Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Chichibu area is a perfect day-trip destination to enjoy mountains, shrines, and the river, giving a taste of Japanese culture. Chichibu has various sightseeing spots, and Nagatoro is one of the must-see spots in the area, known for its strangely-shaped rocky river banks and river activities.
- Outline of Chichibu
- Nagatoro is a must-see in Chichibu
- Attractions in Nagatoro
- The way to get to Nagatoro
Outline of Chichibu
The tourist destination of Chichibu is actually the valley area surrounded by deep mountains of the Chichibu region in western Saitama Prefecture. The gateway to the Chichibu area is Seibu-Chichibu Station, about 77km from Ikebukuro, Tokyo, reachable in 80 minutes by limited express train.
Since ancient times, the mountains in the Chichibu have been a training place for Shugendo (mountain asceticism), where a shrine has built originally for mountain worship, and the surrounding area has become a hiking and sightseeing destination. In fact, Chichibu is rich in history and has old temples scattered in the area. During the Edo period (1600-1868), people visited those temples on pilgrimages, known today as “Chichibu Fudasho Pilgrimage.” In the late 19th century, Chichibu enjoyed prosperity from silk weaving. The old modern building in the town reminds the time of the good old days. The region’s prosperity also can be found in the traditional festivals registered as cultural heritage. For anime fans, Chichibu is the place to feel the atmosphere of the anime “Anohana: We Still Don’t Know the Name of That Flower ” as the story is set in a town there.
Nagatoro is a must-see in Chichibu
If you visit Chichibu for sightseeing, do not skip Nagatoro, the most scenic place and popular among attractions in Chichibu. Nagatoro is Chichibu’s premier scenic spot for tourists, so going to Chichibu almost means going to Nagatoro for sightseeing. The area of Nagatoro is about 13km from the downtown of Chichibu. Most people who visit Chichibu on a day trip take a leisurely ride on a local train and head to Nagatoro.
Attractions in Nagatoro
Nagatoro Iwadatami (長瀞岩畳 Tatami-mat-like rocks)
This scenic river bank has rocks eroded by the flow of the river, designated as a National scenic beauty and Natural monument of Japan.
From the Nagatoro Station, go over the railroad and through the alley with souvenir shops leading to the bank, where you will see a large stack of flat rocks that stretches for about 500m along the river.
Nagatoro Kawakudari (長瀞の川下り Boat riding)
Nagatoro’s popular attraction is definitely Kawakudari, a wooden boat riding down the Arakawa River through strangely-shaped rocks. There are two courses to choose from: Course A for a thrilling ride through rapids and Course B for a relaxing ride through a gentle current.
Boarding Tickets are available at the ticket window in front of the Iwadatami river bank. One thing to know is that the departing points differ from the courses. From the Iwadatami river bank, the ride you can take is Course B. The rough ride of Course A departs from Oyahanabashi 親鼻橋, and you can take a free shuttle bus to get there. Remember, the service may be canceled depending on the river conditions. You can check the schedule in advance on the official website.
Sakura viewing spot
A 20-minute walk north along Nagatoro Station takes you to a cherry blossom spot, a road lined with Sakura trees. The blooming season is from late March to early April, so keep it in mind a stop by if you plan a Nagatoro trip around that time of the year. FYI, the roads around here, including this cherry blossom viewing road, are liable to be congested by cars. Taking trains will be more comfortable than cars to get around Nagatoro.
Mt. Hoto (宝登山)
This 497-meter-high mountain is located in the Nagatoro area. Mt. Hoto has attractions such as a zoo and a plum blossom garden, and a ropeway runs to the top of the mountain. Mt. Hoto is likely a mountain for sightseeing rather than hiking.
Mt. Hoto is about a 20-min walk from Nagatoro Station. Go straight to the road in front of the station toward the end, then go up the sloping road on the left, and you will see the ropeway station. From the Nagatoro station, a free shuttle bus may be serviced between the ropeway station.
Hotosan-jinja Shrine (宝登山神社)
Hotosan-jinja, vividly decorated with detailed carvings, is a shrine at the foot of Mt. Hotosan, and they both should be visited together. The shrine is located at the end of the straight road from the Nagatoro Station. The left slope is the road leading to the ropeway station of Mt. Hotosan.
