Where in Kawagoe to bring a visiting famous Japanese food chef and author? This is the question that faced me when I was bringing Fiona Uyema, Ireland’s leading Japanese food expert and owner of Fused Japanese sauces, on a tour of Kawagoe in Autumn 2015.
I brought her to a few different places, but the tour of the 250 year old Matsumoto Soy Sauce factory was one of the highlights of the three day tour. Fiona had a particular interest in the factory as she was developing her own soy sauce brand “Fused” to be launched in Ireland. Fused is available in retail shops around Ireland or you can buy online here: http://fusedbyfionauyema.com/product-tag/japanese-soy-sauce/. Fiona was visiting with her family and I had my own kids with me. The tour was surprisingly interesting for the older kids in our party, at that time aged between 0 and 6 years old. The tour is conducted in Japanese and it is actually very short, around 20 minutes, but it is an interesting experience and totally free!
The gathering area for taking the tour is in front of the Matsumoto shop, the retail part of Matsumoto Soy Sauce. When we visited there wasn’t that many people as it was shortly after the tours had been opened to the public and word hadn’t quite got around yet. At that time they only offered the tour on weekends and public holidays at 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. However, due to the increasing popularity of the tour, they now also offer the tour on weekdays at 1 pm. Please note that on occasion the tour isn’t available and / or if it is too packed you might not get a spot. If you have more than 10 in your group you can ring the shop on a weekday and ask to arrange a private tour. You walk up a narrow alley to get to the factory. If you have a stroller you can use a separate entrance, or you can park your stroller and carry your child.
Matsumoto Soy Sauce Factory and Shop is part of a larger complex with a few different names, one I hear most often is Kamonrakuza, which seems to be the group name for Blue Moon glass blowing and glass art workshops, the Koedo Kagamiyama sake factory and shop, and the gallery in the complex. There is a Soba restaurant beside Matsumoto Shop. There is also a nice café, Cafe Kura, in the complex too, which we visited after the factory tour and I have visited a couple of times since.
Cafe Kura is a nice place for a quiet coffee and cake. They also do a reasonably priced lunch set. They don’t have much in the way of food for children though, but on every visit I have found they are very accommodating to children. They have children’s cutlery and crockery so if you are ordering a lunch you can share it with your child. When it is quiet the staff don’t mind the kids running around and rearranging the tables! The place has more of a romantic feel and seems to most popular with young couples or pairs of friends. The cafe (and the whole complex) are off the main tourist strip so its quieter and more ambient than other areas in the Kawagoe tourist district. Cafe Kura is open from 10 am to 6 pm (lunch 11.30 am to 2 pm) Thursdays to Tuesdays, closed on Wednesdays. There is parking beside the cafe (see access details below).
Access and Hours
Matsumoto Soy Sauce factory and shop are off the beaten track of Kawagoe. It is part of the main warehouse district, but it is back one block from the main tourist strip, with little else touristy directly around it. Even though at the top of the same road there is the famous Kayshiya Yokocho (sweet street/candy alley) district and Gyodenji, most people miss the factory because they turn at the giant chameleon on the 5 yen coin to get to / from the main tourist strip. If you keep walking down from Kashiya Yokocho toward Hon-Kawagoe station you will hit the factory on your right hand side. Walking up from the station, if you turn left at Mameya Kawagoe at Naka-cho and cross over the road and take the first main right, the factory is on your left just past a coin parking lot. It is a 10 minute walk. If you are coming by car, they have free parking for about 7 cars. There is also a coin parking beside it. Please note that it is a one-way system, you must enter the road from the bottom at the Times Kawagoe Parking Lot on Naka-cho, you can’t enter from the kashiya yokocho end. Please see map at bottom.
Matsumoto Shop: 9 am to 6 pm
Factory Tour: 1 pm on weekdays, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm on weekends
The rest of the facilities such as Blue Moon and the gallery have separate operating hours and are closed on Wednesdays.
Matsumoto and all its facilities apart from the cafe
URL: http://www.hatsukari.co.jp/ (Japanese only)