Chichibu, located in western Saitama Prefecture, can be reached within an hour from Tokyo and is surrounded by rich nature, including mountains and valleys.
As the region’s geography and climate are not suitable for rice cultivation, people took advantage of the warm climate and abundant water sources for sericulture (silk farming) and silk weaving instead, which has flourished here since the Edo period. Silk textiles such as Chichibu-futori, woven from misshapen cocoons for everyday wear, and Chichibu-meisen, were born here and continue to be woven today, and are now designated as a National Traditional Crafts.
The Chichibu Night Festival, one of Japan’s three major Hikiyama festivals held to pray for a good harvest and peace in the land, is one of nearly 300 festivals still celebrated in Chichibu. There are also 34 pilgrimage sites known as “The Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary” still surviving today. This region is rich in deeply rooted tangible and intangible cultural heritage, including folkcrafts and folklore.
Through experiencing both local crafts and beliefs, visitors can immerse themselves in the techniques and unique spirit of Chichibu that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Faith and crafts. Visitors can feel a sense of the spirituality of the region through conversations with priests at the shrines and visiting festivals. Visitors can also experience the unique atmosphere and traditional techniques of Chichibu through “sericulture” (silk farming) and silk weaving, with a visit to Kagemori Sericulture Farm, the only remaining sericulture farm in the area.
Due to a climate unsuitable for rice cultivation, in Chichibu the people paid annual tribute (taxes) through its sericulture (silk farming). It is said that 90% of the inhabitants used to work in sericulture, but now only one farm remains; Kagemori Sericultural Company. Here you can feel the history and culture of Chichibu, including silkworm cultivation and cocoon collection by making craft materials such as silk thread.
It is said that the origins of Arakei Textiles dates back to when silk farming and weaving were first introduced to the local people by Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto, during the reign of Emperor Sujin (97-28 BC). Here you can visit the makers of Chichibu Meisen silk cloth, still produced today, and experience the spirit and techniques underlying its beauty through silk weaving workshops.
Learn about the history of faith in Chichibu and its connection with daily life and crafts. Visit the Chichibu Shrine, the center of faith of the region and site of the annual Chichibu Night Festival. And also see the Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary, which has become an essential tourist destination.