Situated in western Saitama Prefecture the Chichibu region (and the city of Chichibu) lies to the west-northwest of Tokyo. That was our destination today as we set out on a bright & sunny Easter Sunday morning for a drive to the low-elevation Okuchichibu mountains of the area.
Since we went by car we made our way out the Chuo Expressway to the Ken-Oh Expressway link where we headed north. Exiting at the Iruma interchange we were very thankful that we weren't headed south like the bumper-to-bumper line of cars making their way to the outlet mall in Iruma City. The heavy traffic meant well over an hour of inching along for those folks headed in that direction before they would even get to the mall and then who-knows-how-long before they could get a parking space. Been there. Done that. No thank you ma'am! Never again!
The sakura blossoms are all finished in Tokyo, but the Chichibu region still has a few flowers on the sakura trees and with other trees and shrubs in full bloom the landscape was alive with color today as you can see in the photos below.
The tree in this next photo is also typical of several we saw - with both white and pink blossoms.
Bridge scene along the route.
As we headed east we came across this huge display of koinobori- "carp streamer" - which are carp-shaped wind socks. They are traditionally flown in Japan to celebrate Tango no Sekku, a traditional event which is now designated as a National holiday, Children's Day, which will be on May 5th this year.
The display is on the hillside by the Jinryu River in the town of Kanna. There are 800 flags in the display. The town usually holds a festival when the koinobori are put on display, but one of the residents told us that the festival was cancelled this year in light of the earthquake and tsunami last month.
Along the route we stopped for a short walk through the Onouchi Valley. Unfortunately, it was a very short walk as the old footbridge that crossed the river apparently was washed away some time ago. However, this new suspension bridge remains and offers a good view of the small waterfall in the valley.
There are more interesting hikes and walks in the Chichibu region than this little valley, but it does have a small area jam packed with shakunage shrubs (Tsukushi rhododendron / part of the azalea family), which should be in full bloom in the next few days.
Oh - and one last bit - spotting a 500 yen car wash we pulled in to get a few days of post-rain filled days worth of grime off the old chariot. Madam Wife was amazed that for 500 yen they not only washed the wheels, by hand, with a brush, but they also wiped the car dry and even gave the interior a quick wipe to get rid of accumulated dashboard dust. Japan service "strikes" again!
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