Kawagoe with Kids
Kawagoe is a timeslip tourist town best known for its Edo period buildings, but there are also buildings from the Meiji through Showa periods. The tourist area of Kawagoe attracts thousands of visitors annually thanks to the preserved chronicles of time and its convenient location just 30 minutes from Tokyo. The main tourist area comprises Kurazukuri street, Kanetsuki (the landmark Bell Tower) Street and the Penny Candy Alley. A lot of tourists spend their time ambling around the area taking in the scenery, but there is a lot more to the city than the historical buildings. The choice of things to do and see is virtually endless. Here is a selection of ten things you can enjoy in Kawagoe with kids.
1. Blow your own candy
In the Penny Candy Alley there are several treats, literally and figuratively, awaiting you. Including a traditional amezaiku stall. Amezaiku is a rarely practiced age old candy art where the sculptor transforms candy into edible works of art. Not only can you watch the sculptor at work or buy some of his exquisite work, but you can also try blowing candy yourself for just 100 yen. It is harder than it looks! But my children have enjoyed this activity as young as two years old. The only thing is the stall where you can blow your own candy doesn’t have a fixed schedule, its just luck of the draw whether it is there or not the day you visit. You can, however, buy his candy from the permanent Suzuki amezaiku shop in Penny Candy Alley.
2. Try your hand at kendama
Close to Hon Kawagoe Station you can find a kendama cafe called Su lab. In the Kendama world Su lab are quite famous for the kendama they make and ship all over the world. Even if you are not in the market to buy a kendama, you can just play with them at the Su lab cafe in Kawagoe. The Su lab Kendama Cafe is the only one of its kind in Kawagoe or surrounding areas for that matter. It is a really fun space for kids where they get to try something uniquely Japanese for just the purchase of a juice (or tea or coffee).
3. Interact with animals
Did you know that Kawagoe has a zoo? Bamboo Palm is a privately run small zoo with about 30 different species of animals. You can pay additional to hold or feed the animals. Apart from this zoo there are several animal cafes in Kawagoe, including two cat cafes close together in Crea Mall. Our favorite is the cat protection cafe Neko Katsu, which is quite famous in Saitama due to the stellar work they do. If you are on a budget or don’t have the time to spend at an animal cafe or zoo, you can always just watch the turtles at Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin.
- Bamboo Palm on Google Maps
- More information on Cat Cafe Neko Katsu on this blog
- Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin on this blog
4. Enjoy nature
Even within the tourist district you can find nature spots dotted around the town. But a side trip to the outskirts and you can find lots of natural beauty as well as activities that children will enjoy. Just one example; Kawagoe Park, which is near Bamboo Palm zoo introduced above. At Kawagoe Park you can swim outdoors in the large aqua park in summer. In the main park, you can take a swan boat out on the lake or ride battery cars that operate for ￥100. And, although growing in recognition, Kawagoe Park is an off the beaten path place to enjoy red spider lilies and cherry blossoms. Particularly late blooming cherry blossoms called yaezakura.
You will also find “agritourism” attractions in the outskirts of Kawagoe too, such as the hands on experience of picking Kawagoe’s famed sweet potatoes. Just some places to enjoy nature in Kawagoe:
- Kawagoe Park on this blog
- Six places to dig Sweet Potatoes in Kawagoe
- Cosmos at Aina Water Park
- Autumn Sunflowers at Isanuma Marsh
- Cherry Blossoms at Isanuma Park
- Cherry Blossoms Shingashi River 2021 | Kawagoe
5. Treasure hunt!
Did you know that Kawagoe has dozens of Styrofoam art displays? You can challenge the kids to see how many animal Styrofoam statues they can find around the old town. There are various other types of scavenger / treasure hunts or quests you can enjoy in Kawagoe. For example, on the grounds of Kitain Temple there is a garden of “500 Rakan Statues”. There are actually 538 of them. It sounds a lot, but it doesn’t feel that many when you are there. No two are the same. Within the 538 there are 12 statues of men with chinese zodiac animals. My kids really enjoyed searching for their zodiac animal. The staff at the gate have a map with the answers so you can get a bit of help if needed. There are other animals too, if you want to extend the fun.
