Just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo lies the charming local town of Chichibu in the Japanese countryside. Chichibu, in Saitama Prefecture, is blessed with abundant nature including mountains and rivers. As a result, Chichibu makes a pleasant day trip to escape from the busy Tokyo metropolis nearby. Especially people interested in hiking and Japanese shrines will enjoy exploring Chichibu, Japan.
It is easy to reach Chichibu from Tokyo by SEIBU Railway. Along the way, you can relax and gaze out at the breathtaking Japanese nature from the massive windows on the comfortable Laview Red Arrow Limited Express.
Getting a Taste of Japanese Culture from Chichibu Local Cuisine
One of the best ways to get to know a Japanese city is by tasting its local cuisine. In the case of Chichibu, locals especially like to make good use of miso.
What is Japanese miso? Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning that is mostly made out of fermented soybeans. The process uses salt and koji, which is a kind of fungus also used for making Japanese sake. After the process is over, miso becomes a thick paste that is used for a variety of Japanese dishes, including the popular miso soup that goes along with most Japanese meals.
Locals in Chichibu love to use the traditional Japanese miso seasoning over potatoes, pork, and a variety of other dishes. As a result, many local Chichibu dishes have a salty, sweet, and savory taste. You may come to Chichibu for the beautiful natural scenery, but the delicious local food makes this charming town hard to leave behind.
Chichibu Local Cuisine: Miso Potatoes
In Chichibu, one example of such a local soul food is miso potatoes. This favorite local treat is made by dipping potatoes in tempura batter and frying them. Then, the crispy Chichibu miso potatoes are dressed with sweet and salty Japanese miso sauce. Chichibu locals find miso potatoes irresistible and enjoy chomping down on them at least once a week. They either buy crispy Japanese miso potatoes from supermarkets or make them from home.
Chichibu Local Cuisine: Misoyaki Butadon
Misoyaki Butadon, also called buta miso don, is a local Chichibu soul food consisting of grilled pork slices that has been marinated in miso over Japanese rice. When visiting Chichibu, this misoyaki pork rice bowl is a must-try. Actually, Saitama Prefecture is famous for producing delicious pork. In fact, there are several luxury brands of pork that come from the region, so you know you’re in for a treat! Especially since Chichibu is in the mountains, the area has always had an abundance of wild boar.
The misoyaki pork rice bowl tends to come in large portions, so be come to Chichibu with an empty stomach! Though, after trying just one bit of this Chichibu soul food, you’ll have no trouble finishing is all in no time.
Chichibu Local Cuisine: Japanese Soba
Because Chichibu is not a rice-growing region, Chichibu is instead famous for its soba. In fact, there are many soba shops throughout the city of Chichibu. Soba is a popular soul food noodle made out of buckwheat. The dipping sauce that goes along with the buckwheat soba noodles is arguable just as important as the noodles themselves. Most local Chichibu soba shops have developed their own recipe, so be sure to try a variety and compare! Though soba is good enough to be enjoyed by itself, many local people in Chichibu order it together with the area’s other favorite soul food misoyaki butadon.
Chichibu Local Cuisine: Japanese Wild Honey
Though not exactly unique to Japanese cultural dishes, the wild honey collected in Chichibu causes quite a buzz among locals and visitors alike. Honeycombs are harvest from the forests of Chichibu, making it a very local flavor that can’t be found anywhere else. You may spot the jars of sweet wild honey stacked up at food stalls around Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture. Appropriately, they pop up during the Chichibu Spring Flower Festival. Sometimes there’s even a large hornet or two soaked in the honey jar! Though it looks scary, apparently locals believe that the hornet releases something into the honey to boost vitality!
Chichibu Local Specialty: Craft Whisky
Surprisingly, Chichibu is also famous for Japanese whisky, even though the Chichibu distillery by Ichiro’s Malt is Japan’s youngest. Ichiro’s Malts have earned the title of World’s Best in the Japanese category of the World Whiskey Awards. Moreover, it took the prize home for five consecutive years since 2007. Because the distillery is still small and independent, the whisky from Chichibu has an artisan appeal, attracting a lot of attention among whisky drinkers. Fans should definitely grab themselves a bottle of whisky when visiting Chichibu in Saitama, Japan.
Touring Chichibu Shrines in Saitama, Japan
Like many places in Japan, Chichubu Town is very walkable. As a result, many recommend walking off the calories from enjoying local Chichibu soul food while exploring. There is plenty to see on foot, like the historical “powerspot”, the Chichibu Shrine.
Chichibu Shrine was established ages ago and is one of the oldest shrines in the Kanto region. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo era, ordered the shrine to be reconstructed. A famous sculptor at the time, Hidari Jingoro, took on the task. He also worked on the Nikko Toshogu Shrine. He incorporated the same techniques and style. As a result, many carvings on the shrine pavilion are similar to the World Heritage Site in Nikko. That includes a parody the famous “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear no Evil” monkey trio. At Chichibu Shrine, the monkeys appear with their eyes, mouth, and ears open wide!