Quirky, outdoorsy, dreamy. Frozen waterfalls are just the start of this wonderland.
Saitama’s largest town, Chichibu, serves as a reminder that sometimes the simple life is best. While Saitama may not be as cosmopolitan as its sexy next-door neighbor Tokyo, this all-season, outdoorsy play area has got some undeniably unique sightseeing gems — with both culinary and natural icy spectacles in store.
During the summer months, go whitewater rafting in Nagatoro, camp and have a barbecue or hang out by the Arakawa River as the night falls for a glimpse of the fireflies. Come back to Nagatoro-machi for a mountain ropeway view of the changing autumn colors.
In spring, the hills at Hitsujiyama Park come alive with shibazakura, vibrant pink colors of moss phlox. While the area is worth a trip for photography alone, it has some cool outdoor activities.
Autumn is a wonderful time to hike the mountainous region, take in the changing color of leaves, and enjoy the ropeway. A top mountain for cloud-chasers is Mt. Kumotori. With an elevation of about 2,000 meters, it’s a great day trip from Tokyo as it is actually on the boundary of Tokyo, Saitama, and Yamanashi prefectures.
Once temperatures drop below freezing in winter, waterfalls become spectacular icicles. The area has a few spots for this, but one to travel to via bus is the “frozen waterfall” called Misotsuchi no Tsurara. You can explore this breathtaking icy wonderland and then go take a hot soak in the nearby Otaki hot springs.
Chichibu’s untouched nature plays a vital role in local gastronomy. The town is home to what is arguably eastern Japan’s most famous shaved ice. When temperatures soar in the summertime, this frozen treat from Asami Reizou is no stranger to lines with a wait time that rivals that of the most popular rides at Tokyo Disneyland.
What makes this shaved ice so special is its variety of naturally sourced flavors, additive-free syrups and the technique by which the ice is made — harvested in the winter from a nearby lake, cut into blocks and stored in a freezer until the warmer weather arrives.
The area is home to several other shaved ice shops, as well as a gelato café. Miso pork bowls and soba noodles are a great way to regain some stamina after a long day of outdoor activities.
Love Japan’s countryside? Explore more of its natural wonders.