There are two things couples want when they travel. First, an opportunity to be with each other and connect. Second, to visit a unique place they can tell others about.
While Kinchakuda ranks among the top 30 reasons to visit in Japan (or the top 30 most breathtakingly beautiful places in Japan), very few foreigners know about it or its surrounding area.
Easily accessible from Ikebukuro on the Seibu Line, it offers couples an opportunity to hike in the countryside and really feel the beauty of Japan’s nature.
Purchase a Red Arrow ticket to Hanno and experience the luxury of gliding out of Tokyo as the city begins to melt away and you and your significant other head for the mountains to the west. Within 45 minutes you will arrive at Hanno. Transfer to the Seibu Chichibu Line heading towards Chichibu and get off at Koma Station. Follow the signs that lead to Kinchakuda ( 巾着田). An easy downhill walk, you will catch glimpses of the stately mountains that are joined all the way to Chichibu.
You will inevitably pass by a small shop named Koma Tofu ( 高麗豆腐), which prides itself in using naturally sweet soybeans from Chichibu and is 100% local. Make a mental note to stop here on
your way back to pick up some tofu goodness to enjoy at home.
Following the well marked path to Kinchakuda, you’ll pass by charming little “honesty shops” selling vegetables. If you want to buy, simply bag up your vegetable of choice and pay into the coin box provided.
If the train trip has made you hungry, you’re in luck because there are several great choices. Right before you make a turn towards Kinchakuda, there is a curry shop created out of a big
American-style blue bus. Musasabi’s nostaligic exterior and surprisingly cozy interior never fail to delight visitors who come here to sip chai and have their fill of Indian curry, served to the background of jazz music. Note that Musasabi Curry is only open on weekends.
Another great choice is Alishan Cafe, a difficult-to-miss red barn by the main road. Have an intimate lunch of organic, vegetarian and vegan delights on Alishan’s deck nestled under the generous shade of big trees and right beside the Koma River. Share a slice of warm vegan apple and fig pie which comes with a scoop of soy ice cream. Note that Alishan is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
To work off all that lovely food, take a hike up Mt. Hiwada, a fairly easy climb through well marked trails and towering trees. On quiet days, all you will hear is the rustling of the wind and the twittering of birds. You and your partner can opt to take the easy route up or challenge each other up the more difficult route. Either way, it takes about 30-40 minutes to reach the viewing point. When you arrive at the torii (traditional Japanese gate) at the top of Mt. Hiwada, you will be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Kinchakuda, the purse shaped field that is outlined by the Koma River. On clear days, Mt. Fuji appears on your right side. Mt. Fuji is held in such high reverence and is associated with good luck. If you are fortunate enough to see it, take the time to hold hands and make a wish.
Meanwhile, Kinchakuda beckons. Find your way back down the mountain and to Alishan. A small pedestrian road through a residential area leads to Kinchakuda, its wide open fields a welcome sight
to city eyes weary of crowded concrete streets and sharp edged buildings. In April, the perimeter of Kinchakuda is lined with cherry blossom trees that bloom pink while the fields of rapeseed flowers make the fields appear golden yellow. In the summer, lotus flowers rise gracefully from the ponds and the blueberry patch is open for visitors who want to pick their own blueberries and eat them fresh. In the early fall, the entire riverside is covered with a red carpet of spider lilies while the center fields are dotted with cosmos flowers. This is the perfect time to take off your shoes and socks, dip your feet and playfully splash around in the cool clear water of the Koma River. Or simply relax and take a refreshing nap serenaded by the gushing waters. Before long, you will be be privy to a gloriously romantic sunset.
Heading back to Tokyo is just as easy. Retrace your steps back to Koma Station (check train times as there are only 2 trains per hour) and catch the Red Arrow back to Ikebukuro. Then tell everyone about that unique corner of Hidaka where you were able to connect with nature and your partner.