**Kawagoe with kids 2021 ~ 2022**
6. Visit a child friendly shrine
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine is my children’s favorite shrine in Kawagoe. Namely, because they have fortune fishing! Children can fish for their own fortune and take home the fish amulet in which the fortune is encased. But they also have children’s paper fortunes too. Kawagoe Hikawa jinja have a really great line up of annual events. With kids, the annual tanabata and wind chimes event is particularly charming.
7. Refresh at a bath house
Centrally located near Hon Kawagoe station in the shopping district of Crea Mall, Kawagoe Yuyu Land is as popular with tourists as it is locals. Apart from offering a variety of baths, they put on shows regularly in the rest area and sometimes even in one of the bathrooms! They have a small play area for kids as well as a game center. The building is quite pretty too. And you can stay there too for a modest price, but the rooms are quite small and dated. You will find in the next year or two even more options for bathing and / or staying in Kawagoe with kids. There has been a lot of new building projects and renovations of older buildings going on during the pandemic. One of those projects is almost finished: Koedo Onsen Kashiba, which will open October 2021 in the Isanuma area.
8. Make a souvenir of your visit
There are dozens of workshops you an take in Kawagoe. For example, at Glass Art Blue Moon in a quaint Edo period storehouse children over the age of five can make glass art. Another example; in the heart of the tourist area, right at the Ichibangai pedestrian crossing to the Bell Tower, Yamawa offers a very reasonably priced pottery class that is suited to people of all ages. Other crafting options available in the tourist town include (but are not limited to) Turkish lamps, Chalk Board Art, Jewelry and Gel candles.
9. Take some memorable photos at the Trick Art Museum
Wherever you go in Kawagoe there will be plenty of opportunity to take memorable photos, but for some really unique and fun photos I recommend Kawagoe’s Trick Art Museum. You can find Trick Art Museums in Japan’s most notable tourist towns. Sometimes you can also find a trick art exhibition at museums. They are reasonably priced and offer a fun activity on a rainy day. I used to recommend combining a visit with Kurodaya across the road, where you could experience being a ninja for half a day, but unfortunately Kurodaya closed down during the pandemic.
10. Get physical!
There are dozens of physical activities for kids in Kawagoe. From adventure playgrounds to zorbing. Even in the tourist area you can find free playgrounds such as at Kitain Temple, Miyoshino shrine and Ukishima Shrine. There is also climbing right by the train station and if you are willing to go the outskirts you’ll find even more bouldering gyms. Also in the outskirts Kawagoe has a relatively new trampoline gym / play land Airjoy. There is also dozens of fishing spots in Kawagoe, you can even fish your own lunch in Crea Mall near Kawagoe station.
- Trampoline Center Airjoy | KAWAGOE
- Monolith: Climbing Kawagoe
- Autumn Leaves at Kita-in Temple Kawagoe
- Miyoshino Shrine 三芳野神社 Hatsukari Park, Kawagoe
- Gingko Trees at Ukishima Inari Shrine | Kawagoe
BONUS – FOOD info!
Throughout the tourist district you will find a range of Japanese treats to indulge in. Kawagoe is one of those rare places where walking and eating is not only accepted, but expected! There are hundreds of options. One of the most popular treats in Kawagoe for kids is the thin sweet potato chips from Osatsuan, a vendor on the Bell Tower Street. For a sit down option, but take out is also possible, just one example of a favorite among kids is Korekaki. Korekaki serves Kakigori, a flavored shaved ice that is generally sold between the months of April and October. However, in Kawagoe there are at least four specialty shaved ice restaurants that serve snow cones, kakigori in Japanese, all year round including Korekaki.
- Korekaki on this blog (with map and further details)
Kawagoe City is a wonderful place to visit with (or without) kids. However, please note, that the main tourist strip is often crowded. Thankfully some of the places I suggest in this article are away from the main tourist area and thus less crowded. If you plan to walk between locations, comfortable shoes are advised. There is quite a distance between many of these attractions. You can use any of the tourist loop buses, easily recognizable from their retro appearance, to get to most locations. However, anywhere on the outskirts, such as Aina Water Park, Bamboo Palm, Isanuma Park and Kawagoe Park are not serviced by the tourist loop bus. You can get a regular “Tobu” bus from Kawagoe or Hon Kawagoe station.
This post is aimed at day trippers / short term visitors to Kawagoe. If you are moving to or have just moved to Kawagoe, rest assured there are plenty more things to do in Kawagoe with kids. 🙂