The city is blessed with exquisite scenery and dense woodland, with old farmhouses and several streams scattered everywhere. Chichibu is genuinely an exciting prospect for the nature wanderer. Chichibu has a long history with pilgrimage tourism. Visitors in numbers have been making the journey here since the Muromachi period (1336–1573). There are 34 temples spread around a 100 km2 area. Don’t worry about having limited time to explore, all you need to do is start your journey by visiting the No.1 which is Shimabuji.
Located about 30 minutes from Seibu-Chichibu Station by bus, the No.1 temple from the Edo period pilgrimage is situated in the tranquil hills. When I visited this temple, I saw the autumn foliage had cheered up the surroundings. Beyond the entrance gate, you’ll see tiny statues of Buddha guiding you around, while a larger statue sits front and center of the main building. Since Shimabuji Temple is presented to God of Mercy, don’t miss your chance to pray here. Drop your 5 yen coin into the offering box, ring the bell above you, then chant your prayer.
Beside the main building of the temple, you can see also a beautiful hillock just behind it. There are many forms of Buddha statues and other dedicated monks. Also, at the top of the hillock you can find a large rock surrounded by several monuments, covered by the red-tangerine gradation of maple trees. This area is also best vantage point from which to appreciate the surrounding views. There is a view of Tochiya Village lying in the valley with several farmhouses dotted around.
For those of you who need an escape from the big city like Tokyo and are interested in taking a pilgrimage to this temple, then just head to Chichibu city. The city is part of Saitama Prefecture, north-west of Tokyo. It is very easy to reach by train from Ikebukuro Station in central Tokyo. You can take a Seibu-Ikebukuro Line train to Seibu-Chichibu Station. When you arrive, hop on a local bus towards Minano Station. After about 30 minutes, you can alight just in front of Shimabuji Temple. It is free to enter, as it is with the other 33 temples also worth visiting on your pilgramage to Chichibu’s temples.