Naritasan Temple (& Rilakkuma amulets) | KAWAGOE

Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin Temple is a branch of the Naritasan Shinsoji Buddhist Temple of Narita, Chiba. It has a very interesting, but complex history with many layers of detail.  The founder Ishikawa Tomegoro, with the financial backing of wealthy locals, restored what was previously the ruined Hongyoin Temple to be the first branch of Narita’s Shinsoji Temple.  

The story goes that Ishikawa, a farmer, lost his eyesight and tried to commit suicide. When he was unsuccessful after three attempts he believed it was sign from the Gods and entered the Buddhist priesthood. He regained his sight and the temple is now a popular place to pray for poor eyesight and general eye health. After touring all round Japan he finally settled in Kawagoe at a Shinto Shrine (Hachiman Shrine) where a temple to the Fudo Myo-o, the Wisdom King Acala , a protective Deity, had been established.  That Acala Temple was then moved to what today is the Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin.  Unfortunately there is very little comprehensive information in English to direct you to, but there is a little on the Kawagoe Koedo Naritasan page.

The Kawagoe branch of Naritasan Shinsoji Temple is represented by the Ofuda-sama, the common name for Fudo Myo-o, at the North Gate.  The North Gate is the one to right of the main building as you face it. It is beside a turtle pond.

Here you will find a statue with lots of baby paraphernalia laid to the God and to Jizo for Mizuko, literally water baby, which are babies that have passed away. Jizo are the most venerated bodhisattva in Japan, are believed to be a the equivalent of a patron saint, in Christian beliefs, of dead children.

You can write a prayer plaque for 500 yen to leave for the soul of a passed away child. The temple also offer other services for a lost child, miscarriage or abortion.

There are many other statues and prayer points on the temple grounds.  Including an area to worship Ebisuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Kawagoe. There is a popular 6 kilometre pilgrimmage of the seven temples of which each worship one of the seven lucky Gods. They even have an area where you can get your God stamp for that temple! Naritasan is the 4th stop on the pilgrimage. Ebisuten is the God of purity of unselfishness and the symbol of good luck and happiness. The temple sell Ebisuten Ema, which are votive prayer plaques, that you can write your prayer or request on and hang from a designated prayer plaque area.

The temple sell a number of other Ema, prayer plaques, and omamori, a type of amulet / talisman. One of the more popular ema is that for eyesight, due to the background of Ishikawa and his regained sight. To me a Japanese omamori is a hybrid of an amulet and talisman. From my understanding, an omamori has both the protective power of an amulet and the good luck of a talisman. Naritasan is most famous for their traffic safety omamori. Currently, they are receiving attention for their Rilakkuma omamori. Rilakkuma which means relaxed bear in Japanese, is a popular fictional character and its merchandise is very popular. These amulets / talisman also seem to be very popular although 200 yen more expensive than most at 700 yen a piece.

Despite its interesting background and the amount of prayer spots in the temple, Naritasan is not as well known as its neighbouring temple of Kitain. Kitain is one of Kawagoe’s most famous and popular tourist spots. It is also a station on the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage.  Perhaps in modern society Kawagoe Naritasan is actually most famous for its antique and flea market which is held on the grounds of the temple on the 28th of every month.  It is said to be one of the best antique and flea markets in the Kanto area and always draws crowds.

Access

On Foot

  • 13 minute walk from the Seibu Shinjuku Line Honkawagoe Station
  • 22 minute walk from the JR Kawagoe Line and the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe station
  • 17 minute walk from the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe-shi station

By Bus

You can take a bus from both Kawagoe and HonKawagoe for Minami Furuya station (南古谷駅行き)and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus from Tobu Tojo and JR lines Kawagoe station and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop
「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus  from Tobu Tojo Line and JR LIne Kawagoe station and Hon Kawagoe stations to Kitain Temple 「喜多院バス停」 . It is about a 2 minute walk from that bus stop.

By Car

  • 15 minute drive from Kawagoe Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway.
  • 20 minute drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-O Expressway.
  • Free Parking for about 20 cars

Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.

Kawagoe Access from Tokyo by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.

Links

Kawagoe Naritasan Official Site:
http://www.kawagoe-naritasan.net/

Information in English:
http://www.koedo.or.jp/foreign/english/llak/217.html

Naritasan Temple, Chiba, official site:
http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/

Kitain Temple:
Cherry blossom festival at Kitain Temple

Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage of Kawagoe:
http://www.kawagoe.com/7fukujin/m/en/

Tobu Koedo Loop Bus:
http://www.tobu-bus.com/pc/area/koedo.html

Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

10 Winter Play Spots in Saitama, commutable from Tokyo

With the dry and sunny weather, January is a great month to be out and about in Saitama. The choice of winter-only activities is an added incentive to don some winter woollies and head out into the cold. We may not have much (if any) snowfall, but you can still ski and play in snow in the Tokorozawa / Sayama area of Saitama.  We have a great selection of ice-rinks throughout the prefecture including one natural rink in rural Saitama. There is also a selection of indoor activities such as sport centres, heated pools and strawberry greenhouses to warm you up on even the coldest of days. Below is a pick of 10 indoor and outdoor locations, where you can either embrace or escape the cold this winter in Saitama.

