Arakawa Roadside Station is a rest area in the Arakawa Hino area of Chichibu. The area is also known as the Hino Sightseeing Plantation Village. Attractions within and around the roadside station include fruit picking, nature museum, flowers, playground, restaurant, shopping, hot spring and steam locomotive! And in September the area is awash with the elegant white bloom of the Buckwheat flower. In September 2023, the buckwheat flowers started to bloom around September 11th.
Arakawa Roadside Station
The official English for this rest area is actually Roadside Station Arakawa. Most of the roadside stations in Japan have been translated into English using the Japanese word order, so the “Roadside Station” comes first. For some it still sounds okay, but for this one I can’t bring myself to use the wrong word order! Roadside Station Arakawa just sounds wrong to me. Is it just me?
- Fruit picking / Masakado Vineyard
- Flower viewing
- Playing in the free playground
- Learning at the nature museum
- A choice of restaurants for eating
- Relaxing at one of the two hot springs
As you approach the roadside station from Chichibu Oukan Highway you pass through a grape vineyard. Our last visit was the end of July so the grapevines were high and lush. They are the vines of Masakado Vineyard, a large fruit farm that grows grapes in summer / autumn and strawberries in winter and spring.
Masakado Orchard grows the original Chichibu Yama Ruby grape, which is exclusive to the Chichibu Mountain area. Several of the vineyards in the area grow this unique grape. Saitama Prefecture have a map in English with all the participating fruit farms marked (click here). They also have nine other varieties of grapes at Masakado too. The grape picking season generally starts around mid to late August and usually lasts until the middle of October. In 2023, they are planning to start the grape picking season on Thursday August 10th.
Strawberry picking is from January to May annually. In 2023, the season starts on Saturday January 14th and is expected to last until around early May. (Update: the last date for picking in 2023 is May 14th). They have three different types of strawberries: Yayoi hime, Benihoppe and Amarin. During this period with coronavirus they recommend that you ring in advance – not just for picking, but for strawberry purchases too. The phone number is 0494-54-1699.
Masakado isn’t officially a part of the roadside station, but like several of the attractions in the area, they support and promote each other. And it is right on the doorstep of the Arakawa Roadside station. As is a kiwi fruit farm as well as potato digging farms.
The Chichibu Tetsudo trains stop at the nearby Bushū-Hino station. In August, Dahlia (which the Ryokami area of Chichibu is famous for) are growing along the tracks;
The Chichibu Railway runs right alongside the roadside station. If you time it right, which we didn’t on our first visit, you can see the famous Paleo Express passing. We did time it right on our second visit on September 22nd. However, the steam locomotive isn’t running in 2020. The steam engine is undergoing maintenance. Instead they have an Electric Locomotive this year:
Dahlia are in bloom right now (August). Neighboring Ryokami has a famous dahlia garden. However, Arakawa Hino is most known for its dogtooth violets and buckwheat. The dogtooth violets bloom around the end of March to early April. There are two dogtooth violet gardens within walking distance of the roadside station. There is also an Asian Skunk Cabbage garden in the area.
The buckwheat blooms in September. Soba is made from buckwheat. The Arakawa area of Chichibu is famed for its soba. They even have a soba festival! When the buckwheat flower season ends, the new soba season begins. There are three buckwheat fields by the roadside station. And there are several other buckwheat fields around the Arakawa area, including the most famous, Chichibu Hanami no Sato.
There’s a small playground suitable to small children in an open field beside the main car park and behind the clean and spacious toilets.
Yamazato Nature Museum
The Yamazato Nature Museum is located within the roadside station. It is one of the facilities of the Chichibu Geopark. Chichibu is the birth place of Geological studies in Japan. There are dozens of things to see in the Chichibu Geopark. Of course a lot of them are the naturally formed nature attractions and formations such as the Iwadatami of Nagatoro. But there are also several facilities such as the Yamazato Nature Museum which showcase and promote nature and wildlife of the area. The Yamazato Nature museum also showcases folk history and local culture of the Arakawa Hino area.
There are a few different choices. The main roadside station building has a shop that sells fruit and vegetables as well as a couple of take out food options. Suzu Hirotaki is a cafe by Suzukaen who have a famous restaurant and a campsite nearby. They sell mainly desserts. Their ice-cream is delicious and is served with fresh fruit pieces. You can sit in or eat outside where there are a couple of tables.
Behind the outdoor seating area for cafe Suzu there is a restaurant that sells tempura and udon. There is also an udon and soba restaurant on one side of the car park. Within the nearest hot spring, which you can see from the playground / open space of the parking area, there are further options.
There are two different hot springs at the roadside station. They are within a few minutes walk of each other. And from what I can tell are owned by the same company, Chichibu Onsen. The one nearest the roadside station, Hananoya (part of it pictured above), seems to the main one. They have accommodation as well as daytime only options. Official website.
Arakawa Roadside Station Information
|Arakawa Roadside Station, Chichibu|
|Address:||538-1 Arakawahino, Chichibu, Saitama 369-1803|
|March to November 9 am to 5 pm|
December to February 10 am to 4 pm
(Restaurants, activities, hot spring have their own hours)
|Cost:||Free to park|
Activity costs vary
|Online:||Official website of the roadside station.|
Masakado Fruit Farm Official website.
Official website of Chichibu Onsen Hananoya.