Chichibu’s Natural Ice Sculpture
If you’re looking for a day adventure to get your nature fix during the winter months the Misotsuchi no Tsurara 三十槌の氷柱 (Icicles of Misotsuchi) could be just the ticket. Located in a remote pocket in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture these natural forming icicles take shape along the banks of the Arakawa River. The icicles are created by spring water trickling over the rocks in turn forming ice pillars with exceptional clarity thanks to the purity of the water. The pillars start forming in early January and depending on the season peak between mid-January to mid-February. Shoot for a weekday to avoid the crowds – on the day I visited there was only three of us who arrived on the first morning bus.
There are two other ‘tsurara’ spots in Chichibu, Ashigakubo no Tsurara あしがくぼの氷柱 and Onouchi Hyakkei Tsurara 尾ノ内百景氷柱 however these icicles are made artificially for tourism by locals, presumably to steal some thunder from the main attraction and revitalise their communities. If you come by car (last bus back to Seibu-Chichibu Station leaves at 16:54) the icicles are lit up in the evening turning them into glistening shades of pink, green, red and white symbolising the four seasons of Chichibu.
Access: from Seibu-Chichibu Station take a bus bound for Mitsumine-jinja and get off at the Misotsuchi bus stop (43-minute bus ride). The lower viewing area is a 5-minute walk down a steepish slope from the bus stop. Open daily (8:00 – 17:00) January 5 through February 17 (2019). Illumination: January 12 through February 11. Entry fee 200 yen.
Beautiful pics David. Are those current, meaning recent pics? I have another place to visit courtesy of you! Thanks as always.
Thanks for that Tim. Very recent pics, I made the trip out this past Tuesday. When I left Tokyo in the morning the skies were clear but approaching Chichibu it started snowing which really added to the ambience of the place. On weekends, I understand it can get quite crowded.
Thanks for your speedy reply.
Hearing the sad news about the Misotsuchi no Tsuara closing early due to the seasons being off is so disheartening to hear. If my friends and I still decide to go ahead and travel there, do you think it will be worthwhile for the views?
It’s hard to predict what the views will be like but personally I’d probably wait for early spring when the new green (foliage) starts appearing. Having said that the Mitsumine Shrine is worth checking out no matter what time of year it is…
I am trying to combine this with a hike. Myohogadake seems reasonably close as does Wakayama/Shiraishiyama/ Shiroishi (so many different names and spellings) at 2036 meters which I am guessing is snow covered now. Since I will be solo, don’t want to do anything dangerous or covered in snow. Any suggestions? Thinking about next Monday.
Wanagura-yama aka Shiroishi-yama is renowned for mountain distress and I would strongly advise against climbing it during the winter particularly from the Saitama side which is especially tough going. Myohogadake on the other hand shouldn’t be a problem. Just had a quick look at Yamareco and looks like the Mitsumine Shrine area is relatively snow free as of last weekend. Another option would be some light hiking along the Irikawa Gorge.
Wonderful, thanks for that info. Myohogadake will probably be the plan then. I am very glad I asked you!
Dear David, thank you for posting these beautiful pictures. I am intending to head to MisoTsuchi for the icicles tomorrow and like Tim, I’m currently planning to combine a hike with the visit to the icicles.
While I have managed to find Irikawa Gorge & Mt Myohogadake on the maps, I am unable to find more information on them (like difficulty of hike, whether its suitable for hiking during winter). I plan to ask for more information the train station when I arrive too.
As I am hiking with 2 other girls, I would like to ensure that the hike would be manageable for them so that we all can have a good time.
If you would be able to point me in the right direction I would really appreciate it.
Thank you so much in advanced and I apologize for this late notice as I only decided on going after seeing your beautiful pictures.
Hey Jordon, thanks for your kind words about the photos. Due to the unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow this winter the Misotsuchi no Tsurara have unfortunately ended for 2020. In fact, the site operators suspended it back in mid-January. Regarding your hiking plans I do have a write-up for the Irikawa Gorge https://ridgelineimages.com/hiking/irikawa-gorge/. As for Myohogadake I just had a quick look at YamaReco https://www.yamareco.com/ (you can check the current trail conditions by searching the mountain name in kanji i.e. 妙法ヶ岳) based on a hike report from yesterday (Feb 15th) it looks like most of the snow has melted. From the Mitsumine Shrine to Myohogadake it’s a round trip of 5km, allow yourselves 2.5 hours to complete it comfortably. The hike looks fine for beginners with handrails and some chains where it steepens just before the summit. Hope this helps.
I went today, Monday 4 Feb. Not crowded at all. While there I was underwhelmed. While editing the pics I was impressed with how nice they came out. One of the very, very few times pics were better looking than the real thing!
Thanks for the recommendation. I have a darn cold so no hiking today although I did visit Mitsumine Temple since I was relatively close. Nice place and I saw Mt Wanagura. Looks super steep from the lake but other than that, didn’t look terribly difficult. There was just a dusting of snow on the mountain top. Still, I’ll waiting for spring weather conditions to tackle that one!
Yesterday the temps in Tokyo were pushing 20 degrees almost Spring like so perhaps it wasn’t the best day for visiting. I think I was rather fortuitous as I arrived shortly after it stopped snowing making the whole place look rather serene. I’m also planning to tackle Wanagura-yama this coming Golden Week starting at Chichibu Lake via Mt. Obora and down to Tabayama Village.