Arakawa Tarouemon and Honda Airport ~ In the midst of Covid-19 there are few places that feel safe. Indoors is definitely off the table. And this past week we’ve learned that the numbers of people in parks and cherry blossom locations also pose a risk. Even if those type of locations are outdoors, the sheer volume of people instills a sense of unease. So I’ve been concentrating on completely off the beaten path locations.
As a bit of a helicopter and plane spotter nerd as well as a lover of nature and the outdoors, Arakawa Tarouemon beside Honda Airport is a haven during this time of Covid-19. Arakawa Tarouemon is a nature park that is rarely used. The only place you see people is around Honda, the red circled number 2 on the map below, but the nature walks are so far off the beaten path that you rarely see anyone.
Arakawa Tarouemon is in the Kawajima and Okegawa area of Saitama Prefecture. The area is currently part of a nature restoration project. It is a wetland mainly in the Demaru area of Kawajima around the Arakawa (river). The area is home to several birds and wildlife. We have even found boar trails there.
There is a car park (beside Honda, see below) with a grass area where you can picnic, but you cannot bring any food, drink or any type of play equipment into the nature reserve and restoration areas. Also, as the area is used by helicopters, planes and skydivers, drones are strictly forbidden. As are kites and golf! There are other parts of the park where you can fly a kite, like we did near red circle three on the map.
Canola / Rapeseed / Nanohana
At this time of year the levee that runs on the south end of Tarouemon is awash with beautiful bright yellow canola flowers / blooms also known as rapeseed or nanohana in Japanese. In a couple of weeks a dozen or so cherry blossoms will also be in bloom.
The levee marks the divide between the nature park and the rest of the world! It is a popular cycling course and you can see cyclists come and go all day. Interestingly, while many stop to admire the rapeseed and / or the planes and helicopters, few venture into the wetlands.
Kyu Arakawa / The Former Ara River
The natural path of the Ara river was the divide of the cities and towns in bygone days. In an attempt to make the river safer stretches of the meandering river where redirected and new canals were constructed to direct the flow. The parts of the river that were cut off are called Kyu Arakawa or the former / old Ara river.
The old lines of the river are still the divide of the cities. So in Kawajima Town which is completely surrounded by rivers – hence the name of the town “River Island” – it was easy to identify the borders of the town. At the stretch of river by Tarouemon people generally believe anything one side of the current Arakawa is Kawajima and the other side is Okegawa. However, that is not strictly true. When the river was redirected part of Kawajima ended up in Okegawa and vice versa.
One area (circled green #1 and red #2 on the main map and the red triangle on the above map) of the nature restoration area is right beside the Honda Airport, which is a good case in point. The Honda Airport’s address on google maps is Kawajima Town, but its address on the Tokyo Skydiving Club’s website is Okegawa. Its actually almost perfectly half and half! The airport hangars and building are in Kawajima, but the runway and airfield are actually – by the official divides – part of Okegawa city. And hence the Tokyo Skydiving Club claim their address as Okegawa. Even though their offices are actually in Kawajima.
The Honda Airport is a private airfield operated by Honda Airways a subsidiary of the car manufacturing giant Honda. Before Honda bought it, it was owned and used by the Imperial Japanese Airfield as the Kawataya Airfield. Honda Airport is best known as the home of the Tokyo Skydiving Club. The airfield is located about an hour from Tokyo and is the closest place to Tokyo where you can skydive.
Tokyo Skydiving Club
The Tokyo Skydiving Club is based in Kawajima Town in Saitama Prefecture. The flights go from the privately owned airfield Honda Airport. Contrary to what the name of the skydiving club implies, the airfield is actually in Saitama Prefecture, not Tokyo. They own Asia’s largest 19 seater skydiving aircraft and more than 41,000 people have skydived with them since their inception.
You have to be over 16 years of age, between 40 and 90 kilograms and between 140 and 190 centimeters to fly with them. Costs start from 33,000 yen per person.
Official website (Japanese language only)
Saitama Disaster Prevention Aviation Center
The Saitama Disaster Prevention Aviation Center which shares the Honda Airport, uses the Kawajima address. It is also a heliport. We didn’t see any of the rescue helicopters take off or land while we were there yesterday, but they had one out for testing. It was a beautiful scene with the red contrasting sharply against the bright yellow of the canola flower.
In summation, the nature reservation and restoration area around Honda Airport and Tokyo Skydiving club, is an alternative sightseeing spot during this Covid period. Apart from the area directly between Honda Airport and the airfield, the park has few visitors. The park is rich in nature and wildlife. For some, especially photographers, the draw is in the opportunity to see planes and helicopters take off and land, and to see skydivers dotting the sky, as well as seasonal blooms such as Canola flowers (February to April).
Honda Airport Information
|Address:||53-1 Demarushimogo, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama 350-0141|
|Hours:||Unspecified, busiest on weekends|
|Services:||Flight training, Private flights and helicopter |
Skydiving: Tokyo Skydiving Club
Rescue: Saitama Disaster Prevention Aviation Center
The location is approximately an hour from Tokyo.
By car the airfield is a ten minute drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-o expressway. There is a car park for the nature restoration area right by Honda. You actually have to go up and over the levee by Honda and turn left as if you were driving down to the airfield. The car park is on the right hand side just as you turn down the road to the airfield.
By public transport you have to take a 20 to 30 minute bus drive from the JR and Tobu Tojo Kawagoe Station. Take the bus bound for Okegawa Station west exit 桶川駅西口行 and alight at 山ヶ谷戸 (Yamagayato) bus stop. The airport is about a 20 minute (scenic) walk from the bus stop, but if you come in by entrance to Tarouemon Bridge it is only a nine minute walk. The nature park starts there (the red circle one on the map of Arakawa Tarouemon).
For more off the beaten path things to do please see the something different tag (linked, click) on In Saitama.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Immediately around the grounds of the airfield there is a nature restoration area called the Arakawa Tarouemon area of Kawajima, Okegawa and Ageo. In spring there are beautiful canola blooms and a few sakura trees too. The area is an eco-region home to various wildlife.
Yes, you can enjoy plane spotting in Kawajima Town in Saitama.
Yes, there are actually a few places to see helicopters in Saitama. Kawajima Town is a good spot because there are two different helipads, plus you can see Asahi Helipad in Kawagoe from Kawajima too.
Other things to do in Kawajima;
- Free soy sauce factory tour and shoyu theme park
- Japan’s longest rose tunnel
- Dog cafe
- Off the beaten path cherry blossoms
- Tundra swans
- Fishing at Tsuri Bori
- Cosmos Picking
- Toyama Memorial Museum
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