Onouchi Icicles are one of three icicle winter spectacles of Chichibu. The icicles are located in Ogano Town, deep in the Okuchichibu mountain range. Until 2021 they were called Onouchi Hyakkei. “Hyakkei” means hundred and the Saitama Prefectural Tourism website translated the icicles name as Onouchi Hundred Icicles. However, they were always most commonly referred to as the Romanized version of their Japanese name. They dropped the ‘hyakkei’ in 2021 and now they are just called Onouchi Icicles or Onouchi Tsurara in Japanese.
The Onouchi icicles are in the Ogano town area of Chichibu district. These icicles are made from an artificial flow of water. The icicles are then naturally formed by the climate of the area, it is just their water supply is artificial. And the locals work strategically to control the flow and thus the formation of the icicles. The locals are well praised for not only their ingenuity, but their hospitality. In a “normal” (non pandemic year) you can receive amezake for free and they have a bonfire lit where visitors can warm themselves.
While they may not be natural icicles, they are breathtaking. The suspension bridge that runs in front of the icicles adds not only to the scenery, but to the ambiance and thrill of visiting these icicles. You can get up close to the icicles thanks to the suspension bridge.
The Icicles in 2023
2022 was the first time in three years that the Onouchi icicles were on properly. Between 2019 and 2021 due to warm weather and then the pandemic, the icicles were a non-event! They are scheduled again for 2023, with night light too on select dates. Last year, 2022, was actually one of the best years for all three of Chichibu’s icicles due to cold weather conditions. Hopefully 2023 will be the same. However, there is also the possibility that, like in 2019, the icicles could form later and / or melt early. We’ll just have to wait and see!
But Ogano town have set the official period for the 2023 Onouchi icicles as from Sunday January 8th to Sunday February 19th 2023. Which is actually a bit shorter than normal – historically these icicles stayed open the longest, until the end of February. It is not unusual for them to still be frozen in early March, unlike Ashigakubo and Misotsuchi which are generally completely gone by the end of February. Of course, weather plays a big part, so this is all subject to change depending on the weather conditions. Prime viewing though is generally from the end of January to early February.
For the last weekend of the 2023 icicles, there will be a “contemporary circus performance” on both Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th, weather permitting. There will be a total of four performances by the Ogano Performing Arts Theater – two on Saturday, two on Sunday. The first performance at 11 am and the second at 1 pm. Each time the performance is about 20 minutes long.
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(Featured photo at the top of the post from Saitama Prefecture Industry and Labor Department, Tourism Division)
Dates: from Sunday January 8th to Sunday February 19th 2023
Hours: 8 am to 4 pm Sunday to Friday. The park is opened until 8 pm on the Saturdays and Sundays that the night light up is on…
Light up: the light up will be on Saturday and Sunday nights only from Saturday January 21st to Sunday February 19th. From dusk to 8 pm.
Cost: Between 2019 and 2021 there was no charge due to the poor condition of the icicles and / or the pandemic. Before 2019 it cost 200 yen for adults and high school aged children to enter the area the icicles are in. But the price went up in 2022 – it costs 400 yen for anyone over 12 years old.
Access Onouchi Icicles
The icicles are very hard to get to by public transport, but some say it’s worth the effort. You need to get a train to Seibu Chichibu station and then take three buses. First you take a bus for the Ogana City office. From there you transfer to a bus terminus “Ogana shako”. You transfer there to a bus for Sakamoto. All in all it takes over an hour and you have to be careful about the bus times as they are very infrequent. It is highly recommended that you use a tour bus or come by car.
If you are driving, in theory, you could visit all three icicles in the one day, but it would be impossible to see the light up for all three in the one night! The parking for the icicles are off route 299, down a country road from Ryutou shrine. They used to charge for parking, 500 yen a day, but currently there is no mention of parking fees.
Address: 996-1, Kawarasawa, Ogano town Chichibu county (Map in the grey details box at the bottom of the post).
2023 Official web page as of December 13th (There is a chance they will change it when the release more information – I’ll keep an eye out).
The three great icicles of Chichibu
Of the three icicle displays in Chichibu, only one of them is completely natural. The Misotsuchi icicles in the Otaki area of Chichibu are Oku Chichibu’s only naturally formed winter beauty spot . The water freezes coming over rock to create the stunning natural ice sculptures.
The Ashigakubo Icicles are the easiest to get to by public transport:
woah – this looks genuinely amazing!