Tag Archives: Kawagoe with kids

Edo period Candy craft in Kawagoe

4-Candy craft (2)

Today, we went to watch the Candy Man in Kawagoe! He is a performance artist, who sculpts candy into different shapes, characters and forms, in an art form known as Amezaiku, in Japan. Above you can see a unicorn made out of candy.

Sculpting candy in art
Sculpting candy in to art, Amezaiku, candy craft artist Suzuki

The Candy Man Suzuki, one of only a few traditional candy folk artists practising regularly in Japan, performs in the Sweet Street (or Candy Alley) of Kawagoe(川越菓子屋横町)。  Kawagoe is referred to as Little Edo and this candy craft dates back to the Edo period. Suzuki uses a taffy like mixture, similar to corn syrup, which is made from rice and malt. It is called Mizuame in Japanese, which translates to “water candy”.  Suzuki shapes the candy, while it is still hot, into different animals and objects. It costs 300 yen for a sculpted candy.  Part of the pleasure of the sweet, is watching it being sculpted and formed,  and bantering with the creator as he works.  Sometimes he will take requests. You can see him at work in this video I found on Youtube:

Blowing candy
Blowing candy

One of the appeals of this type of candy street stall, is that you can make your own blowing candy for just 100 yen (less than one Euro). Suzuki prepares the hot glutinous starch syrup placing it on a straw. You blow into it to give it a ball like shape. If you fail to blow into shape before it hardens, he will fix it into a ame no tori, candy bird, for you, by snipping and shaping.  This could be why the candy was called ame no tori during the edo period.  He uses a traditional Japanese scissors for snipping and paints on food colouring for the finished effect.  Pictured below is the ame no tori, candy bird, he made for my eldest daughter.

Ame no Tori, Candy bird
Ame no Tori, Candy bird




Candy man Suzuki works from a traditional portable stall on the sweet street in Kawagoe, Saitama. However, you can also visit a candycraft workshop in Sendagi, Tokyo.  Great information in English available here: https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/shopping/movie/candycrafts/INT13011202

For more about the art and an insight into an Amezaiku artist, you can read about the Internationally acclaimed Takahiro Mizuki.  There are some great photos on that webpage too. In English: http://www.amezaiku.com/eng/index2.html and In French: http://www.amezaiku.com/fr/index3.html  For more on the history, there is a fairly detailed piece on Tofugu http://www.tofugu.com/2015/01/06/amezaiku-japanese-candy-creatures-made-fire-sugar/

The candy man usually practices in Candy Street which is in Motomachi. The tourist buses will bring you close:

Access from Kawagoe Station

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus

Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease.

More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

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.

Access 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.

Styrofoam Art in Kawagoe

Kawagoe is a very popular tourist area in Saitama, about 30 minutes by train from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. There is a lot to do in the tourist area of Kawagoe and a wealth of information about it on the web.  However, I want to introduce a little known fact about the art in the popular tourist area.  Around the area of “kashiya yokocho“, literally meaning sweet (candy) alley, there are a number of giant and life size animal replicas. They are all made out of styrofoam!

The artist, Yajima Kimio, retired early from his Kawagoe City Hall position, to indulge in his passion. I, for one, am glad he did. The displays change over time, so you never know when a new one will appear or an old one will be moved. Most of his work is displayed in Kawagoe, but you can also find some of his work in other parts of Saitama.

I got some of his work this past weekend. I realise after reading his blog tonight, I missed a few pieces. A good incentive, not that I need one, to go back to Kawagoe sooner rather than later. You can find Mr Yajima’s blog here: http://homepage3.nifty.com/kerokero2009/index.html
You can see some more of his work on this (unrelated) blog here: http://tokyoern.blogspot.jp/2014/06/a-walk-around-koedo-kawagoe-part-2.html

Sweet Street:

Wind chimes at Hikawa Shrine | KAWAGOE

Each summer, Hikawa Shrine displays hundreds of wind chimes during the months of July and August. Today, a storm was brewing up and I instantly thought of going to see the chimes! Last year (2014), when we went the air was so dead that the chimes were also lifeless. Today, we could enjoy their soothing sounds. (Video used with permission).

