Chichibu’s “Icicles of Misotsuchi” and Nagatoro’s “Robai-en” Travel Plans!
Why not try visiting winter locations in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama Prefecture’s Chichibu? It’s a bit tricky to reach if you aren’t familiar with using bus lines, but this article can guide you there.
* Last update: January 22, 2018
The Icicles of Misotsuchi
This area is 3 hours away from Ikebukuro by bus or the Seibu Line. I’ve come to visit the back-country areas of Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. First off, I stopped to appreciate the artful ice formations!
In the winter, the Arakawa River’s water level drops and exposes the riverbed. Look at the size of the river in comparison to the person taking photos in this picture!
The spring water that seeps out of the rocks lining the river freeze in the winter cold.
The cold then creates countless icicles along the river. It’s a natural masterpiece, a “curtain of ice.”
Supposedly, in harsh winters, the icicle curtain can grow up to 50 meters wide and 8 meters tall! The best times to see them are mid-January through mid-February, the coldest parts of the year. The area is also illuminated on some nights, but no bus routes are active during that time, so if you’re unable to rent a car it may be difficult to get to the site.
Video on the Icicles of Misotsuchi
After going to see the artful ice formations, I moved on to Chichibu’s famous sightseeing location, Mt. Hodo, where wintersweet (robai) grows in Nagatoro.
You can get up to the summit of Mt. Hodo via a ropeway. Outside of the ropeway station on the mountain’s summit grows lots of wintersweet. Honestly, at a glance it looks underwhelming. From a distance, they look like dead trees. However!
Small yellow wintersweets were blooming, giving off a lovely sweet aroma.
Wintersweet flowers are small and delicate, looking like they’ve been carefully crafted out of wax. They’re nowhere as showy and beautiful as cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, but I’d love if you came to experience these pretty and fragrant flowers.
Around 3,000 wintersweet plants bloom all over the summit of Mt. Hodo, at an altitude of 497 meters above sea level. The best time to see them are from late January through early March.
Video on Robai-en
After coming all the way out to Nagatoro, it’d be a shame to not find a place to stay and spend a night in the area. There are plenty of activities to do the next day, like traveling down the Arakawa River in Nagatoro or picking strawberries in Chichibu!
This will make it easy: a planned-out day-trip! (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays)
1) 8:05 Departure – Seibu Ikebukuro Line, Ikebukuro Station
Departure from Platform 7. The train has 8 cars; the first 4 are for Nagatoro, and the latter 4 are for Mitsumine-guchi. Get on to the latter 4 (careful!). There is a restroom available on the train.
Your destination will be Chichibu Railway’s Mitsumine-guchi Station, so you can arrive in a straight shot. You can eat in the box seats on the train.
Around 9:38, when the train arrives at Ashigakubo Station, be sure to look out the left-side windows! You can see artificial icicles (made by spraying water with a hose). It’s a lovely sight to catch while the train is moving slowly.
2) 10:17 Arrival – Chichibu Railway’s Mitsumine-guchi Station
Bus stop is directly in front of the #1 ticket gate.
3) 10:35 Departure – Seibu Tour Bus to Mitsumine Shrine
The “Chichibu Free Ticket” does not work for this bus trip, so you must pay the fare (400 yen) when you get on the bus. You can also pay using PASMO and Suica cards.
4) 10:55 Arrival – Get Off at the “Misoba” Bus Stop
Bus only stops here during the “icicle” season. You can tell the driver you are going to see the “tsutsura” (icicles) for this stop.
≪ “Icicles of Misotsuchi” Tour ≫
5) 13:00 Departure – “Misoba” Bus Stop
Get on the Seibu Tour Bus going to “Seibu Chichibu Station.” On that route, get off at Mitsumine-guchi Station.
6) 13:20 Arrival – Mitsumine-guchi Station
7) 13:43 Departure – Going to “Kumagaya” by the Chichibu Railway
You do not need to purchase a ticket if you have the “Chichibu Free Ticket.”
8) 14:40 Arrival – Nagatoro Station
Next stop is 20 minutes away from the station, so walk quickly.
9) 15:00 Departure – Mt. Hodo Ropeway
Ropeway cars depart every half-hour (at :00 and :30).
Ropeway tickets can be purchased at a discount if you have the “Chichibu Free Ticket.”
Adult Round-Trip: 820 yen → 740 yen. Children Round-Trip: 410 yen → 370 yen.
10) 15:05 Arrival – Mt. Hodo Summit
≪ Exploring “Robai-en” ≫
11) 16:00 Departure – Mt. Hodo Ropeway
20 minute walk on foot. Walk quickly.
12) 16:25 Departure – Nagatoro Station
Using the same express train to Ikebukuro that you came in on, travel back to the Seibu Line’s Ikebukuro Station.
13) 18:32 Arrival – Ikebukuro Station
Key Point: Purchase the “Chichibu Free Ticket” (Adults 2320 yen, children 1180 yen) at Ikebukuro Station.
This ticket is valid for two consecutive days, so you can use it to stay overnight in Chichibu. It allows for unlimited rides on the Chichibu Railway between Mitsumine-guchi Station, Nogami Station, and Nagatoro Station, as well as round-trips between Ikebukuro Station, Ashigakubo Station, and Seibu Chichibu Station. It also gets you a discount on the Mt. Hodo Ropeway used on this trip and preferential treatment at certain shops in the area.
Buying the “Chichibu Free Ticket” for the itinerary laid out in this article will bring the cost of the trip down to 3140 yen, a savings of 820 yen. In addition, it saves you 80 yen on the ropeway, bringing the total savings to 900 yen.
Seibu Tour Bus – Timetable (January 1st through February 28th, 2017)
- A: Seibu Chichibu Sta.
- B: Mitsumine-guchi Sta.
- C: Misoba Bus Stop
- D: Mitsumine Jinjya shrine