Nagatoro is located in Northern Saitama, a very remote tourist destination on the quaint Chichibu Line. I headed there with some friends to see the last of the Plum Blossoms. We originally meant to take the Steam Locomotive train, the Paleo Express, but since the train only opened a few days ago for the new season, we were worried we wouldn’t get any tickets, so we opted to go by car instead.
Nagatoro is known for its metamorphic rocks and the prehistoric fossils of the Paleoparadoxia Tabadai. The metamorphic rocks, that are often called “tatami stones” by the locals, and the Nagatoro Red Wall are best viewed when riding one of the yakata-bune, the river boats. The river boats are steered by local boat men using long sticks, that they use to push on the river bed to set the boat sailing. Riding on the river boat was both exciting and terrifying.
At Hodo-san Shrine, they hold a Fire Festival on the first Sunday of March. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to witness the event, but it looked like an interesting festival. Up on Mt. Hodo, a view of the Chichibu Basin among the Plum Blossoms can be enjoyed. The summit is often visited during the last half of February and the first half of March. A yellow plum blossom variety called Robai surrounds the more popular pink and white blossoms. Visitors to the mountain can hike up or take the 5-minute ropeway car.
Fossils of the Paleoparadoxia Tabadai are on display at the Saitama Prefectural Museum of Natural History. The Paleparadoxia Tabadai is one of the few known marine mammals that lived 15 million years ago.
Nagatoro offers some of the best handmade Soba and Udon noodles in the area. Along with the noodles, we enjoyed mountain vegetable tempura, which I highly recommend.
Nagatoro is also famous for its Cherry Blossoms, which will be in bloom late March to early April.