1. Kasa skate rink

This is the only natural skate rink I know of in Saitama. Local volunteers band together to turn the natural ice pool into a suitable skate rink. However, as it is natural ice extra precaution is advised. You can borrow skates, guards and helmets at the rink.

Access: Bus from JR Hachiko Line Ogawamachi Station or Ogose Station to Shohoji 「正法寺」 . The rink is a five minute walk from the bus stop.

Free parking for up to 40 cars.

Address: Nishidaira, Tokigawa machi, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0364. Telephone: 0493-67-0853

Hours: Open 9 am to 4 pm weekends and holidays only, while the ice is frozen, typically until early February.

Cost: 500 yen for high school students and adults, 200 yen for children. Skate rental is also 500 yen for high school students and adults, 200 yen for children.

2. Numakage Ice Rink

The 50 metre pool in Numakage park is transformed into an ice rink in the winter. The rink opens late on weekends. If you just want to observe people skating you can enter the rink area for free.  There are other facilities of interest in the park such as an indoor pool and yoga and pilate classes.

Access: 10 minute walk from JR Saikyo Line Musashi Urawa station.

Free parking for up to 150 cars.

Address: 2-7-35 Numakage, Minami Ku, Saitama City, Saitama 336-0027. Telephone: 048-861-9955

Hours: Open 9 am to 6 pm on weekends and until 8.50 pm on weekends and public holidays until February 19th.

Cost: 640 yen for adults, 310 yen for primary and high school students, children under 7 are free. Skate rental costs 360 yen per person.

3. Saitama Ice Arena Winter Only Illuminated Rink

The Saitama Ice Arena is open all year round, but for weekends during the winter months they also have a sub rink that is illuminated at night. The main rink is an olympic sized rink. They have all the necessary safety gear available for children; you can borrow helmets for free.

Access: On Fridays, weekends and public holidays there is a shuttle bus from the east exit of the JR Takasaki Line Ageo station. It costs 200 yen for adults and a 100 yen for children. 20 minute walk from New Shuttle line’s Haraichi and Shonan stations.

Free parking for up to 70 cars.

Address: 4-386 Hinode, Ageo City, Saitama 362-0032

Hours: 10 am to 6 pm for the regular rink, the illuminated rink is open 6 pm to 8 pm on weekends, Fridays and public holidays for the months of December, January and February only.

Cost: 1100 yen for adults and high school students, 600 yen for children. Skates cost 500 yen to rent.

4. Lake Town Koshigaya Ice Rink

The huge outlet of Lake Town in Koshigaya have a seasonal outdoor ice-rink during the winter months in the “Sora no Hiroba”. From the 9th of January it is only available on weekends and public holidays.

Access: About a 7 minute walk from Musashino Line Koshigaya Lake Town Station.

Approximately 6 kilometres from the Misato Interchange on Joban Expressway. Approximately 7 kilometres from the Soka Interchange of the Tokyo Gaikan Expressway. Parking for 2200 cars. The first 5 hours are free and after that 100 yen for 30 minutes.

Address: Laketown Koshigaya, Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture 343-0828 Japan. 

Hours: 11 am to 7 pm on weekends and public holidays.

Cost: 500 yen for 30 minutes for anyone over 13 years old.
300 yen for 30 minutes for children between 4 and 12 years old.
600 yen for parent and child pair ticket.
Skate rental 400 yen per person.

Lake Town Outlet Skate Rink | KOSHIGAYA

5. Seibu Snow Kingdom

The Snow Kingdom in Seibu Amusement park will run until March 5th this year. Kids can enjoy sliding down the snow on snow tubes, sledges and / or giant inflated slides. They also have buckets and spades for digging tunnels or striders for use on the snow. There is also a ice skating rink in the amusement park.

Access: 5 minute walk from Seibu Tamako Line Seibu Yuenchi Station and Seibu Line Seibuen Station.

12 kilometres from Tokorozawa Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Parking for 1200 cars (1300 yen per day).

Address: 2964 Yamaguchi, Tokorozawa City, Saitama 359-1145. Telephone:  042-922-1371.

Hours: The schedule varies a lot, but generally speaking it is open Fridays to Mondays and is generally closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm.  Please check the official website to make sure the snow park is open the day you hope to go: http://www.seibuen-yuuenchi.jp/guide/snow/

Cost: If you hold an entry ticket to Seibu Amusement Park the Snow Kingdom costs 800 yen for adults and children over 12, and 500 yen for children from 3 years old to 12 years old as well as seniors (over 60). If you have a “free pass” ticket it is 500 yen for over 12s and 300 yen for children and seniors.

