My friends and I went to Chichibu at the start of October. One of us found out about the Seibu Railway pass and decided to visit Chichibu since it was close and admittedly quite budget-friendly. That and the weather was perfect for touring then!
Chichibu is a city in Saitama. It is known for its many shrines and beautiful mountain scenery and hiking trails. Also, since it’s only about 90-minutes from Tokyo by train, it’s a popular day-trip for people who want to get out of the city.
We met up at Ikebukuro Station at 9:00 a.m. and purchased our one-day tickets at a booth right next to the Seibu Ikebukuro Line entrance. There were staff who could speak English and offered assistance in a nice and timely manner. It was very easy to understand and completely no hassle.
Limited Express LaView
After receiving our tickets, we boarded the Limited Express LaView train bound for Chichibu. The entire train ride took around an hour and a half. It was very interesting seeing the city fade into the countryside. Coming from real estate, I was amused by the architecture of some houses as we went deeper into the countryside as well.
As with most limited express train seats, they were moveable and very comfortable. I was really, really satisfied with the experience and honestly kind of want to go back to Chichibu just to ride the LaView again!!
Seibu Chichibu Station
Arriving at Seibu Chichibu Station, we had to walk to a neighboring station five minutes away to get to Nagatoro, where we planned to do some activities.
It was only a short distance, but I was thankful they had big signs like the ones above to keep tourists from getting lost on their way.
One lesson our group learned right away was to always check timetables.
You don’t really think about them when you’re in Tokyo because there’s always a train every five minutes or so, but in far-off places like Chichibu–trains can tend to come only twice or three times every hour.
Another thing I learned was that local train stations don’t take IC Cards. This might be common sense for people in the countryside, but just something I only realized after I got there.
The train ride to Nagatoro took around 30 minutes. Once we got there, the actual place was very easy to navigate and wander around.
We headed over to the tourist center and bought our tickets for our first planned activity–river rafting. I’m not sure if this was something planned by the area, but we also received ¥1,000 worth of gift certificates for use around the area. I was very happy and made sure to make the most out of them later in the day once we were shopping.
Our first activity was rafting. We waited around ten minutes to board a bus going up to the start of the path. It was nice to see the autographs from celebrities and some of the local delicacies for sale!
The actual boat ride was very smooth and only took around 10-15 minutes! I was expecting to get a lot more soaked than I did, but luckily the tide was low so our didn’t have to dry off that much after.
The view after rafting was also very beautiful. It’s nice to experience nature every once in a while, especially when you’re used to being in a busy city like Tokyo all the time…
Heading up the trail after rafting, there were some local shops conveniently located on the way to the station. My friends and I got some senbei and side dishes to give to people back home!
For lunch we had pork miso rice bowls! I know I should’ve checked but I think Nagatoro or Chichibu in general is famous for miso? There were a lot of miso-flavored dishes around the place too, but this pork rice bowl was definitely unforgettable.
Hills leading to the ropeway
After lunch, we set off to trek up the hill leading up the ropeway. They were much, much steeper than I thought and we were all heaving by the time we got to the entrance. I recommend renting a bicycle or car if you hate sweating as much as I do!
Mt. Hodo is not the tallest peak in Chichibu, but it offers one of the best viewpoints of the Chichibu area, and of course, there’s a ropeway to get to the summit. Also, at 497.1 meters, Mt. Hodo is not as tall as the 634-meter high Tokyo Skytree. However, Hodosan is taller than the highest observation deck of Tokyo Skytree, which is 450 meters off the ground. (insaitama.com)
Because we went on a Monday, there were only a few people at the Hodosan Ropeway. It sets out every 30 minutes or so, so we had time to cool down before getting on.
The ride to the summit was peaceful. Like I mentioned, there weren’t a lot of tourists so we got to sit the entire ride. In retrospect, I should have stood inside to get a better view of the mountains; but the view was very beautiful even seated!
At the summit, there was a restaurant (albeit closed), a zoo, and shrine amongst other attractions. We kind of missed out because we went on a Monday, so I think visiting on another day would be best if you actually want to see everything!
After we descended, we were pretty much exhausted and hungry again after all the walking we did. So we stopped by a shaved ice place before going home.
I ordered kinako shaved ice with tsubuan! The waiters told us to pour the syrup little by little but I think I poured too much because I ended up with too much ice in the end. Oh well! It was very, very good though! Highly recommended!
Our last stop was a senbei store right across the station. This was where I used up the gift certificates we got!
The nice storekeepers told us that they carried over 80 flavors of senbei, mostly of different kinds of miso. I bought mostly souvenirs for friends and family back in Tokyo, but got to taste pepper-flavored senbei one of my friends bought on the train back. I can’t say why but local senbei tastes so much better than the factory kind!
All in all, we finished our trip at around 4 p.m.
Chichibu was a nice break from the constant hustle and bustle in Tokyo! It’s only a 90-minute train ride from Ikebukuro Station so it won’t be a problem for a quick day trip if you can’t be gone for too long.
Seibu Railway has a dedicated webpage available in English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese , and Korean here.
Have you been to Chichibu? Or is it a place on your To-Go list? If you have recommendations in Saitama or other places near Tokyo, please let us know in the comments below!
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Lead photo: Chichibu City, Saitama via iStock