantic activity. The most popular time to go on this river cruise is during mid to late November, when the famous Japanese koyo period is happening and you get to cruise amongst thousands of golden colour foliage along the way. The sight is quite spectacular!
- How To Book: You can rock up at the operator’s office at Nagatoro Station on the day and make a reservation for a spot.
- Access: From Chichibu, take the Chichibu Railway to Nagatoro Station (20-minutes, 470 yen).
- Hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm
- Price: 1,800 yen
Ichiro’s Whiskey Distillery
If you’re a whiskey aficionado, then a trip to Ichiro’s Whiskey Distillery is an absolutely must – no question about it. Ichiro Akuto is known as the heart and soul of Chichibu. He rightfully a celebrity in the world of brewery, having churned out the finest blends of single-malt whiskey whose reputations have surpassed national borders.
One interesting fact about this distillery is that its blends are influenced by the local climate. In summer, it’s incredibly hot and humid, but in winter, the cold is extreme.
There isn’t a way to organise a tour of the distillery online, so if you’d like a chance at this premium experience, please organise with the owners beforehand. You may either contact their number or try and connect with them on Facebook.
- Address: 49 Midorigaoka, Chichibu, Saitama 368-0067, Japan
- Access: From Chichibu Station, you will need to catch a taxi for 20 to 25-minutes. From Seibu-Chichibu Station, you will need to catch the train for 25 to 27-minutes.
- Contact Number: 0494-62-4601
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChichibuDistillery
Visit the Various Shrines in the Region
Most foreigners wouldn’t know, but Chichibu is an area where many Japanese locals go to visit the shrines at. Below are the two most popular:
Located at the top of Mount Mitsumine, this gorgeous Shinto shrine is quite a sight to behold. It’s amongst one of the most popular places for mountain worship, and is protected by two stone wolves instead of dogs flanking the shrine entrance. To extend on this wolf worship idea, you will find a small hall that displays information on the history of the shrine which includes information on wolves, wolf pelts, and documents on the imperial family. Unfortunately, wolves are now extinct in Japan.
Some things you should look out for at this shrine include the detailed decorations on the buildings themselves, the small pavilion overlooking the surrounding mountains, and the smaller shrines on the ground-level that worship other gods.
- Access: from Seibu-Chichibu Station, take the bus to Mitsumine-jinja. This will take 75-minutes and cost 930 yen one-way.
- Hours: 6:30am – 5:00pm
A visit to this shrine is imperative, maybe not because of its grand nature, but rather for its undeniable convenience, being located only minutes away from the station. It’s the most popular time of the year would be during the December Chichibu Night Festival, however, you can visit it during any time of it year. It’s said to be over 1000 years old, and to this day, displays an impressive display of intricate carvings all along the main hall which can be admired for days.
Access: It’s quite literally outside of Chichibu Station, or a 10 to 15-minute walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station.
Chichibu Night Festival
This glorious Night Festival in Chichibu, regarded as one of the greatest festivals in Japan, is held every year during December 2nd and 3rd. It’s a massive festival and draws on the efforts of hundreds of locals to pull it off. From massive and intensely decorated festival floats, to synchronized drummers and an impressive display of fireworks, this festival has got it all.
What should you expect when attending this festival? Well, what we would recommend is rocking up to the float route early, because people actually camp for hours to ensure they get the best position to view the details of the floats as they pass by. You will see the sides of the roads quickly fill up as the day goes by – it becomes very crowded!
If you want to get in on the action but at the same time balk at the idea of being squashed within a crowd, you can watch the festivities via a massive screen at Seibu Chichibu station.
As with almost all Japanese festivals, feast with your eyes and your belly as there will be plenty of street food offerings here for you to sample – make sure you get your hands a serving of amazake (sweet rice wine), a staple at Japanese winter celebrations! The culmination of this festival happens on the night of the 3rd, when the six major floats do their highly anticipated parade.
Access: The night festival happens in central Chichibu, just outside of Chichibu and Seibu-Chichibu stations. You will also notice that there are extra trains running to these stations during this period.
If you think a trip to Chichibu is not something that kids would enjoy, think again! Home to the Moominvalley Park, which has only recently opened up in early 2019, this theme park has made a splash in the world of kid’s entertainment. This theme park is the absolute first one outside of Finland, and offers a fantastic day of exploring different zones that have been set up.
Here, you will be able to experience free entertainment such as the outdoor theatre where shows feature the main characters, a museum about the various Moomin characters, an outdoor playground, and small landmarks to take photos with.
You can also pay an additional fee to experience attractions such as tours of the Moominhouse, Little My’s Attraction, the Oshun Oxtra Theatre, and the Hobgoblin’s Zipline! There are also various dining and shopping options within this theme park. Be warned, if you’re planning to just visit Chichibu over one day, you might spend the entire time here!
- Address: 431-3-58 Miyazawa, Hanno, Saitama 357-0001, Japan
- Access: From Ikebukuro, take the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line to Hanno Station. This will take 50-minutes and cost 470 yen. From Seibu-Chichibu, take the Seibu-Chichibu train to Hanno Station. This will take you 50-minute and cost 410 yen.
- Hours: 10:00am – 10:00pm
- Price: 1,500 yen.
Chichibu is probably not one of those places that would immediately come to mind when figuring out a proper exciting itinerary for your next trip to Japan. However, as you can see it’s definitely one of those trips that you’ll experience and can’t imagine why it’s not as popular as the rest. It’s got a plethora of different activities to enjoy, it’s situated oh-so-close to Tokyo, and it’s different from the usual trip out to the mountains. We highly recommend this little day trip during Spring and early December, but of course, you can enjoy it in all its simplicity and beauty any time of the year.
PS: For more info about Tokyo and its surroundings, you can read these posts: Tokyo Travel Blog.