Big Mouse Coffee and Fermentation shop is a cafe in a ‘kominka’ (old Japanese country house) in a rural part of Nishi Ward in Saitama City. It is located in a former ‘Forest of Horses and Art’ that was destroyed by typhoon Hagibis. The Kominka used to house a bonsai nursery before that devastating typhoon of October 2019, but during the pandemic it reopened, after much work, as this coffee shop. Much of the rest of the hamlet is now a campsite.
Big Mouse Coffee and Fermentation Shop
As you may know if you’re read a few of my posts in the Eat in Saitama category, I am not a foodie, but rather a cafe hopper! Cafes appeal to me on their other offerings, such as the ambiance. Big Mouse ticked many of the boxes. I particularly liked that I could relax in a hammock on the veranda!
The full menu is not available on a weekday, only on Saturdays and Sundays. On a weekday there are just two meals: a hamburger or a curry dish. They also have a dessert on offer each day. So I ended up getting a hamburger, which I hadn’t planned on. But it was pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but not the worst either!
What was great, was the coffee! There drink menu is pretty good with drip coffee, americano, latte (cafe / tea / houjicha / matcha), cocoa, early grey, soda, juice and smoothies. On the weekend they have a muffin and yoghurt set, which is what I actually wanted to try. They also have more desserts on the weekend, including a classic purin (like caramel creme).
Before and after
I used to love the quirkiness of the Forest of Horses and Art and the mish mash of attractions within it. Many things have changed, probably the biggest change is that a campsite and sauna are now where the horses used to be! One thing that is the same is that there are a choice of cafes, although not as many as before. Ryan02 which was probably the first ever kakigori cafe to open in Saitama Prefecture was the only one of them to survive the typhoon. Supposedly the Seishoen bonsai nursery is also still on the premises, but I didn’t see any bonsai on my last visit. They used to be displayed where the cafe’s outdoor seating area is now!
Cafe: Big Mouse Coffee and Fermentation Shop
Season: all year, but busier during camping season – April to end of October.
Hours: the release a schedule on Instagram each month. Generally there hours are 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 7.30 am to 5 pm on weekends.
Cost: from 500 yen for drinks (350 yen for children), from 1100 for a meal (500 for kids), from 350 yen for a dessert.
Venue: Tougetsuen, 3131 Nishiasuma, Nishi Ward, Saitama, 331-0061. View on Google Maps.
Thankfully, since I first visited Togetsuen many years ago, Google Maps are far better at understanding the roads in the area. But I imagine everyone who is visiting for the first time has the same reaction; is this really the way! You have to use a narrow road that looks like its going nowhere, and go over an embankment to get to it. The first thing you see is the bamboo that conceals the hamlet of cafes and campsite. Thankfully there is a landmark in the form of the athletic and sports fields of Sakae High School and there are some signposts on the way.
The nearest train station is Sashiogi Station on the Kawagoe Line. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to walk to the cafe from the station. The most common way to come to the cafe is by bicycle. Togetsuen is just off a popular cycle course along the Ara river embankments that run all the way from Tokyo to Kawagoe. There are plenty of bicycle stands around Togetsuen including ones for children’s bikes.