Nagatoro overflows with abundant nature such as beautiful gorges, Iwadatami Rocks, and Mt. Hodo, and is a popular tourist destination where you can experience good food and activities to your heart’s content. Smack your lips at the fluffy shaved ice from popular shop Asami Reizo Hodosan Road, travel down the Nagatoro River by boat on the beautifully pellucid Arakawa River, and be stunned by seeing the Iwadatami Rocks up-close! Relish lunch at Matsubaya with luxurious ayumeshi (rice with sweetfish) that uses one whole sweetfish, and buy sugared bean souvenirs at Mame no Osawaya in the historical Iwadatami Street Shopping District. Once you’re full, take the Mt. Hodosan Ropeway up to the summit and get a full view of the majestic Chichibu mountains. Finally, visit the beautiful main shrine of Hodosan Shrine, which was awarded a Michelin star. This is a course that lets you enjoy Nagatoro to the fullest, by eating, playing, and using all your senses.
The Seibu Line conveniently takes you from the city to Chichibu, so let’s get on the limited express from Seibu Railway Ikebukuro Station! But before that, let’s buy a discount ticket that we recommend to foreign visitors. Purchase the SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro (1,500 yen incl. tax) and the limited express ticket at the SEIBU Tourist Information Center before the gates on the 1st floor in Seibu Railway Ikebukuro Station.
The SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro is a discount ticket that lets you ride Seibu Railway and Chichibu Railway Line between Nagatoro Sta. to Mitsumineguchi Sta. all you want for one day.
*Excluding the Tamagawa Line.
To travel by Limited Express train, you will need a limited express ticket (700 yen incl. tax for one way) for reserved seat in addition to a SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro. You may be asked to show your limited express ticket on board, so make sure you don’t lose it.
Enjoy a 78 minute train ride from Seibu Railway Ikebukuro Station to Seibu Chichibu-Station on the Ltd. Exp. Chichibu 7 that leaves at 8:30. How about looking up the places you’ll be going in Nagatoro or enjoy the scenery as it transforms once you leave the city.
After buying the SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro and the limited express ticket, go through the gate and get on the train.
Only insert the SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro when passing through the gate.
The limited express platform is on the immediate right after passing through the gates.
You’ll find it if you follow the instructions on the photo and the arrows.
There is a seat number on the ticket, so sit on your designated seat when on-board.
Once the limited express has arrived at the platform, board the train and sit on the seat shown on your limited express ticket.
On to Chichibu!
Welcome to Seibu-Chichibu Station. Next, you’ll change from Seibu Railway to Chichibu Railway and go to Nagatoro Station.
The closes Chichibu Railway station is Ohanabatake Station, a 10-minute walk away. Take a left after exiting the gate and walk right past Seibu-Chichibu Station Hot Spring Matsuri no Yu.
Walk past Seibu-Chichibu Station Hot Spring Matsuri no Yu until the end of the street and turn left.
There are many signs on the way to Ohanabatake Station, so you won’t get lost. Keep following the street.
Take a left once you get out on a two-lane road. Ohanabatake Station is beyond the railway crossing that comes into view. Cross the tracks and take left to find the restrooms. If you walk along the narrow path on the side, you’ll reach Ohanabatake Station.
There are no automatic gates, so go in after showing the attendant your SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro. Get on the local train to Kumagaya and get off at Nagatoro Station. Enjoy the 20-minute local railway trip.
Nagatoro Station is characterized by a pretty, old-fashioned station building. There’s also an old round mailbox in front of the building. You don’t see many of these around anymore, so you might want to take a commemorative shot?
A 5-minute walk takes you from Nagato Station to Asami Reizo Hodosan Road. It’s after the torii gate in front of the station.
There are flags with the character for ice and retro shaved ice machines in front of the store, so you can’t miss it. On busy days, you might have to queue for 2 hours, so it’s a good idea to go early in the morning. (The queue follows the wall and extends to the parking lot on the back.)
