Two hours from the largest metropolis in the world, and all hints of the city are gone. You’re in Chichibu, a little town in the mountains, full of nature, agriculturally-oriented, built on terraces of the Ara River. On the edge of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park, this beautiful area has relaxing onsen for luxurious bathing experiences and delicious regional cuisine.
The tastes of Chichibu include a menu connected to its regional characteristics. Farmers cultivate walnuts in abundance here, and chefs ground them and add them to dipping sauce for extra-delicious soba noodles made from buckwheat grown in nearby fields. Locally, miso adds flavor to pork as well as French fries. Pickled vegetables of this land make for delicious side dishes. Sake, whisky, wine, and beer are all made in these parts.
Highlights of Chichibu
Places with great natural beauty in Japan abound with shrines, and Chichibu excels with its top-ranked Mitsumine Shrine. Inside the national park and at 1100 m (3600 ft) in elevation, sometimes the shrine’s grounds are covered in mist. In these woods, there roam cute animals called serow, giant flying squirrels, and even black bears. There’s also Hashidate Cave with some interesting underground mineral formations, and the riverside icicles (Misotsuchi no Tsurara) that grow spectacularly out of porous rocks and are lit up at night. For the adventurous, Nagatoro Gorge offers rafting, river SUP, and even paragliding in a beautiful setting.
For a more cultivated natural scene, Hitsujiyama Flower Park blossoms in carpets of purple and pink shibazakura (moss phlox) in April. And if you’re visiting Chichibu in May, you’ll find rolling fields of gorgeous poppies and wonder if Claude Monet had traveled here for inspiration. Should it be that clouds roll in on your outdoor plans, the Meisen-kan offers insight into Japanese silk making, and the Festival Exhibition Hall has giant floats on display year-round, including those that tour the streets in the Chichibu Night Festival (Yomatsuri) each December 3.
But to truly get the most out of Chichibu’s natural environments is to get closer and experience some of the local activities. Try hand-making thick udon noodles, fishing or even rafting at Furusawa-en, a dynamic forest assault course at Forest Adventure Chichibu, a pottery workshop at Akari no Ie, or camping and free-climbing options at Yoshida Genkimura.
Chichibu has something for everything and represents a great retreat away from the metropolis, and not just because of the traditional sightseeing spots.