Speaking of tourist destinations on the Seibu Railway network, Chichibu and Kawagoe are by far the most well known. In particular, Chichibu has been gaining popularity in recent years on the back of traditional and social media exposure. In this series of articles we will show you how we explored Chichibu by following Seibu Railway's suggested itinerary. Join us and discover Chichibu!
Our first stop was "Chichibu Meisen Exhibition Hall". The building used to be an industrial site and is now a museum for "Chichibu Meisen", a high quality silk fabric known for its daring designs and brilliant colors. The textile is officially designated as a Japanese traditional craft and yet it's quite practical and modern fashionable. Here you can pose for a memorable picture wearing beautiful Meisen textile, or try your hands on silk dyeing. (Reservation required)
Chichibu Meisen Exhibition Hall
Admission: 200 yen
It's about time for lunch, and let's try the local specialty soba noodles! We had pork soba and sesame dip soba at "Maruta", a soba restaurant right across the street from Chichibu Meisen Exhibition Hall. Do ask for the free soba soup after you finished the noodle. You can drink it as served or mix it with the dip sauce. I was told it's good for the skin!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sobadokoromaruta/
The historic Chichibu Shrine is the main venue for Chichibu's Kawase Festival and Night Festival. The shrine is characterized with many colorful decorative sculptures, including the "three monkeys" that reminds people of its famous counterpart in Nikko Toshogu Shrine. Moreover, make sure to check out those creative anime “Emas” (small wooden plaque on which worshippers write their wishes) inspired by the animation film "Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day” and "The Anthem of the Heart".
Website: http://www.chichibu-jinja.or.jp (Japanese only)
Chichibu's summer festival (Kawase Festival) and winter festival (Night Festival) takes place in July and December respectively. For those who missed the festive seasons, visit Chichibu Festival Museum and experience the charm of the festival through various interactive exhibits. Best of all, the video clips shown on the second floor are available in Japanese, Chinese, English, and Korean. It was so impressive that I bet whoever has watched it would make up his or her mind to come back again and experience the festival first hand!
Chichibu Festival Museum
Hours: 9:00~17:00 (April~November); 10:00~17:00 (December~March)
Admission: 410 yen
Website: http://www.chichibu-matsuri.jp (Japanese only)
Making good Japanese Sake requires high quality water. Blessed with the clear subterranean water flowing from nearby mountains, "Bukou Brewing" boasts an extensive lineup of sake products and offers tax-free shopping for foreign tourists. If you understand some Japanese language at least, do make a reservation for a free sake tasting and brewery tour.
It's about time to go back to Tokyo and we started to walk toward Seibu Chichibu Station through the Banba Street in front of Chichibu Shrine. Among the many stylish cafes and household zakka shops we discovered along the retro feeling kinda street, we were most impressed with the collaboration between a modern bagel bakery and an old shop called Yasudaya.
Get a minced pork cutlet at Yasudaya and bring it to the bakery to make it a bagel sandwich. Yummy and innovative! It is such tiny creative stuff that brings vigor and tourists to town!
Last but not least, shibazakura (moss phlox) bloom from mid April to early May in Chichibu. So why not visit Chichibu for a casual flower viewing trip if you're visiting in Tokyo in spring!