Written by Chiara(GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Saitama Trip With SEIBU 1Day Pass: Glistening Icicles, Ramen, And Time Travel
The SEIBU 1Day Pass, priced at only 1,000 yen, is the most convenient ticket for traveling west of Tokyo. This itinerary takes you to the Ashigakubo Icicles, to an excellent ramen place, and even to one of Tokyo's most fascinating museums.
Winter, with its clear skies and snow, offers a whole new range of places to discover and enjoy in Japan. A short trip from Tokyo to the Chichibu area in Saitama can provide you with the blessing of steaming hot springs and a winter wonderland.
The most convenient way to travel to Saitama's Chichibu or Kawagoe areas is by using the SEIBU 1Day Pass (1,000 yen), which allows unlimited train rides on the Seibu Lines for a day.
In this article, we introduce an itinerary using the SEIBU 1Day Pass. After marveling at the sparkling icicles of Ashigakubo in Yokoze near Chichibu, we suggest warming up with a steaming bowl of tomato ramen at lunch in Tokorozawa and then visiting the exciting Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum where you can learn about how the people of Tokyo used to live in the past.
8:00 -- Purchase the SEIBU 1Day Pass at the Seibu Tourist Information Center
The SEIBU 1 Day Pass can be purchased at the Seibu Tourist Information Center Ikebukuro. The ticket only costs 1,000 yen and can be used on all the SEIBU Line trains (except the Tamagawa Line) for a whole day.
Tickets can be purchased from this counter from 8:00 until 15:00, but it operates until 18:00.
The SEIBU Line offers various discount tickets throughout the year. Some of these tickets are only available for travelers to Japan, so please remember to bring your passport.
8:37 - 10:14 -- Travel to Ashigakubo
Next, take the express train headed to Hanno. The entrance to the train platform is right next to the SEIBU information center.
You will reach Hanno in about one hour. From here take the train toward Seibu-Chichibu and get off at Ashigakubo Station.
10:30 - 11:30 - The Ashigakubo Icicles - Marvel at Icy Trees Sparkling in the Sun
The Ashigakubo Icicles are one of the winter highlights in Saitama Prefecture. They can only be enjoyed for a very short period at the beginning of each year.
The Ashigakubo Icicles can be seen every year from around the beginning of January to late February. The specific dates vary each year, so please check in advance. The location is private property so please do not visit outside the event period. (*1)
Every morning cold water is sprayed over the trees to add to the icicles and replace the ones that melted. This results in a slightly different sight every day.
*1 The information in this article is from 2019.
On the weekend evenings, the icicles are illuminated in different colors creating an icy fairytale land that is also ideal for a date.
If you visit during the morning, the icicles won't be illuminated but they will sparkle and glisten in the sun like diamonds.
The walk from the station takes just about ten minutes. After exiting Ashigakubo Station, turn left and walk straight. There are flags along the path with pictures of the icicles to guide you. After a short walk, you will reach a small wooden booth. Please pay the 300 yen admission fee before you proceed. This fee is considered a contribution to maintaining the icicles throughout the season.
The great advantage of visiting in the morning is that it's less crowded. You can stroll among the icy trees at leisure and go to the top of the hill where you receive a complimentary hot tea or amazake. Take a moment to enjoy the warm drink and the view before heading back to the station.
11:53 - 12:59 --- Travel from Ashigakubo to Tokorozawa Station
To reach our next recommended destination, take the train back to Hanno and change there to the F Liner headed to Motomachi-Chukagai or any other train that goes toward Ikebukuro. Get off at Tokorozawa Station and make your way to Kappa House, a ramen store offering excellent dishes.
13:10 - 13:50 -- Lunch at Kappa House - Taste Some of the Best Tomato Ramen!
Kappa House, located in Tokorozawa, has made a name for itself through its excellent tomato ramen made with handmade noodles.
The ramen in the picture above is chashu (braised pork) tomato ramen with extra egg topping. The tomato flavor is rich and the soup is very thick and scrumptious. Together with the typical ramen toppings, this is the perfect mixture of soup, vegetables, pork and ramen noodles.