Inside, the ceiling is high and there’s plenty of space, while sunlight comes in through the big windows. You can see the cherry blossoms from here in spring.
The shaved ice is made in the same way as it was made when the shop opened in 1890, and the current owner is the sixth generation. Tens of tons of natural ice made at an artificial pond at the base of Mt. Hodosan is cut in winter and stored in freezers. This is how they can make delicious shaved ice all year round.
We ordered the Asami no Wa Special (1,300 yen incl. tax). It comes with azuki bean paste, brown sugar syrup, and a palette cleanser pickled dried plum. You also have 4 syrups to choose from. We went with matcha. The selectable syrups and brown sugar syrup are all originals made by Asami Reizo, so the thick matcha syrup goes well with the fluffy shaved ice. Enjoy different flavors by adding the azuki beans and brown sugar syrup as well. The pickled dried plum is sour and a perfect palette cleanser.
Having had your fill of shaved ice, how about trying out the capsule vending machine with official merchandise (500 yen incl. tax). You can get tote bags, T-shirts, hand towels, and other Japanese-style original products, and they’re all really cute.
After the shaved ice, it’s finally time for an outdoor activity. Go register at the Nagatoro Rhein Boat Tour information desk, 10 minutes away from Asami Reizo Hodosan Road. This time we’re taking the popular A course (1,800 yen incl. tax). There’s also the B course where you get to see the Frog Cliff as well as the full course that gives you both A and B.
The A course boarding area is at Oyahanabashi upstream. We take a free shuttle bus there.
You’ll be given a lifejacket at the boarding site, so take off any shoulder bags or such before putting it on. Put your luggage either under your seat on the boat or hold it securely in your hands. The boat is unstable when moving, so avoid standing or leaning out.
Time to get going! You slowly start going down the Arakawa River and soon pieces of Iwadatami Rocks will appear! They were formed as rocks when the seabed was raised by diastrophism. It’s a precious experience.
The veteran captain handles the rudder with exceptional skill as well as entertains his passengers with light-hearted conversation. The 20 minutes or so of boat travel is over before you know it. On the way back, you’ll get off by the Iwadatami Rocks, return your life jacket, and go straight to Nagato Iwadatami Street Shopping District.
Today’s lunch at Matsubaya is a 5-minute walk from where you got off the boat. Matsubaya in Nagatoro Iwadatami Street Shopping District opened its doors more than 50 years old and specializes in sweetfish cuisine.
You can smell the delicious scent of salt-grilled sweetfish (500 yen incl. tax) outside the store. Why not take hearty, big bites right off the stick out front?
Inside, there are seats around traditional Japanese sunken hearths. The gentle light shines on the interior to create a peaceful atmosphere that relaxes the mind. It’s a rare opportunity to sit down around a sunken hearth table.
You can’t stop eating the ayumeshi (1,500 yen incl. tax), which is cooked using a whole sweetfish and a secret broth, as it is so flavorsome from the sweetfish stock! You get a voluminous meal that also includes 4 side dishes, cold tofu, and miso soup. The salt-grilled sweetfish (500 yen incl. tax) is also exquisite with its tender meat that is soft and comes apart easily.
Nagatoro Iwadatami Street Shopping District continues in front of Matsubaya. This 100-year-old shopping district is an exciting place that has plenty of gift shops with food samples and traditional game shooting ranges.
You can discover a shop with a cute cat sign if you stroll around the area. It’s called Mame no Osawaya and is a popular shop that sells not only sugared and cooked beans, but also local specialties.
The inside is lined with all kinds of sugared beans, cooked beans, and other bean products. You can sample almost everything, from the beans to the pickled vegetables. Another great perk is the free green tea!
Most popular are the sugared broad beans (280 yen incl. tax) that it takes the owner 3 days to make. They are prepared and boiled from early in the morning, and are not too sweet, maintain the bean flavour, and go really well with green tea.
The best before date of the sugared beans is 1 week, while the cooked beans only last 2 days, so be careful. If you’ll remain in Japan a while, we recommend the Chichibu specialty pickled bok choy (370 yen incl. tax), which lasts about 2 months.
