Photo:Guilhem Vellut on Flickr

5 Steps for the Perfect Stay in Nagatoro

Have you ever been to Nagatoro City in Saitama prefecture? If not, you should go there this summer on your holiday! There, you can enjoy canoeing, hiking and praying all combined in a small city.  My group and I had never been to Nagatoro, but it became a part of Japan that will always stay close to our hearts.  Here are the five steps we took that may our day amazing and we would love to share with others.

1. First, Enjoy the Chichibu Train Trip

Located in the North-West area of Saitama in the Chichibu area, where you can get to by the Ueno-Tokyo Line. After you arrive at Kumagaya Station, transfer to the Chichibu Main Line. While you are in the train, you can enjoy the local scenery and nature of Saitama outside of the window.  For us, the closer we got to Nagatoro, the more excited we were.


2. Arrive at the Station, Enjoy the Mellow Street

Nagatoro Station is very cozy.  Although Nagatoro is not far away from Tokyo, you will notice the clean air and fresh green leaves, transporting you from the big city to an extremely relaxing atmosphere. After arriving at the station, we had three options about our "third" thing to do in Nagatoro: Go to the shrine, hike the mountain, or canoe the river.  I heard that reserving a seat for a boat is necessary because many people want to try it, so we decided to go to canoe the river as our next step.  We went through the small alley to the river where there were small souvenir shops. There we could find a cucumber shop and a bean shop. The fresh local foods looked irresistible.


3. Ride the Amazingly Beautiful River on an Exciting Boat Trip

After enjoying the what's in the street, we found the Ara River and a large stone ground. What you should know about the river is that it offers different expressions depending on the time you view it, which means that your impression might also change very differently. For example, in the morning when the sun is still in the east, the stone pavement ground looks soft and white. In the evening around 5 pm, however, it gets red, reflecting the sunshine from the west. Both sceneries are beautiful and breathtaking.  So, just remember that planning your Nagatoro trip from the early morning you arrive is the key to enjoying it most.


4. Pray at the Shrine, Hike on Mt. Hodo

How do you read the characters "宝登山"?  Based on our knowledge of Japanese writing, we thought it read Mt. Takaranoboru?  But we were wrong, it reads as Mt. Houdou.  Even for me, the name of this mountain was very difficult at first. In fact, the correct spelling of it is "Hodosan". It's located opposite a 10-minute walk from the river, and in the mountain, there is the shrine "宝登神社" (Hodo Shrine).

The impressive thing about the shrine is the white and gold Torii (shrine gate).  Normally, Torii look historical and old, but this Torii looks very fashionable and modern in my opinion. (It's also very impressive that they offer free Wi-Fi there). You can go up to the top of the mountain by a small ropeway.  From the top of the mountain, you can see the long Ara River.  I reccommend you go down on foot, which is more interesting than getting on the ropeway again. On the mountain it is very quiet, so you can fully enjoy yourself, sometimes even hearing the birds sing.


5. Finally, Eat the Large Chichibu Waraji Katsu-Don

Chichibu waraji katsu-don is famous because the tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) on the rice is really big.  I have seen a famous actress eat a big waraji katsu donburi (“Donburi” is any dish on top of rice) in a Seibu Railway TV commercial before.  Since then, I unconsciously knew that waraji katsudon is a famous food from the Chichibu area. In the evening, before we got on a train, we happened to find a small waraji katsudon restaurant. The cutlet was jaw-droppingly big, so large it even stuck out of the bowl. I was really happy that I could eat all of it!

Photo credit: bryan... on Flickr

So, these are 5 steps to enjoy yourself in Nagatoro. What will your one-day trip to Nagatoro be like on your next holiday?

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