During the wind chime season, you can add your prayers to the wind chimes by buying an ema, a small wooden plaque, to write your prayer and tie to the chime. Some areas have coloured chimes, while others are clear. At night-time, it is particularly spectacular as the chimes are illuminated and there is a light show in the water feature at the front of the shrine grounds.  Occasionally, there is also live music to accompany the whole sensual experience.

Regular Ema for writing your prayers at Hikawa Shrine
Regular Ema for writing your prayers at Hikawa Shrine
The "ema" (wooden plaques for writing prayers) of Hikawa shrine wind chimes
The “ema” (wooden plaques for writing prayers) of Hikawa shrine wind chimes

During the wind chime period they also have their Tanabata “Star” Festival. It is held annually on the 7th of August:

Tanabata “Star” Festival at Hikawa Shrine


During the Tanabata (Star) Festival at Hikawa Shrine, you can see coloured strips of wishes tied to bamboo trees. You can also write your own wish to add to the bamboo shoots. They have some additional festival stalls and music on that day. The main event is in the evening, usually from 6 pm, when they have some special traditional music performances and they read kamishibai to children.

Information and Access

The wind chimes will be available from July 1st for the 2017 season.

The shrine is open from 9am to 9pm. The illumination starts from 7pm. The cafe next door, Musubi cafe, offers seasonal sweets in association with the event.  You can walk from Hon-kawagoe or Kawagoe stations along a tourist route, but it takes about 40 minutes. There is a tourist bus or a regular bus that will bring you close. There is free parking for 300 cars.  The event usually ends late August to early September.

Getting to Kawagoe from Tokyo

From Ikebukuro, cost and route from hyperdia.com;

From Shinjuku, cost and route from hyperdia.com;

 

Address: 2-11-3 Miyashita Machi, Kawagoe, Saitama

Phone: 049-224-0589

You can take a video tour of the wind chimes at the shrine at the official website: http://www.hikawa-fuurin.jp/

 

SUMMER POOL SEASON IS HERE! Kawagoe Water Park

Today (2015), our local summer pool opened for the season. 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. Last year we spent most weekends there. It’s a great way to get the kids to go to bed early, have a deep sleep and sleep later than normal in the morning! All that water play really tires them out and they really really love it.

One of the main attractions of Kawagoe’s water park is the pool with waves. It is inclined; the shallow end starts at 0 and the deep end is 1.6 metres. The waves come every 10 minutes.
http://www.parks.or.jp/kawagoesuijo/common/img/pool/category06.jpg

Another popular feature of the water park is the large ship in the centre of the park. (photo from the official website).

http://www.parks.or.jp/kawagoesuijo/common/img/pool/category03.jpg

Of course, the various slides are very popular too. (These photos taken from the official website).

For small children there is a pool that is only 30cm and it has 2 small slides. My kids are in this one, somewhere!  Nappies/ Diapers are ok in this pool.

Children's pool, 30cm deep with two slides
Children’s pool, 30cm deep with two slides

There is also a 60cm pool with a fountain that my older two kids (5 and 4) can enjoy and my 2 year old with a float.
Kawagoe Suijo Koen Children's pool 60cm fountain

Other features include fountains, jets, sprays and a wading river at different points in the park. There is also a simple pool. You can use a small pop up tent in the park, in fact, most Japanese people do. We may have been the only ones without, the first time we went! There is limited shaded areas in the park, so these pop up tents are very practical and for my Irish skin 100% essential!

A sea of tents
A sea of tents

During the summer there is a special bus that runs to the park from Kawagoe and Honkawagoe stations. There are 2 restaurants, 2 kiosks and a number of vans that sell food and drink. There is also a shop that sells pool goods. There is a shower and locker room and plenty of toilets. There is also tennis, futsal and soccer. There are a number of events held over the summer including snorkelling classes. There is a no tattoo policy (see photo below). You can get a full list, in Japanese, plus more information on the official website: http://www.parks.or.jp/kawagoesuijo/  Update July 2016 – new website: http://www.saitamasuijo.com/

Please check there for up-to-date charges. The prices last year (2014):

2014/ 8/17 10:40

Additional information:

Outside the aquatic park there is a free public park with a small playground and a lake with swan boats for hire. On this blog:  紅葉 Autumn leaves at Kawagoe Water Park

Cherry blossom festival at Kitain Temple

There are two main ways you can celebrate the blooming of cherry  blossoms in Japan; hanami, which involves picnicking under a cherry tree, or a Sakura matsuri, literally cherry blossom festival.  We enjoyed the latter at the famous Kitain temple in Kawagoe, yesterday.  Each year the Sakura Matsuri is held in Kitain Temple around the end of March to early April.


