Valley of the Yokoze River, Yokoze Township, Saitama Prefecture.
Sakura performer, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
Shiba zakura, Hitsujiyama Park, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
Shishi dancer, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
Shishi dancers, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
Mt. Bukko, Yokoze Township, Saitama Prefecture
After the discovery of nylon doomed the silk industry, Chichibu's core industry became cement production. Materials companies blasted Bukko, the limestone massif overlooking the city, to powder (one resident said one of her earliest memories was traveling to another town and finding out that not everyone had white roofs). The resulting product was shipped off to armor the coastlines and line the rivers (and play a role in better-considered construction as well, of course).
The blasting has ceased, leaving behind a peculiar half-mountain as Chichibu's scenic backdrop.
Chichibu is trying to reinvent itself as a center for tourism: a role for which it is eminently qualified. The city faces limits, unfortunately, in its poor transportation links. There is no major no airport and no nearby Shinkansen line. The valleys leading into the city from the south are only wide enough to accommodate two lane roads, and access from the north takes a lengthy looping route via Yorii -- a sleepy burg whose own fortunes are set to skyrocket when the new super-efficient Honda assembly plant opens.
The already poor transportation situation could become dire if the Seibu Group wins permission to close down rail service on the Seibu Chichibu Line. Seibu managers seem to have wanted for some time to unload the Chichibu line as well as four other minor lines. They have cleverly used a bid for board seats by U.S. based Cerberus Capital as an opportunity to make public their desire to dump their least profitable rail operations. (Link)
To be fair, Seibu has tried to promote travel along the Seibu Chichibu line, publishing, for example, a library of trail maps for hikers. Two of the trails, the one up to Kanhatsushumiharashidai and the one from Ne no Gongen to Takedera (Hachioji) are classic beginner-level day trips.
All photos: MTC