Known to those in the know, Niekawajuku, once flourished as a post town for worshippers to Mitsumine Shrine and merchants living in the area, now believed to have more scarecrows than the residents.
Rejuvenating Village To Former Glory
Niegawa is located upstream of Arakawa River in Chichibu City, which the river empties into the Tokyo Bay. The rich nature nurtured around the river and Mount Buko, the symbol of Chichibu, spread out before this scarecrow village. Once flourished as a post town during the Edo period, such historical figures like Edmund Naumann, a German geologist who came to Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912), visited this historic village to conduct geological surveys. And others like Kenji Miyazawa and Rohan Koda, who stopped by, praised the view too. However, when the railroad was extended to the nearby Mitsumineguchi Station in 1930, the inns declined. Depopulation has also progressed here, and the village now has 35 households with 79 residents. In contrast, there are more than 60 scarecrows. The streets along the Arakawa River are full of old houses and former inns built between the late Edo period and the Meiji period, showing some remnants of the busy highway connecting Chichibu and Koshu. However, the village is not particularly lively, and it is a very quiet place. To restore the former glory and make it a lively village, villagers came up with a project to rejuvenate the village by turning it into a scarecrow village in 2016. Now it has become a new sightseeing location loved by tourists and climbers alike who ride the Chichibu Railway's SL locomotive to Mitsumineguchi Station and walk through this village.
Scarecrows Are A Residents
Once getting off the Mitsumineguchi and walking across the bridge for about 10minutes, Niegawajuku Scarecrow Village awaits the visitors.
The upper stream seen from the bridge is a narrow V-shaped valley, while the lower stream is a slightly open river terrace. On the downstream side of the bridge, a narrow suspension bridge with a palanquin-like structure is built between the banks. It is used as a canyon walk offered at Chichibu Geo Gravity Park. Not recommended for the faint-hearted, but this new attraction opened in 2019 is a thrilling adventure to make full use of the untouched nature of Chichibu.
Once across the bridge, more than 60 scarecrows handmade by the local villagers are dispersed around the village. These scarecrows are made from recycled clothes and materials. Each has different genders and ages and also, unique facial expressions. Some are just gazing at the beautiful Mt. Buko, some are just chilling, some are doing the lawn, some are guiding the hikers the way, and many others. Unlike any other scarecrows, these handmade “residents” are full of charm with unique photograph opportunities.
Nostalgic Journey on Steam Locomotives
Once per day on operating days, SL Paleo Express runs between Kumagaya Station and Mitsumineguchi Station on Chichibu Railway. The tickets are sold by reservation only and this SL train attracts many photographers and train enthusiasts. Only at Mitsumineguchi station, there is a turntable inside the station, and visitors can see the trains changing direction. Instead of coming here to just explore, riding on this steam locomotive will be a great addition to the nostalgic journey to the untouched nature, relatively closeby from the central Tokyo area.
Niegawajuku Scarecrow Village in Saitama is about 10minutes walk from Mitsumineguchi Station on Seibu Chichibu Line. While there is less than 2 trains per day that arrive and depart here, getting here is relatively easy.
Route1: From Ikebukuro Station
The fastest way is to get on board the direct "Red Arrow" limited express trains that takes about 80 minutes from Ikebukuro station to Chichibu station. If done by express train, the journey takes about 20 minutes longer. And if done by local train, visitors will need to change trains at Hanno station and the total journey takes more than 2 hours.
From Chichibu Station, it is about a 5 minute walk to Ohanabatake Station. Visitors will need to purchase tickets at the vending machine. Keep in mind that at this station, Chichibu Railway doesn’t accept SUICA or Pasmo or any sort of IC cards. Once on the train from Ohanabatake Station, its about 20 minutes to Mitsumineguchi Station, which is the last stop on this line.
Route 2: From Tokyo Station
From Tokyo station, get on the JR Takasaki station to Kumagaya Station. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
From Kumagaya Station, change to Chichibu Railway and it's about 1hour and 30 minutes to Mitsumineguchi Station.READ MORE
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