Winter 2016. Chichibu. Saitama. Japan.
The Chichibu Yomatsuri is one of the top three festivals in all of Japan; Chichibu festival, Kyoto Gion festival and Hida Takayama festival. The Chichibu festival goes as far back as 300 years ago and is held every year on December 2nd and 3rd ( main festival ). The festival draws a huge crowd from all over Japan. From the main entrance of Chichibu station, many yatai (food stalls) selling festival food are set up along Banba street and stretch as long as 500 meters. The three main things to do at Chichibu yomatsuri is to explore the different yatai and try out their food, watch and parade along with the floats and finally witness the 2 hour long fireworks. The float parade starts around 7pm.
Tip : the best location to view the fireworks is near Chichibu city hall which is the final destination of the floats.
Yatai set up on both sides of the road. With such a wide variety of food on offer, it was hard to decide what to eat. I guess you just have to try a bit of everything as you walk along.
Kodako no furai ( deep friend baby octopus ).
A kabuki performer on one of the float.
Kamimachi yatai. This is the largest of the four floats. One of the main highlight of the Chichibu festival is the float parade along the main avenue. The massive ornately designed floats, weighing between 10 and 20 tons, are pulled along the main avenue accompanied by drums and music.
Miyaji yatai. This particular float is the oldest of the Chichibu floats.
Each float require many volunteers to pull them on each side.
The floats are nearly 3 storeys high.
Kamimachi Yatai is the largest of the six floats. This ornate float features many brilliant eaves. Keep an eye out for the Karajishi ( the form of a lion) and peony flowers on the front top curtain. The rear curtain features embroidery of carp swimming up a waterfall.
The blue route indicate the route of the floats parade starting from Chichibu station and ending at Chichibu City Hall, where the fireworks are held.
To get to Chichibu yomatsuri from Tokyo, it takes about 1 hour 45 minutes by train. Just use google map app and search for Chichibu station and it will give you a list of train options and pricing. Seibu Railway and Chichibu Railway are running additional trains on December 3. The last trains back into Tokyo are all-reserved limited express trains by Seibu Railway.
Based on my personal experience, if you want to watch the entire fireworks show, it is better to stay over night in Saitama as the queue for the train is just too long and there’s a high chance you will miss the last train. If you don’t miss the last train from Chichibu, chances are you may miss the last train in Tokyo to wherever you are staying. I stayed until the fireworks ended and it was already 1130pm. I’m glad I drove there instead of taking the train. Even the walk to the parking was about 15 mins walk and the drive back to Tokyo took a little over an hour.