The kids had some festival food.

After walking around the various buildings and areas within the temple grounds they enjoyed the small, but colorful playground.

I was captivated by the cherry blossoms. I would have loved to attempt taking some artistic shots, but with 4 kids in tow that was not a possibility. 

 


Access from Kawagoe Station

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus

Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease.

More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

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.

Access 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.

KITAIN TEMPLE OFFICIAL SITES

In English: http://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/english/

In Japanese: http://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/

Other seasonal information about Kitain

Autumn Leaves at Kitain Temple:

2015 Autumn Leaves at Edo Castle remains| Kitain Temple

New Year’s Special Event every year on January 3rd:

Kitain Temple Daruma Festival | KAWAGOE

Hello Kitty in a Kimono, Kawagoe Kitty-chan souvenir shop

Not only is Kawagoe a tourist area, but it is great place for shopping. There are many high street retailers, discount stores, chain stores, retail outlets, brand names, novelty shops… and even some specialty stores, such as this Hello Kitty souvenir store. Kitty chan and / or cat  fans, come one, come all!!
Hello Kitty

New equipment at Isanuma Park, Kawagoe

Isanuma Park has a lovely adventure playground suitable for primary school age children, but younger children can also enjoy much of the equipment. Last year they removed a piece of playground equipment at Kawagoe Isanuma Park and started work on replacing it. The new athletic playground equipment is now finished and available for play. It is in keeping with the other wooden playground equipment in the park.

You can find this balancing challenge beside the climbing wall.

New playground equipment at Isanuma Park. A balancing challenge
New playground equipment at Isanuma Park. A balancing challenge

They also renewed a piece of the balancing equipment behind the flying foxes.

P1001686
Renewed piece of athletic playground equipment at Isanuma park

The net tunnel, which was closed for repair last summer and autumn, is now fixed and open to the public again.

Net tunnel at Isanuma Park
Net tunnel at Isanuma Park

Information

Address: 584 Numata, Isanuma, Kawagoe 〒350-0855 埼玉県川越市 大字伊佐沼字沼田町584

TEL: +81 49-222-1301

Parking: Parking is available on two sides of the park. The most convenient and largest is the parking lot opposite the lake.  There is also parking along the west side industrial area and by the small hotel and tennis courts on the North West side of the park.

By Bus: Take a bus for Kawagoe Green Park and alight at Isanuma Bouken no Mori, approximately 5 minutes walk from bus stop.

URL: http://www.city.kawagoe.saitama.jp/kurashi/sports_koen/koen/isanuma.html

NEARBY PARKS

More photos and/or information on Isanuma Park:
Autumn leaves at Isanuma Park

Splash pools in Saitama

International Book Giving Day – with a bilingual twist! And City Chuo Library Kawagoe

This is a lovely idea I came across, for bilingual families to receive minority language books, thanks to one of my favourite bloggers Free But Fun posting a link to the innovative idea. It is very timely too, as just today I was pondering how difficult it remains to buy English books for children in our part of Japan. For people like me that is, who refuse to buy online for fear of becoming addicted to it! Today, we ventured to a library we hadn’t been to before. It has a much better choice of English books than the library we frequent, but with this great idea from Journal of a Bilingual Family maybe we’ll be receiving more English books in the post! For details of this fun and original idea for International book giving day, please see the blog linked below. For more on City Chuo Library Kawagoe, please scroll down.

The International Book Giving Day – with a bilingual twist!.

P1000122

City Chuo Library is situated in Sankubocho, Kawagoe, about a 20 minute walk from Kawagoe station. They have quite a good selection of English books for children, located on the ground floor. They have little tables with chairs for children to read at and “stadium seating” (3 rows! Pictured below) for storytime and kamishibai performances. You can borrow up to 10 books for 2 weeks upon securing membership. To become a member you need proof of your address in Japan in the form of an alien registration card or Japanese license. The card is valid for the 5 principal libraries in Kawagoe. Their system also allows you to return borrowed books to any of the 5 city libraries. These libraries include the one at the Kurasse building beside Kawagoe station and the large Nishi library, which also has a good selection of English children’s books. Like most of the libraries in Japan, the City Chuo Library has an online system where you can check availability of book and reserve them in advance. The system is currently only available in Japanese. If you wish to use the online facilities you need to create a 4 digit pin number when you apply for your membership. Membership is instant upon filling out a form.

