The Otaki Ice festival, illuminated Misotsuchi Icicles in 2023 – One of the most famous, and beautiful, winter scenes of Saitama is at the Otaki Ice Festival. Located in the former Otaki village (now part of Chichibu city) in the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. The Misotsuchi Icicles are the only naturally formed icicles of the three Great icicles of Chichibu. They light the icicles of Misotsuchi up at night. Each year for about a month you can enjoy this spectacular view in Chichibu, the mountainous area of Western Saitama.
The Otaki Ice Festival was one of only a few January events that went ahead in 2021 despite the Coronavirus and a State of Emergency. They opened in 2022 too, when few other places did and it was actually one of the best years for the icicles to date thanks to suitable climatic conditions. Between 2019 and 2021 unsuitable weather patterns significantly impacted the formation of the icicles and shortened the period of the festival. Hopefully 2023 will be another cold year that keeps the icicles in prime condition for as long as possible! Regardless, at this moment in time they are planning to start the Otaki Ice festival from Sunday January 8th 2023.
The Misotsuchi icicles form completely naturally. The main display are neither altered nor aided by human hands. The icicles form from spring water bubbling from the rocks aided by the winter environment of the Okuchichibu region. The icicles are ten meters tall and thirty meters wide! They look spectacular when lit up at night, particularly with the lights reflected in the water. They use four different colors to represent the four seasons of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park.
You can view the icicles from either the North side or South side of the Arakawa (Ara River). On the North side, which is more popular because of the convenience, the entrance is by the Woodroof campsite. Moreover, the icicles can be seen from the car park of Woodroof campsite for anyone who is unable to take the craggy, icy walk down to the riverside.
On the south side the entrance (and parking) is at the Tsuchiuchi Camping grounds. It is further and harder to get to. However, Tsuchiuchi campsite have even more icicles – man-made, but equally impressive. They are 25 meters high and 55 meters wide. (You can see them from Woodroof too). Also, Tsuchiuchi serve hot food and drinks during the period of the Otaki ice festival. Please note that neither campsite take over night guests at that time of the year (season is from April to October).
In 2020 the icicles were late forming due to the milder weather. They never really formed properly so there was no entry fee. And for the same reasons they did not support the icicles during the week and only opened the icicles to visitors on the weekends. However, the weather conditions were initally better in 2021. However, the milder than normal winter melted the icicles much earlier than normal. Thus, the event abruptly ended earlier than expected. In 2022, for the first time in years, the weather conditions were perfect for the icicles. Not only could the icicles remain open for the whole time of the festival, but they actually extended the period of the ice festival to the end of February too.
Otaki Ice Festival 2023 information
Icicles / Ice Festival – Sunday January 8th to Sunday February 19th 2023
Light up – Saturdays and Sundays only between Saturday January 21st and Sunday February 19th 2023
Generally, on the last two Saturdays of January they also have a market during the day. The market has not yet been confirmed for 2023, but everything else has.
The hours have changed slightly for 2023. In previous years the hours was from 8.30 am to 5 pm daily. But in 2023 the hours are from 8 am to 4 pm daily. From January 21st to February 19th the festival is on until 8 pm on Saturdays and Sundays for the light up. (Before the pandemic it was 9 pm).
The entrance fee is going up in 2023. From 200 yen to 400 yen for adults or high school aged children. There is no charge for younger children.
Misotsuchi Icicles Access
The icicles are the 47 kilometers from the Hanazono Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway. The parking costs are generally 500 yen per car, 200 yen for a bike and 1000 yen for a bus. The Tsuchiuchi Camping Ground open their car park to the public during the period of the icicles. The camp ground itself closes for the season and will open around the end of March or early April.
From Chichibu Tetsudo Chichibu Main Line Mitsumineguchi station take a Seibu Kanko bus headed to Lake Chichibu 「秩父湖」 . The “Misotsuchi” bus stop is the closest bus stop to the icicles. It is on the North side of the river.
Misotsuchi Icicles access from Tokyo:
Take a limited express train from Ikebukuro to Seibu Chichibu station, from there its about a 3 minute walk to Chichibu railway Mitsumineguchi station from where you get the bus.
In the area:
The famous Mitsumine Shrine, the stunning Toryu bridge, Oboragawatsuri Foot Bridge, Chichibu Lake and Futase Dam.
Other icicles that are illuminated in the area:
For more ideas of what you can do in Saitama in Winter:
First published in November 2016. Updated annually. 1s republish: October 5th 2021, 2nd republish and last update: December 13th 2022.