The Icicles of Chichibu
Hi! I am Matthew Komljenovic, I study at Saitama University and love to travel, and make friends.
Winter in Japan is not a very good time to leave the house, but there are a few reasons why you should. Most have heard about the Sapporo Ice Sculpture Festival, which runs in Hokkaido each year, but reservations are usually very difficult to make and very costly when you do. For those that missed out on the Sapporo Ice Festival or are just looking to see some ice on a budget, the icicles of ChiChiBu is without doubt the best place to do it. Just two hours from Tokyo, in three different locations, naturally formed icicles have formed over plants, rock and cliff surfaces, with an unnaturally aesthetic appearance. Because of this, thousands of people travel far to Chichibu to see these icicles. The icicles are far apart, so it is recommended to drive between them, but all are accessible by public transport and some have scenic hikes around them for those feeling a bit more adventurous. The icicles are excellent date spots, and many couples were sighted when I walked through them. Being located in the beautiful, isolated Chichibu district, means that there are a lot more activities that can be explored as well, such as natural onsens and a river boat toar nearby at Nagatoro.
Icicles of Onouchi
The icicles of Onouchi are about a 30-minute drive west of central Chichibu. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance from which it is a short walk before you reach the icicles. Before the icicles though there is a small locally run market selling fresh produce, some freshly made hot food as well as a free cup of amazake. From mid January to mid February every year, locals create and maintain these icicles that hang in this small but steep valley. A suspension bridge allows for a unique and exciting view of the display. On Saturday nights from sundown til 20:00, the icicles also become illuminated. Personally I thought this was the greatest icicle display out of the three, which is why I wrote about it first.
Admission Fee 200 yen
Opening 8:00 – 16:00
Address Kawarasawa, Ogano, Chichibu District, Saitama Prefecture 368-0113
Icicles of Misotsuchi
The Icicles of Misotsuchi are a 40-minute drive south-west of central Chichibu. These icicles form naturally along the Arakawa river as the water level drops. This exposes the riverbed, which is what we walked along to view the icicles. Being in this small, secluded pocket of the river with the gentle sounds of water running past you makes for a peaceful and relaxing experience. The colder it gets, the larger the icicles grow so the best time to visit is mid January to mid February. On some nights, there is also an illumination display. The walkway is around 200 metres, so it does not take long to complete. These icicles are long and pointy, so those wanting to see a stalactite sort of icicle should come here.
Admission Fee 200 yen
Opening 8:00 – 17:00
Address 4066 Ōtaki, Chichibu-shi, Saitama-ken 369-1901
The Ashigakubo Icicles
Just a short 25 minute drive from central Chichibu, the Ashigakubo Icicles are conveniently located close to the Ashigakubo station, meaning you can also take a train here. With a roadside parking lot available near the entrance, it’s just a short stroll up to purchase tickets and into the icicle display. Of the three icicle displays we went to, Ashigakubo was the biggest. These icicles are man-made by spraying water over the trees resulting in all sorts of different icicle formations. A short but thrilling trail leads you up and around the icicle-covered valley. Towards the end of the trail, there is a sitting area surrounded by icicles where you can enjoy a free cup of hot amazake while you take in this stunning view. On weekend evenings the icicles are also illuminated. These icicles were small but round in structure, which is very unique and different to other icicles which are more common.
Admission Fee 300 yen
Opening 9:00 – 17:00
Address Ashigakubo, Yokoze, Chichibu District, Saitama Prefecture 368-0071