Washi no Sato is a roadside station in Saitama’s last and only village, Higashichichibu. Moreover, it is one of the most famous places for traditional washi paper making, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. You can try your hand at the 1300 year old tradition at this quaint rest area in the hills of Higashichichibu. Even if you aren’t planning to make washi paper, the roadside station is a lovely place to chill for an hour or two. Especially as they have a nice food court where you can try many different quintessential Japanese foods. Moreover, they have a handful of traditional buildings, showcasing Japanese arts, crafts and period items. Among them is the beautiful ancient Hosokawa Papermaking House complete with thatch roof.
Roadside Station Washi no Sato
Roadside Station Washi-no-Sato is located along national route 11. It is a popular scenic route to get to and from Chichibu. The roadside station has been improved over the years. The addition of a farmer’s market and food court a few years ago, put the village on the map for more than just Hosokawa paper. Moreover, there are various seasonal events and hands on experiences such as hand making udon and soba (in a non pandemic year). But of course, the most famous, is Hosokawa washi paper making.
You can learn to make Hosokawa washi paper from craftsmen who inherited the tradition which has been passed down from generation to generation for over 1300 years. The technique of making Hosokawa-shi is an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage of Japan. Furthermore, washi paper (including Hosokawa-shi) is listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Two of my children have made washi paper at Washi no Sato in the past. It is very similar to the workshop I took in Tokigawa. You can read about the process of washi paper making in that post.
At Washi-no-sato there are five options of paper making, including plain paper or paper with a few small flowers or foliage in it. If you sign up for the latter, you can either bring flowers with your or collect them on the grounds. There is a large cherry blossom on the grounds. When the petals fall you can use them in your decorative washi paper. The workshop is very reasonably priced. At the time of writing in spring 2021, one plain paper costs 300 yen and with meshed flowers it costs just 800 yen. *Please note that it takes weeks for the paper to set. Therefore, you have to either provide a postal address or go back to collect your paper.
Hosokawa Paper Making House
An old paper making house was restored on the grounds of the roadside station. It is preserved for people to see how paper was made during the Edo period. In the month of April and early May they fly koinobori in front of the building. This is where the mature cherry blossom tree is.
Seasonal blooms and lookout tower
You can see the lookout tower from all around. It looks like it is a long hike from the roadside station, but its actually just a couple of minutes walk. However, it is quite a steep incline! At the top there is actually a small azalea garden. If you walk back down the hill, but in the opposite direction of the village, there are some wisteria. However, please note this is a dead end and you have to walk back up and over the hill to get back to the roadside station. In saying that, it only takes about ten minutes.
Food Court and Farmers Market
On our last visit, Children’s Day 2021, the village was bustling with activity. However, the vast majority of people were there for the farmer’s market and the food court. The food court is kiosk style – several eateries serving food from windows. The seating area in the food court is also outdoors. However, it didn’t feel very safe (with corona) so we opted to sit on some benches by the period house where there was no-one else around. Even though you queue up outside, it was a bit nerve-wracking waiting in line with no social distancing. The grilled Iwana kiosk was particularly busy with a long line. According to my son, it was worth the wait!
We didn’t go into the market, because it was too busy and didn’t feel safe. However, there were some stalls outside where you could see the produce. Supposedly much of the produce is locally grown. It is also meant to be cheaper than a supermarket, but truthfully the produce we saw was no cheaper than our local supermarket. However, I could hear some people lamenting that they missed “today’s specials” so I assume they have limited special promotions.
There are some nice little features in the village. There is a small fountain where currently there are tadpoles galore. In front of the thatched house there is a pond with carp and numazu. There is a small shrine on the grounds, said to grant benevolence in intelligence! In a non pandemic year there are several seasonal events. Furthermore, some of the buildings showcase exhibitions, for free. The main gallery is beside the thatch roof paper making house. There is a tea room in that building too. Moreover, there is actually accommodation on the site, pictured below. Currently due to the Coronavirus they are only allowing up to five people stay at once.
Washi no Sato Information
|Roadside Station Washi no Sato (Washi-no-sato) Higashichichibu|
|Address:||〒355-0375 Saitama, Chichibu District, Higashichichibu, Mido, 441|
|Hours:||9 am to 4 pm|
|Cost:||Viewing is free|
|Online:||Official website (Japanese language only)|
Accessible by public transport. An Eagle Bus goes from Tobu Tojo Line’s Ogawamachi station to the village. It takes about 20 minutes by bus.
By car: coming from Ogawamachi the village is located shortly after you enter Higashichichibu. It is well sign posted. If you are coming from Minano in Chichibu on route 11, the turn for the roadside station is after you descend the mountain. When the road flattens out there is a T junction, you head east to Ogawamachi. The roadside station is well sign posted. There is free parking and plenty of overflow car parks. However, it can get very busy around lunchtime on a weekend or public holiday so you may have to wait for a parking space.