Only 30 minutes from Tokyo, the historic town of Kawagoe is a popular place to experience a typical Japanese summer festival. The festival is celebrated each year on the last Saturday and Sunday of July. The festival includes parades, processions, portable shrines, music and dance. There are also many festival stalls with traditional Japanese festival games or selling festival food.
Time: from 2pm on Saturday Contact: Kawagoe City Tourist Information Office 049-222-5556 Location: Spreads from around Hon Kawagoe Station to the main tourist area by the Bell Tower. Access: Hon Kawagoe Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line. Approximately a 8 minute walk from Kawagoe station on the JR Kawagoe and Tobu Tojo Lines.
Kawagoe Suijo Kouen, or Kawagoe Water or Aquatic Park, is one of the bigger summer pools in Saitama. Like all the other seasonal pools, it only opens for 7 weeks over the summer holidays. This year it will be open from July 15th to September 3rd.
￥720 yen for adults, ￥210 yen for children of school going age, children under 7 are free. Parking costs ￥820 for the day. No tattoos allowed.
Access: by bus from the West exit of JR Kawagoe Station, bound for Kawagoe Suijo Koen.
I was ecstatic in the fleeting belief that I had made a really special new “find” today. My bubble was soon burst, when a quick search revealed that it wasn’t as much a new find rather than the good fortune to stumble upon a well established and celebrated speciality café. But while I may not be “breaking news” it still is one to get excited about, if you haven’t already heard about it. I am not sure whether to call it a theme cafe or a sports cafe or maybe even a shop with a cafe in it. Whatever you want to call it, Sulab, the Kendama Cafe in Kawagoe, certainly is a fun and unique space that will appeal to people of all ages, especially those into the kendama street sport.
For those that are into the (somewhat) traditional Japanese toy, this cafe is probably already on their radar. Sulab not only sell Kendama, they make them too. And the brand name is famous worldwide. According to some articles I read online, people come from all over the world to visit the small shop and cafe in Kawagoe. The pockmarks on the floor are testament to the throngs of people who’ve paved the shop’s floor. The wall of kendama for sale had noticeable empty spaces where beautiful handmade kendama had a transient place, before swiftly finding a new home.
Apart from the wall with kendama for sale, there is a wall of kendama you can borrow to play with in the cafe. They also have a large box of kendama for playing, outside on a picnic table.In order to play with the kendama you just have to buy a drink. They have kendama for left handed as well as right handed people. For a group of adults visiting everyone must buy a drink, but for a family you can just buy a couple of drinks if you aren’t staying too long. In fact, they say for the first visit you don’t have to buy anything at all. It was quite busy when we visited so I didn’t feel comfortable not ordering anything so I got a coffee for myself and a soft drink for the kids to share. Please note that there aren’t many places to sit, most of the space is used for playing. There are only three two-seater tables and three seats at a counter. Apart from that there are shelves to hold drinks for those who are standing and playing. Outside there are two seats and one picnic table with benches. Considering you get to play indefinitely the drinks are quite reasonable; 500 yen for the first non-alcholic drink for an adult, 650 yen for alcohol and 350 yen for a child’s drink. Any subsequent drink you buy is cheaper. They have quite a good choice of drinks considering the type of place it is. Their food is very limited, basically just toast or a toasted sandwich.
The customers in the cafe were such a mixed bag. There were other families like us, as well as a father and teenage son pair, two adult friends, plus a number of older grade primary school boys and girls, and a couple of kids who seemed to be middle school age. I wasn’t sure how my younger kids would like it, but they really enjoyed it too. The two year old sat with me while I had my coffee, but she did play with a Doraemon motif kendama for quite sometime. The four year old, six year old and seven year old, played the whole time we were there. The six year old was quite taken with the kendama painted like Hello Kitty. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Two of them helped my kids learn some new tricks on the kendama while I relaxed over my coffee. My seven year old son in particular learned quite a few new tricks and graded up in the short time we were there. The other Mother there was very friendly and all too happy to small talk with me. The older kids looked out for the younger kids. It struck me that this would be a really good place for short term visitors to Japan with children to introduce their kids to Japanese children their own age and enjoy each other’s company in the universal language of play!
After reading a number of articles online about the shop, it would seem that it is always busy. They organise tournaments and demo classes and even have English language events from time to time. I know my kids enjoyed it more than I had expected and we’ve already planned a trip back to play in the near future. I may even go with some girlfriends at night sometime and enjoy a few bevvies: it might improve my own skills which are currently severely lacking! Whether you are living in Kawagoe or visiting it, I can recommend this cafe / shop as “somewhere different” to visit and enjoy a traditional Japanese toy in a friendly and congenial environment.
SU LAB is only a few minutes walk from JR Kawagoe Station, Tobu Tojo Kawagoe Station and Seibu Shinjuku Hon-Kawagoe Station.
From Ikebukuro it is only 31 minutes to Kawagoe on the Tobu Tojo Line. You can also get to Kawagoe direct from Shinjuku and Akabane in about 45 minutes.
Route and prices for getting to SU LAB in Kawagoe from Ikebukuro, Akabane and Shinjuku in Tokyo. From Hyperdia.com:
From Omiya it only takes 22 minutes to get to Kawagoe on the JR Kawagoe line. Fare and route from Hyperdia.com:
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Small local festival for children with educational and stage events as well as food. They will have a small “river museum” and a “quest” challenge like a hunt as well as live stage performances. There are also some games, crafts and a cooking corner scheduled. Please see the link in the grey details below for more information on the official website. (Japanese language only).
