Tsuchiuchi Camping Grounds is deep in a valley in the former Otaki village in Chichibu. Pitched on the staggered sides of the ravine, the camp and cabin grounds are hugged by beautiful forest on all sides. Natural moss grows thick on craggy rock with fresh water rolling over forming beautiful small waterfalls.
Tsuchiuchi Camping Grounds
Tsuchiuchi Camping grounds is located on the south side of the Arakawa (Ara River) in a gorge in Otaki village. The main route 140 runs along the North side of the river, but you have to cross over to a small minor road to get to the campsite. The cabins are built on the side of a steep slope, but the tent sites are on two area of flat lands within the camping grounds. There is an access point, down a steep stairs, to the Ara River. The season is from April until the end of October, but in winter this is one of two sites of the Otaki Festival. The Misotsuchi icicles of the festival form along the river by Tsuchiuchi camping ground.
Getting the not so good out of the way first: like Kinomura Camp you can’t park in front of your cabin or tent site to unload your car. However, unlike Kinomura they have K-trucks to transport your gear. After loading it up, a member of staff drives the K-truck to your door, where you can unload. It was actually convenient in one way. And the next morning we were able to drive our own car down to our cabin and pack up in our time. I think they insist on the K-truck on arrival, for first timers, for safety. Then if you feel up to driving the exceptionally steep and somewhat windy road yourself when you are leaving, they allow it.
The cabins are basic and have no sockets, but they are large and airy. Which is just as well as they have no air conditioning either! It is a little cooler in Tsuchiuchi than where we live (near Japan’s hottest city Kumagaya). Thanks to the altitude, forest and river. We visited the last week of July, but before the rainy season had ended. I did find it quite muggy to be honest, but nowhere the level of flat land Saitama. There are no toilets, but there are shared toilets near most of the cabins.
Each of the cabins are designed differently, which mixes it up for people who visit multiple times. Several of them, including the one we stayed in, have a large wooden deck. They are roofed so they are like an extra room without walls! The cabin beside ours had a fridge on the deck. Others have smaller decks, but large ground space in front of the cabin.
We haven’t stayed at the tent sites. There are three camping areas. The highest one is just below the play area and feeds into the cabin area where we stayed, which is the lower part of the cabin area. Below that area there are two others that are along the cliff overlooking the river.
You can set up your “dining / kitchen” on the deck, or in any of the free ground space. And they also have barbecue areas you can use. You can bring your own BBQ or rent one of the camp’s. The seating areas are raised dais with low tables so you sit on the ‘floor’ of the dais. There are sinks here. They don’t have any washing up liquid or sponges so you need to bring your own.
You can normally barbecue on the stony river bank too. But when we visited there was very little of the river beach left due to the higher than normal level of water in the Arakawa. Rainy season was particularly long in 2020. And not only did it last longer than usual, it brought more rain than normal, swelling the rivers all over Saitama.
There are several water play areas at Tsuchiuchi. Within the camping grounds there are at least two ponds where small children can splash about. Then down by the river there is more opportunity for water play. They have a couple of different areas sectioned off by stones there for playing and you can swim in the river too. However, when we visited, due to the continuous July rainfall the Arakawa was quite tumultuous. Swimming was out of the question and unfortunately a couple of the sectioned off water plays were deeper than normal on account of all the rain. So they were out of bounds too. But there was one area we could play and we could used the water slider.
The water slider is tubed on the top end and open, like a slide, on the bottom end. The pool of water it goes into is quite deep, at least 130 centimetres. So if a smaller child wants to use it you will have to go into the pool to catch them.
Fresh water spring
There is a spring by reception where you can drink fresh water.
There is a rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) at the very top of the grounds, just by the main gate. There is only one so the hours of use for men and women are divided. It opens at 2 pm when women can use it. After that its every even hour. It closes at midnight. Men are on the odd hours between 3 and 11 pm. They didn’t have any body wash or shampoo when we visited. Thankfully I always bring my own! We had brought our own towels too as they had told my husband to do so when he rang to book. It costs 400 yen per session for anyone over six and 200 yen for children under six. (The rotemburo is not open during the Otaki ice festival).
There are coin showers below the rotemburo too. They are open 24 hours during camping season, all things being equal. They cost 200 yen for four minutes. Good water pressure and temperature. The changing area is a little small, but the shower itself is spacious. Interestingly there is also a bath in one of the showers!
There is a play area up on the hill behind “Log House Otaki”. It only has two things, but they are a lot of fun for kids. They are a tyre flying fox cum swing. And a giant osero / othello board. The pieces for the othello board are kept at the reception, you just have to ask for them. Also, down near the stairs to the river, there is a little anpanman coin operated car and a free slide.
Activities / Events
There are several different events at Tsuchiuchi normally. But this is not a normal year. Most events seem to be cancelled. They did have a bonfire set up on the beach when we were there, but due to the continuous rain and the height of the river they didn’t light it. We could fish and beetle hunt though 🙂
The Misotuchi Icicles / Otaki Ice Festival
The Otaki Ice Festival is held when the icicles form. Which is usually from around mid January to mid February. However, in 2020, due to the milder weather the icicles never quite formed and the festival was cancelled half way through. When the festival is on, they light up the icicles at night. Tsuchiuchi camp grounds have further man made icicles. Furthermore, they serve hot food and drink during the festival.
You can view all the details on the annual event information here:
Bring your own!
We have been camping twice now since the Coronavirus outbreak. In both places they required you bring your own bedding, futons and all, in this time of a pandemic. So I don’t know if Tsuchiuchi normally supplies things like washing up liquid, sponges, body soap, towels etc. But during the pandemic it is probably best to, as much as possible, bring your own supplies. However, in saying that, Tsuchiuchi is still renting out barbecue equipment! Other places might not be though.
There was something about Tsuchiuchi that we really loved. Maybe it was the stunning scenery, forest bathing and negative ions. But Kinomura had those too and it didn’t quite leave the same impression on us. (In fact, aesthetically Kinomura is probably more scenic.) Its not like we were lucky with the weather either, as it rained a good chunk of the time we were there. And we were really unfortunate with our neighbors who were the loudest camp neighbors we’ve ever had. Despite all this and some of the shortcomings of the grounds, Tsuchiuchi now goes into our top ten of all the campsites we’ve been to in Japan so far! Some of those campsites are on the website here (click).
|Address:||4011-1 Otaki, Chichibu, Saitama 369-1901|
|Phone:||+81-49-4550137 (phone reception from 8 am to 6 pm)|
|Season:||April to October.|
In winter it is used for the Otaki Ice Festival, but you can’t actually stay there during the colder months.
|Hours:||Check in 1 pm, check out 11 am|
|Cost:||Auto camp area from 4,800 yen.|
Cabins from 6,000 yen.
Despite its remote location there is actually a bus that goes relatively nearby, thanks to the area having several popular attractions. The Miyadaira bus stop on route 140, or the Chichibu Oukan Highway as its called in English (not an actual highway!) is about a twenty minute walk from the campsite. The bus goes from Mitsumineguchi station on the Chichibu Tetsudo line. Please note both the bus and the trains are infrequent in this area.
By car, you turn at the Otaki Tourist Assocation. Cross over the bridge with the signs for Otaki Sougo Shien center, but turn right at the T-junction. Then take the road right to the end where you will come upon the campsite. If you miss the turn, there is actually another one further up route 140, but there is no good land mark. If you are using Google maps, as we were, it should direct you fine: