For those who visit Tokyo thinking of having a day trip outside of Tokyo, many may consider going on a bus trip to Mt Fuji area or taking the train to Nikko. For a train ride of 1 hour 20 minutes away from Tokyo, you can also consider visiting this quaint little town in Chichibu, Saitama.
There are reasons why we keep coming back to Chichibu. After 5-6 visits, I realise what I love about this town is that different from other touristy towns, Chichibu is not an explicitly commercialised tourist spot except for the Seibu Chichibu Station area. You don’t see a lot of signboards or tourist promotion in different languages around the town. The shop owners and staff are very laid back and friendly. It makes you forget about the busy Tokyo life, and you can enjoy good food with a lot of nature.
I’m going to break up this write-up into 2 parts – one to introduce the spots to visit and another to introduce the places to enjoy the food!
How to go
There was a new express train called “Laview” launched in March 2019 that will bring you from Seibu Ikekuburo Station to Seibu Chichibu Station.
Though in future, the plan is to replace all current express “Red Arrow” trains with “Laview”, if you are interested to ride in this new train, you have to take note of the schedule (only in Japanese, but those highlighted in red text are Laview trains) these trains will run in.
Unfortunately, the seats are assigned automatically by the ticket machines, so if you happen to be seated against the pillars holding the curtains, there will be less “view” or no “view”… 😀
What to see
There are a couple of significant “touristy” spots but below are some spots recommended to cover for your day trip. Frankly speaking, I think it’s probably more realistic to visit these places in 2 days instead of 1 day.
Chichibu Shrine (秩父神社)
Chichibu Shrine is a Japanese shinto shrine, and from my observations of the ema (small wooden plates which visitors will write their wishes on), there are many who wish for academic achievement and success in examinations.
For those who have visited Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine will find the architectural style very familiar, as many colourful cravings of Chichibu Shrine are done by the same artists.
Contrary to the 3 monkeys in Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine which represent “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, the ones in Chichibu Shrine represent “see well, listen well, speak well”.
Chichibu Shrine hosts one of the most famous night festivals “Chichibu Yomatsuri” that always happens in early December. It is considered as a world cultural heritage event. Unfortunately, we missed the dates on 2-3 December this year but will try to make it next year!
From the shrine, you can walk along the streets for a time-travelling experience with many old buildings assigned as national heritage sites.
Cafe Paris (please excuse the google-translated English) is actually a restaurant! We have never thought it’s an operating restaurant until seeing the TV introduction of this place. 😛
There is another spot in Chichibu which you can take the train on Chichibu Railway from Chichibu station to Nagatoro station. (Note that Seibu Chichibu Station and Chichibu Station are different stations.)
Nagatoro River Boat Ride
The best way to enjoy Nagatoro is probably to have a boat ride down the river. For 1800JPY per pax, it’s a 30-minute boat ride which you can really enjoy a relaxing and slightly exciting time (due to fast waters at some points).
Unfortunately due to Typhoon no. 19 which happened a couple of months, the river area was flooded and closed for any visitors. Fingers crossed the area will be revived and open to visitors again.
Mt. Hodosan (宝登山)
The boat ride is not the only attraction at Nagatoro. There is Mt. Hodosan which you can visit in the same area. It is some distance to get to the bottom of the mountain from Nagatoro station so we took the free shuttle bus that comes in 15-minute intervals.
The shuttle bus dropped us off at the stop near Hodosan Ropeway station. There is still some slope to climb before reaching the station.
For 830JPY per pax, you can take the ropeway car to the top of Hodosan. This ropeway car looks very old school but can hold up to 50 passengers. There will be a staff to ride the same car as passengers and operate the system. I don’t think I want to imagine riding this for 5 minutes in a packed car.
At the top of Mt Hodosan, there is a Hodosan Rear Shrine and even a zoo for small animals!
Hodosan Rear Shrine (寳登山奥宮)
Hodosan Shrine (寳登山神社)
From the mountain top, we took the ropeway back down to the station, and walk a distance to Hodosan Shrine.
On the Chichibu Railway, if you have some time to spare, you can also drop off at this station called Wadoukuroya to visit a Shinto shrine that is famous for luck in wealth.
Hijiri Shrine (聖神社)
It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk from the station to the shrine. In case you haven’t realised, there is a lot of walking and climbing to do in Japan, so just make sure you come in a comfortable pair of shoes that can endure all these walking.
I thought the shrine looks pretty modest despite of the reputation of bringing in luck for money. There are actually many papers with written testimontials from previous visitors claiming that they have won big lottery tickets, clear their debts, or become millionaires. Let’s see if this will become true. 😛
That’s all for the places to visit! We only managed to cover all these spots in separate visits. It could be a very ambitious attempt to cover everything in a day. Not to forget in Part 2, I will introduce the food to enjoy in Chichibu, so stay tuned!