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Chichibu Night Festival

Hi how are you? Today’s topic is Chichibu Night Festival which was rich in pageantry was held last night on Dec3, 2018 that gave me awful excitement to be shared with you.

And I’d like to report you for your information if you have a chance to visit there next year.

What’s the city of Chichibu like?

Chichibu is a city in Saitama Prefecture that is known for its impressive shrines and beautiful nature including mountains that provide for hiking opportunities.

Chichibu Night Festival

The town’s biggest annual event is the Chichibu Night Festival that takes place every December and is ranked among the top three festivals featuring floats alongside Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and the Takayama Matsuri.

The forested mountains surrounding the town has for many centuries been an important center of mountain worship, with shrines existing today that continue these ancient traditions.

Reached in just 90 minutes by train from central Tokyo, today Chichibu attracts many visitors who wish to escape from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Direct “Red Arrow” limited express trains require about 90 minutes to get from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station to Seibu Chichibu Station. Seat reservations are mandatory. The one way fare is 1480 yen including express charge.

What’s Chichibu Night Festival (Chichibu Yomatsuri) like?

The Chichibu Night Festival is the festival of Chichibu Shrine in Chichibu, just 90 minutes from central Tokyo. It is held every year on December 2 and 3, with the main action taking place on December 3.


Chichibu Shrine

The Chichibu Night Festival is considered one of Japan’s top three festivals to feature floats which are ornately decorated with lanterns, tapestries and gilded wood carvings and are accompanied by drum and flute music.

The festival’s other attraction is its fireworks display, which lasts almost two and a half hours and gives you the rare opportunity to enjoy Japanese fireworks during winter.


floats and fireworks display

Additionally, the streets are lined with stands selling festival foods and amazake (sweet rice wine) to combat the cold December night.

The main events of the Chichibu Festival take place on December 3. In the afternoon and early evening, the six floats are displayed in their respective neighborhoods and at Chichibu Shrine, before they are being pulled through the streets of Chichibu towards the city hall from around 19:00.


the float weighing 10 tons (ab’t 20,000 pounds) to be pulled up on an upward slope

The climax takes place on the plaza in front of the city hall, when one float after the other is pulled up the slope onto the plaza and they all line up.

From 19:30 to 22:00 a long, spread out fireworks display is held, which can be seen from many places around town.

The main action of the festival ends around 22:00, allowing it festival goers to catch the last trains back into Tokyo. The town of Chichibu itself has only limited accommodation options.

Due to the festival’s popularity, it gets very crowded, especially along the parade route and around the plaza in front of the city hall.

For good views of the action on the plaza, it is advised to get there very early to secure a spot, reserve seats in advance or content yourself with viewing it on the big screen in front of Seibu Chichibu Station.

For those that are unable to get to the festival, the Chichibu Festival Hall adjacent to Chichibu Shrine gives a taster of the Night Festival and other festivals in the Chichibu region.

Access

The Chichibu Night Festival takes place in central Chichibu, just outside Chichibu and Seibu-Chichibu Stations. Seibu Railway and Chichibu Railway are running additional trains on December 3.

How to get to and around Chichibu

Two other attractions in Chichibu

I’d like to introduce two other attractions in Chichibu when you visit there.

One is Mitsumine Shrine


Mitsumine Shrine’s ornate Zuishinmon gate

Mitsumine Shrine is an atmospheric shrine at the summit of Mount Mitsumine in Chichibu. A popular center of mountain worship, the shrine’s forested grounds are home to a range of highly ornate buildings.

Today, the shrine can be comfortably reached by bus or car, but it also remains accessible as part of a hiking trail network that connects Mount Mitsumine with the valley below and neighboring peaks and valleys.

At the entrance to the shrine grounds stands a triple torii gate (mitsu-torii), a very rare style of torii. In front of it are two stone wolves instead of the stone dogs (koma inu) usually flanking shrine entrances.

Mitsumine Shrine is a relatively rare shrine that worships Japanese wolves, a now-extinct animal that has been revered as a guardian against misfortune.

To the left of the torii gate, visitors will find a small treasure hall with exhibits pertaining to the history of the shrine including information on wolves, wolf pelts and documents focusing on the imperial family and its connection to the shrine.


Some of the shrine’s elaborate carvings

One of the shrine’s defining features are the intricate carvings found on many of its buildings, especially on the Zuishinmon Gate and the offering hall.

The cravings depict everything from creatures to flowers in vivid colors that contribute to a level of opulence within the complex that is relatively unique in Japan and is seen only at another handful of establishments including Nikko’s Toshogu Shrine.

Another place not to miss on the shrine grounds is a small pavilion that looks out over the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Furthermore, there are also various smaller shrines on the grounds that are dedicated to a variety of other prominent gods. Adjoining the shrine are a Japanese inn and the Mitsumine-jinja Kounkaku hot spring bath that is open to the public.


Pavilion looking out on the surrounding landscape

Access

By bus
Take a bus from Seibu-Chichibu Station and alight at the final stop, Mitsumine-jinja (75 minutes, 930 yen one way). Using the same bus route, it is also possible to board the bus from Mitsumineguchi Station to Mitsumine-jinja (55 minutes, 670 yen one way).

On foot
To hike up to the shrine from the base of the mountain, take a bus to the Owa bus stop (35 minutes, 560 yen from Seibu-Chichibu Station or 10 minutes, 310 yen from Mitsumineguchi Station) where the trailhead is located. There are buses every 1-2 hours. The predominantly dirt trail winds up the mountain through forest and is and is relatively steep and rocky. The trail takes around three hours to ascend and requires proper footware.

How to get to Mitsumine Shrine and around it

The other is Hitsujiyama Park


The park attracts many visitors, especially when the flowers are in bloom

Hitsujiyama Park is a park in Chichibu, known for its beautiful moss pink fields that typically come into bloom around late April to early May and attract droves of visitors.

The Hill of Pink Moss fields are located at the southern end of the park and have multiple types of moss pink (or shibazakura) spread over the undulating fields to give them hues of pink, purple and white.

The flowers have been planted strategically to make colorful patterns that make for quite the display.

Access
Hitsujiyama Park is accessed in a 15-20 minute walk from Seibu-Chichibu Station.

How to get to the Park and around Chichibu

I hope you could be enjoying there in Chichibu, thanks.

About the author

立 資樺騎(Shigeki Ryu)