Besides tomato ramen, you can also opt for seafood ramen. The latter has a flavorful seafood soup and comes with generous toppings of shrimp and fresh vegetables.
14:01 - 14:13 -- Head to Hanakoganei Station
After lunch, return to Tokorozawa Station and take the Seibu-Shinjuku Line express train towards Seibu Shinjuku. Get off at Hanakoganei Station, which is the closest station to one of the most exciting museums in the Tokyo area: the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum.
Once you exit the ticket gate, turn left. After you exit the station using the North Exit, turn left again. There are a couple of bus stops in front of the station but the one that we need to use, Minami Hanakoganei bus stop, is about two to three minutes away on foot. Once you reach the avenue, turn right and you will arrive at the bus stop.
All the buses that stop here (except for no. 17) go to the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum. Get off at Koganeikoen Nishiguchi. Enter the park and keep walking straight. You will find the entrance to the Edo-Tokyo Museum on your left-hand side after about five minutes walk.
Please note that the bus ticket fee is not included in the SEIBU 1Day Pass.
14:30 - 16:10 -- Travel Back in Time at the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum!
The Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum is a place you should definitely visit during your trip to Tokyo. It showcases buildings from the Edo period (1603-1867) to the mid-Showa period (1926 - the 1950's) that have been moved, reconstructed and displayed here. Every building has a name and is introduced with its story.
The museum is separated into three parts: the west zone, the center zone, and the east zone. The east zone contains mainly old shops, as well as a bathhouse and a bar.
Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki has been said to have taken inspiration from the east zone of this museum for his masterpiece "Spirited Away". In fact, the cute little caterpillar mascot of the museum was designed by himself.
Visitors can enter most buildings and explore them at leisure. Everything from farm houses and old police stations to houses of high ranking political figures of the Edo period can be viewed here. Even the original gardens of these residences have been recreated.
In order for the exhibited houses to be kept in their best condition, visitors are not allowed to touch the items inside. You also have to take off your shoes to enter most buildings. Make sure to wear shoes you can easily slip in and out off. If you have a backpack make sure to carry it in front of you so you don't break anything accidentally.
Some of the reconstructed buildings house dining places. The former residence of the famous German architect Georg de Lalande, who has lived and worked in Japan, houses the cafe Musashino Sabo. In addition, a resthouse in the east zone has an udon restaurant on the second floor.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum closes at either 16:30 or 17:30, depending on the time of the year. Make sure to give yourself enough time to explore this fascinating place at leisure and to drop by the museum shop to pick up some souvenirs.
There are so many places to look at that you will find something new every time you visit.
16:40 - 17:02 -- The Last Stop is Seibu Shinjuku Station
To get back to the station, simply take any bus from the stop on the opposite side of the bus stop you used upon arrival. From Hanakoganei Station you can take the train to Kodaira, then to Tokorozawa and travel back to Ikebukuro Station. However, we suggest using the Seibu Shinjuku Line and going all the way to Seibu Shinjuku Station.
Seibu Shinjuku Station is located directly beside the Kabukicho area in Shinjuku. It is still early when you arrive here so why not enjoy dinner in one of Shinjuku's many restaurants or some shopping to end your day?
Winter Wonderland and Time Traveling
If you found this tour inspiring, how about getting the SEIBU 1Day Pass and trying it out? You get to visit an icy fairytale world and travel back in time at some of the most charming destinations in the Tokyo area.
SEIBU → Tourist Information Center Ikebukuro → Ashigakubo Icicles → Lunch at Kappa House in Tokorozawa → Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum → Seibu Shinjuku Station
Transportation: 1,000 yen (SEIBU 1Day Pass) + 400 yen (local bus roundtrip in Hanakoganei)
Lunch, entrance fees: less than 2,000 yen
For information on other great sightseeing spots that can be explored using the SEIBU 1Day Pass, please refer to this website: https://www.seiburailway.jp/railways/tourist/english/
*The train schedule introduced in this article is from February 2019. Please be aware that the train schedule is subject to change.
Supported by Seibu Railway