Japan loves its winter illuminations. There are literally hundreds to visit and Tokyo is no stranger to the light-up shows either. But for a different pace, why not visit an illumination where nature meets light? The Misotsuchi Icicle light-up is a great opportunity to get out of Tokyo for a bit and see some truly unique and special lights.
This naturally-made wall of icicles measures over 30 meters wide and 10 meters high. The icicles themselves become painted with lights after sunset. For a great finish after viewing the icicles, soak in the nearby Otaki Onsen before heading home.
Located in the western part of Saitama prefecture, it takes less than two hours to reach Seibu-Chichibu Station from Ikebukuro. From the station, visitors can ride the Seibu Kanko bus for Mitsumine Shrine in order to see this spectacular display of lights and ice.
For an entry fee of only 200 yen, guests will marvel at these icy sculptures. The icicles themselves are sparkling from early January to mid-February; however, the light-up can only be seen from a week after the event begins from sunset to 7 pm, so be sure to check their website for exact dates.
Event Report, 2012
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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 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.
There is a small restaurant right by the site and they offer amazake (sweet sake often drunk in the wintertime 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 campground 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!