Snow Kingdom @ Seibu Amusement Park | Tokorozawa

6. Sayama Ski Resort

This indoor artificial snow resort is the only one of its kind in Saitama. They don’t have any special play attractions for children, but they do have ski lessons for children and parents on a Saturday. They also have individual lessons and a ski school.

Access: 3 minute walk from Seibu Ikebukuro Line and Seibu Yamaguchi Lines Seibu Kyujomae station.

10 KM from Iruma Interchange on the Ken-O expressway following route 463 on to route 55. Parking for up to 700 cars. Costs 1200 yen per day.

Address: 2167 Kamiyamaguchi, Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture 359-1153, Japan. Telephone: (04)2922-1384

Hours: 10 am to 9 pm on weekdays and open from 10 am to 9 pm and then again from 10 pm until 6 am for night skiing on weekends.

Cost: Ski lift for adults is 4,100 yen, 3,300 yen for high school students, and free for primary and preschool aged children.  90 minute lessons with ski lift included for a parent and child cost 6,800 yen.

Sayama Ski Resort | SAYAMA

7. Waku Waku Dome

Waku waku Dome is a health centre in Asaka City. They have a number of indoor heated pools including a shallow pool with slide for children. The centre also has a play room with rest area for small children.

Access: 15 minute walk from Tobu Tojo LIne Asakadai Station and JR Musashino Line Kita Asaka station.

Free parking for up to 200 cars.

Address: 27 Hamasaki, Asaka-shi, Saitama-ken 351-0033

Hours: 9 am to 10 pm

Cost: For residents of Asaka 2 hours in use of the pool costs 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for students. For non-residents it is 800 yen for adults and 400 yen for students. Use of the pool is free for children under 7 years old.

8. Kasukabe Yumoto Onsen

There are many onsen throughout Saitama, but some are more child friendly than others. Yumoto onsen in Kasukabe has a nice area for children with an elephant and dinosaur slide into the hot spring.  There is also a pool in the resort and you can take yoga as well as enjoy a number of different relaxation services such as a hot stone sauna.

Access: Free shuttle bus from  Tobu Skyliner Sengendai station and Tobu Urban Park Noda line Toyohara station.

Free parking for up to 1000 cars.

Address: 66-1 Shimoōmashi Shinden, Kasukabe-shi, Saitama-ken 344-0036

Hours: 10 am to 8.30 am (22.5 hours), the pool is open until 7 pm.

Cost: Weekdays are 1340 yen for adults and 620 yen for children between 3 and 12 years old. On weekends it is 1750 yen for adults and 720 yen for children between 3 and 12 years old.  Entry is free for children under 3.

9. Shimura Strawberry Farm

Strawberry greenhouses are a great place to warm up during winter. The temperatures are usually above 20 degrees and it is lovely and humid making a nice change from the dryness outdoors.  This strawberry farm is one of my favourites, because of the little but engaging play area indoors and some fun features outdoors as well as complimentary hot drinks.

Access: Approximately 1 kilometre or 4 minutes by car from the Sakado exit of the Ken-O expressway.

Address: 102 Konuma, Sakado, Saitama 350-0202. Telephone: 080-5028-1062 between 8 am and 6 pm.

Hours: From 10 am, generally Tuesday to Sunday, from January 2nd until end of April or early May.

Cost: This year the cost is 1800 yen for adults and children over 6, children between 3 and 6 years old are 1400 yen,  2 year old children are 200 yen. You can also buy punnets of strawberries. One punnet costs 600 yen.

Strawberry Picking with a play area | Sakado

 

10. Spocha

Spocha is Saitama’s largest indoor sports and play centre. It is a great centre to enjoy all year round, but on the coldest of days what better way to warm up than with some indoor physical activity. There are over 70 sports and games you can enjoy in Spocha from Archery to Zorbing and everything in between.

Access: Free shuttle bus from the East exit of JR Takasaki Line Ageo Station.

Address: 917-1 Hiratsuka, Ageo-shi, Saitama-ken 362-0011

Hours: Monday 9 am to 6 am (open 21 hours), Tuesday to Thursday 10 am to 6 am, Friday to Sunday 24 hours to 6 am on the Monday morning.

Cost: Different packages available starting at 540 yen for preschoolers and 1,720 yen for adults. Costs include access to all >70 activities, games and sports.

For more detail please see:

【Spo-cha】|Ageo

 

Between the weather, New Year festivities and seasonal activities, January is actually one of my favourite months in Japan.  The locations and activities listed above are only a small sample of what Saitama has to offer in winter. We also have some stunning winter scenery that can only be witnessed in the first six weeks of the year, such as the Misotsuchi Icicles in Chichibu and the Ashigakubo Icicles in Yokoze. The latter were only discovered 3 years ago, but have already risen to national acclaim due to their stunning beauty, particularly when illuminated at  night.  Saitama may not be top of the list for places to visit in winter in Japan, but we do have a good choice of activities, events and winter scenery to enjoy.

Where do you like to visit and what activities do you enjoy during Winter?