Candy Craft in Kawagoe
Today, we went to watch the Candy Man in Kawagoe. Mr Suzuki is a performance artist, who sculpts candy into different shapes, characters and forms. It is an art form from the Edo period known as Amezaiku in Japan. From what I have seen of his work, his repertoire apparently knows no limits.
The Candy Man Suzuki, one of only a few traditional candy folk artists practising regularly in Japan, performs in the Sweet Street (or Penny 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 cartoon characters, animals and objects. It costs only 300 yen for one of his completed sculpted candy.
The candy man at work in Kawagoe
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:
Blow your own candy in Kawagoe
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.
Where to see Candy man Suzuki in Kawagoe
Candy man Suzuki works from a traditional portable stall on the sweet street in Kawagoe, Saitama. The street is in Motomachi. The tourist buses will bring you close. There is information for the tourist buses below.
Please note he has no fixed schedule and no website, so it is luck of the draw whether he is there the day you visit. Typically, he is there from mid to end of week. 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
More about Amezaiku
You can also buy Amezaiku type candy on Amazon. (Saitama with kids is part of the Amazon Affiliate programme**). They make a nice gift or souvenir to bring home:
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/
For people proficient in Japanese there is a great selection of books about Amezaiku on Amazon. This is an affiliate link. **It costs you nothing to click on it, but if you purchase something I may receive a very small percentage of the sale:
Amezaiku Books on Amazon
Other off-the-beaten-track attractions in Kawagoe
There are other lesser known attractions in Kawagoe that you can enjoy on a one day visit to the area. For example, you can take a short tour of a shoyu factory close to the area that candy man Suzuki works. On the far side of the main tourist strip in the warehouse area, there is a really quirky shop where you can see Suzumebachi (Killer hornets) in jars and meet a magical dog. You will find even more off-the-beaten-track articles on this blog too.
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 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:
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.
Kawagoe 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.