The Ashigakubo icicles (芦ヶ久保の氷柱) in the sleepy town of Yokoze, Saitama Prefecture, are a relatively easy winter getaway from Tokyo. Only viewable from January to February, these artificial ice formations are any neon lovers’ dream when lit up at night on weekends and holidays.
It’s worth noting that the icicles are not a natural phenomenon. They are frozen structures made annually by locals, who spray water on a small hill until it becomes crystallized in the freezing weather.
Are the Ashigakubo icicles still worth seeing?
Definitely! Although a bit of a trek from central Tokyo, the Ashigakubo icicles are a magical sight when lit up.
We had booked tickets the day before to see the illumination, but all the earlier timeslots (5pm-6pm) were already full by then. So we had to get the 6pm one. We arrived at Ashigakubo around 3:30pm thinking we could see the icicles for free during the day as well, but discovered we had to pay again. So we decided to wait until night.
Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing to do in the surrounds besides strawberry picking (which had mostly finished by that time) and a hot spring. Since we didn’t really plan to do either, we ended up grabbing some miso potato-on-a-stick — a local delicacy apparently — and bowls of udon at the Michi-no-eki cafeteria. Drinking cup after cup of free tea, time seemed to pass slower in this sleepy town. But finally it hit 6pm and we braced ourselves for the cold as we headed out.
The icicles, which span 200m in length and 30m in height, are impressive to behold. The neon lights change colours periodically so you can enjoy a different atmosphere throughout the night.
The train passing through the park presents a nice photo op, but my hands were always so frozen I could never get my phone camera ready in time.
It is mighty chilly out there, which makes sense since you are literally surrounded by ice. So make sure you rug up. It takes around 30 mins to make a loop around the park, more if you stop to take photos.
Entry to the icicles cost 400 yen per person before 4pm, and 500 yen from 5pm when they are lit up. Note that unfortunately you have to pay twice if you wish to see the ice formations in both day and night.
As part of crowd control measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to book tickets in advance on the official website if you want to see the icicles between 5pm – 7pm on weekends and holiday. (Information current for the 2022 winter season). No cancellations or changes are allowed after booking.
Getting to the Ashigakubo icicles
From Ikebukuro, take the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line bound for Hanno. At Hanno, transfer to Seibu-Chichibu Line and get off at Ashigakubo Station. The icicles are around a 10-minute walk from there. The train journey should take around 1.5 hours in total from Ikebukuro.
The icicles of Ashigakubo are one of the three “Great Icicles of Chichibu,” which includes the icicles of Onouchi and the icicles of Misotsuchi. Only Ashigakubo can be reached easily by public transport, making it the most popular.
Looking for more interesting things to do in Saitama Prefecture? Check out the G-cans: Japan’s Massive Underground Drain, Tokorozawa Sakura Town, or, for something even more off-the-beaten-path, this abandoned convenience store.