Not advertising or anything, but do you know Bing.com? It's a search engine just like Google or Yahoo. Well, Bing.com is not like any other. Its home page shows one picture every day, one AMAZING picture from all over the world. Depending on your "country setting", the pictures vary. One day, it had an amazing picture of these icicles and made me want to go there badly—so I did.
It turned out the icicles were called “Icicles of Misotsuchi”, and they are known as ice-art created by Mother Nature in Chichibu city. The spring water on the rock surface gets frozen by the cold air as it flows down and turns into gigantic icicles over the course of time. You can only see the icicles from early January through mid-February, the coldest time of the year. The best time would be the first week of February, as their beauty attracts many people from neighboring prefectures to this small town in the valley at this time of year. The light-up session is 5:00-9:00 Monday to Sunday during this season. The color of the light changes from white, to blue, to green. As the color changes, its reflection on the stream makes the icicles look even more glorious and mystical. Especially when it’s green, I felt like I was in a magical place on earth.
The train to Chichibu leaves from Ikebukuro. You can take a limited express to Seibu Chichibu station but if you don’t want to pay extra, you should take a rapid train as it only takes 30 minutes more. After riding about 2 hours, you will find yourself in the countryside surrounded by mountains. After you get off at Seibu Chichibu, exit the ticket gate and follow the sign that says “Chichibu Railway" (about a 3-minute walk). After another 20 min train ride, you will finally get to Mitsumineguchi station, where you take a Seibu bus for 25 minutes! The bus runs every 30 min or so. I know it’s a long way, but it was well worth it! The last bus back to the station is 5:41 both on weekdays and weekends, so if you want to see the light up session, you should expect to take a cab back (you can also walk, but it takes about hour and a half so I don’t recommend it). Also, it takes about 30 min for cab to arrive from the station, so it’s better to call a cab 30 min before your departure.
There is a small restaurant right by the site and they offer amazake (sweet sake often drunk in the winter time among Japanese to keep warm), miso-potatoes (potatoes with miso flavored sauce: locally famous comfort food), miso soup, and others. The restaurant is built with logs and there is an old fashioned iron stove inside. Since I didn’t plan it well, we had to wait for the cab for 30 minutes. But thanks to this restaurant, we were able to keep warm until the cab arrived.
While exploring the area, I found a camp ground with several cabins, so if you are up for some outdoor fun, you should definitely come back in summer for some rafting and camping as well!