The Hodosan Ropeway is a 20-minute walk away in the direction of Hodosan Shrine.
If you’re lucky, you get a glimpse of the steam locomotive stopping at Nagatoro Station!
The ropeway has been in operation since 1961, and is charming with its old-style gondolas. (Adult round trip 820 yen incl. tax)
It takes 5 minutes to go 832 m up to the summit of Mt. Hodosan. The two unusual round gondolas are called Monkey No. 1 and Bambi No. 1. They were named after the Japanese macaques and deer at Hodosan Zoo.
The two gondolas pass each other midway.
From the summit of Mt. Hodosan you get a great view of the magnificent Chichibu mountains, and the flowers and trees that color them in the different seasons, such as cherry blossoms, wintersweet, plum, and azaleas.
Take a 10-minute walk from Summit Station where you get off, where you’ll find the peaceful rear shrine of Hodosan Shrine inside the forest.
At the summit right behind the rear shrine, there are coiled wisteria trees and you’ll be stunned by the natural scenery. If you’re lucky, you might be able to gaze at a sea of clouds from the 497 m summit.
Hodosan Shrine is a 5-minute walk from where you got off the ropeway. Make a bow before passing through the torii gate and avoid going in the middle. The middle is called the seichu and is where the spirits walk, and this also applies to the main path inside. Try not to walk in the middle except for when paying your respects before the front shrine.
Purify your body with the water at the cleansing station just inside the torii gate. There are instructions with pictures, so do it in the order as shown.
First hold the ladle with your right hand and fill it with one scoop of water to wash your left hand. Then switch hands and wash your right hand. Hold it in your right hand again, pour some water in your left hand, and use that to rinse your mouth. After that, wash the left hand you just used one more time. Finally, hold the ladle vertically to wash it by having the remaining water pour down. That’s it!
After the cleansing, ascend the staircase and you’re at the front shrine. Around 1,900 years ago, when Yamato Takeru no Mikoto climbed this mountain, he was caught in a wildfire but could scale the mountain safely thanks to the help of many dogs sent by the god of the mountain. This is said to have been the beginning of the spirit veneration at the summit.
One of the highlights of Hodosan Shrine are the vibrant and richly colored carvings. It’s fun walking around looking at the dragons, cranes, and other animals on the front and main shrines.
When you’re at the shrine, follow the protocol to pay your respects. First, carefully put money in the offertory box. In Japan, many put in 5 yen because it is considered good luck (5 yen sounds like the word for good luck). After that, make two deep bows.
Then clap your hands twice at chest level. Put your hands together, close your eyes, and greet the god. Finally, make another deep bow, and you’re done.
Hodosan Shrine is a shrine connected with fire, and it’s said that if you make a fire with the wind from one of its unusual fans (300 yen), then your “home will be at peace” (fan in Japanese is uchiwa, but uchi also means home and wa peace). It’s also said that you’ll get fortune by fanning with it. It might be a good idea to bring one back as a lucky charm.
Nagatoro Station is a 5-minute walk from Hodosan Shrine. Get on the Chichibu Railway local train to Mitsumineguchi departing at 17:32, and get off at Ohanabatake Station at 17:54.
By the way, you can ride with the SEIBU 1Day Pass + Nagatoro on the way back too, so you don’t need to buy a ticket.
Just like when you came, it’s a 10-minute walk from Ohanabatake Station to Seibu-Chichibu Station. Purchase another limited express ticket (700 yen incl. tax one way) from the counter next to the gates.
Let’s get on the Ltd. Exp. Chichibu 44 departing Seibu-Chichibu Station at 18:25. Eat some sugared broad beans from Mame no Osawaya and let the sweet taste heal your travel fatigue. The 78 minute train ride will be over in no time. You’re back at Seibu Railway Ikebukuro Station at 19:47. This was the Nagatoro Day Trip, filled with ways to experience Japan, from food and play to a shrine visit.