Chichibu-jinja Shrine (秩父神社)
The Chichibu-jinja is the shrine that worships the chief god of the Chichibu region. The shrine pavilion is said to have been donated by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun who founded the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. The main hall has a wooden carved blue dragon by legendary sculptor Hidari Jingoro, best known for his carvings at Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Chichibu-jinja is also worth visiting to see Jingoro’s sculptures.
Chichibu-jinja is well-known for the large night festival called “Chichibu Yomatsuri,” one of Japan’s three largest traditional festivals. The night festival of Chichibu is annually held on the 3rd of December. During the festival, gorgeous floats are pulled around the town, and fireworks provide a shiny backdrop to the floats.
Chichibu-jinja is a 3-minute walk from Chichibu Station, or, 15-minutes from Seibu-Chichibu Station. Though it is a bit further from Seibu-Chichibu Station, it will be nice to walk and see the old streets along the way. A suggestion is to walk down the old street on the way back to Seibu-Chichibu Station after visiting the shrine.
Hitsujiyama Park (羊山公園)
This park has a spacious Moss phlox garden on a gently sloping hill of 17,600 square meters, filled with its flowers during the season from mid-April to late May. During the blooming season, admission is charged. (300 JP Yen) Hitsujiyama Park is about 20 minutes on foot from Seibu-Chichibu Station.
Facilities for the tourists who want to stop by
Seibu-Chichibu Station, the gateway into the Chichibu area, has a resort facility Matsuri No Yu comprising a one-day spa (hot springs), shopping floor, and dining section. The Matsuri No Yu also has a food court so that even first-time visitors to Chichibu will have no trouble finding a place to eat. The shopping floor offering local specialties of Saitama prefecture is a place to drop by while waiting for the train back to Tokyo.
Matsuri No Yu also has a standing bar that offers quality local sake and the premium whisky Ichiro’s Malt, both from Chichibu. Chichibu is known for its sake and the distillery of Ichiro’s Malt, which is hard to come by even in Japan. Why not visit Chichibu and have a chance to try a taste?
The way to get to Nagatoro
There are two ways to get there from Tokyo.
Using Seibu Railway from Ikebukuro
From Ikebukuro by Seibu Railway with one(or two) transfer
From Seibu Ikebukuro Station, take the “Limited Express Laview” bound for Seibu-Chichibu Station, the last stop you get off (about an 80-min ride). Exit the Seibu-Chichibu Station, walk 5 minutes to get to Ohanabatake Station on the Chichibu Railway, where you take a train and head to Nagatoro Station at the 7th stop on the line (approx. 25 minutes).
The Laview train requires a limited express ticket (reserved seat) to board. Since many hikers use the train on weekends, booking a seat in advance is advisable. On the 3rd of December of the night festival, prior booking for seats there and back must be essential.
Seibu-Chichibu Station is also reachable by express by way of Hanno Station. The express train for Hanno requires no extra ticket for a reserved seat, but you need to change trains at Hanno and take a train bound for Mitsumine that will be a 1 hour and 50 minutes ride. The total travel time to Nagatoro Station will be 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Using JR from Ueno
From Ueno by JR train with one transfer
From Ueno Station, take the JR Line to Kumagaya Station (about 1 hour), then take the Chichibu Railway to Nagatoro Station, the 15th stop, about a 50-min ride. Taking this train takes you more time than the Seibu train, but it can be a scenic ride along the way for Nagatoro. If you are a visitor to Japan with a JAPAN RAIL PASS, you can save time and money by taking the Joetsu Shinkansen from Ueno or Tokyo Station to Kumagaya Station.
Unfortunately, the JAPAN RAIL PASS is not valid on the Chichibu Railway. However, the train on Chichibu Railway runs on a scenic route. With a reservation, you can take a seat on the special locomotive “SL Paleo Express” that runs on weekends, which will be an attraction on your Chichibu trip.
Nagatoromachi Tourist Association
Chichibu QR Travel Guide
SL Paleo Express
SEIBU Railway Co.,LTD
SEIBU Railway MATSURI NO YU
Chichibu Matsuri Hall