The library has plenty of free parking, toilets, a baby changing area and a nursing room (pictured below). It is open 6 days a week, generally closing on Mondays. Tuesday to Friday it opens from 9.30am to 7pm. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays it opens from 9.30am to 6pm. The library will close for a computer system upgrade from the 12th of February to the 25th of February.

P1000123-001

The play area and sakura at Miyoshino Shrine | KAWAGOE

Shinto shrines are plentiful in Japan, almost every village, town or city has one. There are usually amenities available at popular and / or large shrines, including toilets, baby feeding rooms, vending machines and eateries. However, even the smaller shrines usually come with at least one piece of playground equipment. A lot of them have free parking, but in tourist areas it is not uncommon to have to pay. Typically, weekdays it is easy to find a free parking spot, unless it is during a shinto festival time such as the 7-5-3.

Miyoshino Shrine

I really love bringing the children to play on the grounds of a shrine. The surroundings are always pleasant and the grounds are well maintained. The atmosphere is serene and majestic as you enter by a torii onto a stone pavement. The area is usually surrounded by trees, some of which are yorishiro (place inhabited by a kami‘s spirit). There are purification fonts to cleanse your hands, the komainu (lion-dogs) guard the inner shrine, wooden plaques hang with visitor’s prayers and wishes, there is usually at least one minature shrine often with a fox, the diety of rice supposedly. The playground is usually to the side or back of the shrines.

Miyoshino Shrine

Miyoshino Shrine in Kawagoe is one of my favourite shrines to bring toddlers. The playground there is relatively new and the equipment is really suited to children under four. Young kids love the equipment in the shape of a train with climbing and slides. For older children they have a climbing frame, a flying fox, a spring see saw and there is the hill beside the playground that kids love to climb.  There are also swings and a sand pit for children of all ages. The sand pit is enclosed which keeps out the cats and keeps the kids in!

During sakura season this park is ideal for hanami with small children. There are only a few sakura trees, but they are mature and really beautiful in full bloom. It is a popular spot to enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossoms for locals, so do arrive early to secure a spot under a tree. There is plenty of other space on the grounds if you don’t manage to get one of the prime locations. 🙂

Kawagoe Tourist bus passing Honmaru Goten

Miyoshino shrine has free parking (very busy on weekends), toilets, vending machines, a small shop, a pay phone and a yaki-soba counter. There is also a rent-a-bike station nearby. It is right next to the popular tourist attraction Kawagoe Honmaru Goten, the only surviving building of Kawagoe castle.

Address: 2 Chome−25, Kuruwamachi, Kawagoe City, 350-0053

紅葉 Autumn leaves at Kawagoe Water Park

I love the way in Saitama there is no shortage of places to try out. I’ve known that the Kawagoe Water (/Aquatic) Park, 川越水上公園、is near my house for sometime, but today is the first time I ventured there. I thought the water park was only accessible to paying customers of their summer pools and water slides, but there is a large part of the park that is free to use all year round.

The free parking for the public park is just as you enter the facility under the banner arch. There are no lines to mark out parking spots and much to my surprise (and horror) its parallel parking. Parallel parking is not very common in Japan, especially at a public park. The playground is a bit of a walk, but the scenery is quite pleasant as you pass the lake. The lake has pedal boats and row boats. However, they are not available for hire during winter, from December 1st to March 1st. There are quite a lot of hungry ducks on the lake. Thankfully, I had bread in the baby’s bag, just in case. My kids enjoyed feeding them.

The play area is quite small, but there is enough to keep young children (preschoolers and infants) entertained. The playground equipment can be seen in the gallery, with the few autumn foliage photos I was able to get.

**The park is worth visiting for locals, but it is not worth making the trip from afar in my personal opinion**


Kawagoe Aquatic Park
Address: 880 Oaza-ikenobe, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama
Tel: 049 241 2241
Nearest station: Nishi-Kawagoe station on the Kawagoe Line (JR East)