“Great indoor location for a half day of climbing fun for the family”
Located on the border of Kawajima Town on route 254, Monolith, Kawagoe’s newest bouldering gym, opened about 18 months ago. It has enjoyed a regular trade since the very beginning. One of the appeals of this gym for me is that the staff are very friendly and helpful. I meet the same people there over and over again and there is a sense of community among the users.
Indeed, one of the reasons I think people frequently go back to Monolith, is because the staff are so approachable and chatty. They are willing and able to give guidance to new climbers without additional charge. They provide tips and encouragement in tackling a climbing route. The climbing routes are colour co-ordinated. You can start with the simplest route and work your way up to more and more difficult ones. You use grips of the same colour for both your hands and feet to climb the wall. You can of course climb freely too, using any of the grips to monkey your way up the wall, but for a first timer it is actually easier to use the coloured system to climb safely. The easiest route can usually be conquered after one or two visits. As the routes get harder so does the time it takes to successfully clear them. Only the very advanced climbers can tackle the more awkwardly shaped walls with curves and over hangs. I am in awe of the long term climbers who can use their balance and strength to climb upside down with only the smallest grips to keep them in place.
The staff are also great for keeping an eye on and helping young climbers in their kids section. Children over 4 years old are able to climb. The kids wall is cornered off behind a low wall with flapping doors and can be seen from the adult climbing walls. So you can climb in the adult’s section while your kids are climbing in the kids section. If your kids are capable they can also use the adult walls. However, adults cannot use the kid’s walls. The walls for children aren’t too high and only sloping very slightly on one wall. They have safety mats down making it a safe place for young children to try their hand at bouldering. They offer children’s climbing courses and club, at an extra charge, on Saturdays.
The whole gym still looks brand spanking new. It is reminiscent of a warehouse from both the outside and in. All the walls are in the one space on the first floor. They don’t go particularly high; if you want high the bouldering gym near Kawagoe station is where you want to go. However, what they lack in height they make up for in complexity and diversity. They change the courses frequently to keep things interesting for regular customers. There is a changing room on the 2nd floor of the premises. There is a rest spot on the first floor with vending machines. There is also a rest area outside with ashtrays. The toilets are pristine and they have a foot bath for washing your feet.
The first time you visit you need to sign up to become a member. It is a one off payment of 2,800 yen; 1800 yen for becoming a member and 1000 yen for the membership card. After that the cost per visit depends on the length you want to climb and the day of the week. Generally speaking it is 1,600 yen for about 3 hours or 2,000 yen for a full day. Children using the kids area are charged 1000 yen for the whole day, or you can pay extra for them to use the regular climbing walls. You need to rent climbing shoes and chalk too. It costs 300 yen per visit. If you plan to use the gym regularly a month pass will probably work out cheaper for you. If you bouldering for a full day you can come and go as you please.
Last week the Kawagoe Kinome branch of McDonalds re-opened as a much better, classier, family friendly branch of McDonalds. The new branch has a McCafé by Baristaand a Playland, McDonald’s hallmark free children’s play area.
The free children’s play area is in an enclosed sound proof family room on the 2nd floor, that has low tables with soft chairs for children as well as regular tables and chairs. There is an elevator to the 2nd floor so you can bring your stroller with you easily. The play area is small, basically climbing and a slide, but for an irregular visit it would provide entertainment for children aged between one and eight years old. They do request that only children in lower grades of elementary school and younger use this play area. The space is free to use if you have purchased food or drink from either the McDonalds or the McCafe.
The McCafe area is on the first floor beside the regular McDonalds. It has a good selection of hot drinks and doughnuts. You can bring your coffee and / or snack upstairs. Their selection is reasonably priced.
There are other services of interest in this branch also, such as free wifi and ports for charging devices. I also like that it is completely smoke free, even the car park. There is a smart drive through, as well as parking for about 20 cars. This branch is conveniently located on route 254 close to Kamifukuoka and minutes drive to Minami Furuya Station.
According to the McDonalds directory for Saitama, this branch is the only one with both a McCafe and a playland. There are other plenty other branches that have either a McCafe or a playland. There are quite a few Playland branches in Saitama including locations such as Ageo, Shiki, Tokorozawa, Kawaguchi, Koshigaya, Kumagaya, Honjo, Iwatsuki, Moroyama, Konosu, Ogawa and quite a few in Saitama City. More about their playlands: http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/family/playland/
There are two showings of this Hello Kitty musical in Westa Kawagoe this coming Saturday. First is at 11 am, theater opens at 10.30 am. The second is at 2 pm, theater opens at 1.30 pm. Both showings is divided into two parts. The first part is 30 minutes long, then a 15 minute interval, followed by the 2nd part which is 35 minutes long. There is a games corner in the theater.
Tickets cost 2000 yen per adult and children over 12 years old, 1000 yen for children under 12 years old. Children under three are free, unless you require a seat for them then you have to pay.
It is not as big as the famous US Lands in Koshigaya and Kawaguchi, but finally Kawagoe has an Kid’s US Land all of our own! Actually, its quite a small branch, about a third of the size of the branch in Kamifukuoka which is also on the Tobu Tojo Line.
A jungle gym
A ball pool
and for parents
It is a 100 yen for 15 minutes. You can bring food and drink in.