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Culinary culture born from mountain springs, right in Tokyo’s backyard

Region:

A wealth of natural springs flow through the mountain valleys of the Chichibu region. The purity of the springs and the warmer temperatures of the mountain basin make Chichibu ideal for the production of foods and beverages that are best made with pristine water. Orchards, vineyards, and breweries are everywhere, and the locals sell wine, sake, whisky, and even shaved ice to capitalize on this regional asset. Water is also a theme when sightseeing in Chichibu: numerous hot springs, the “cloud sea” produced in the valley by low-hanging clouds, and the riverside rock formations known as the Nagatoro Iwadatami are all popular destinations. Even the famous Chichibu Night Festival—one of the three biggest float parades in Japan—owes part of its religious significance to the blessings of water.

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Regional foods: Whisky

The variety of alcohol produced in Chichibu is rare for a single region in Japan: sake, beer, shochu (distilled from potatoes or rice), wine, and whisky are all available. Pride in the local products runs so deep that there is actually legislation stipulating that the first toast of any gathering should be made with a Chichibu beverage. The purity of the mountain springs is particularly important to area whisky distilleries, such as the world-famous Ichiro’s. Local whisky continues to win prizes at tasting conventions year after year, and it is scarcely exaggeration to say world-class beverages spring from the land itself in Chichibu.

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Regional foods: Wild game cuisine

In addition to alcohol, Chichibu owes several other regional specialties to its mountainous surroundings. Overpopulations of deer and wild boar have begun to damage the forests and the habitats of other wildlife, so in response the local government has begun to promote gibier, or wild game cuisine. Area establishments are now offering specials featuring wild game as a way to increase interest among visitors. Another recent initiative relating to local cuisine is the rise in maple tree cultivation. The climate and terrain of Chichibu are particularly suited to maples, and confectioners have taken to planting them in the mountains to harvest their sap—simultaneously protecting the forests and supporting the rise of a new regional specialty: maple syrup.

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Scenery: Chichibu Yomatsuri

In 2016, UNESCO designated the Chichibu Yomatsuri(Chichibu Night Festival) an Intangible Cultural Asset. Held every December, the Night Festival reveres the goddess of Chichibu Shrine (the bodhisattva Myoken, a deification of the North Star and guardian of sericulture) and the god of Mount Buko (a dragon deity associated with water) who meet once a year on the night of the festival. The celebration gives thanks for the year’s harvest, and in gratitude a cup of water is carried to Mount Buko. Another memorable sight is the cloud-sea, which is visible quite close to the center of town. Its popularity as a scenic spot has grown in recent years, particularly among visitors seeking an impressive photo to share on social media.

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Activities: Whisky-tasting

While the town of Chichibu has very few major chain stores, it is filled with small, privately owned eateries, each of which has its own character. As one might expect, the bars in town are especially lively. There, whisky connoisseurs can expect the full range of products from local distilleries, but also abundant selections from whisky makers world-wide.

Inquiries

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Name Chichibu Area Tourism Organization
URL https://www.chichibu-omotenashi.com/en/