Kawagoe Styrofoam Art by Yajima Kimio in Kawagoe. This post was originally written in 2015. But as Mr Yajima continually adds to his incredible art made from styrofoam collection, I added his most recent work in 2019. This updated version comes with a map of the locations of some of his current displays. Focusing on the greater Penny Candy Alley area of Kawagoe. Mr Yajima also makes pieces for other cities, but Kawagoe, his hometown, has most of his work.
If you’ve come to this page through a search, I’m pretty sure you know the basics about Kawagoe. But for those that come through WordPress Reader let me very briefly introduce the wonderful historic town of Kawagoe. It is a popular tourist area in Saitama, about 30 minutes by train from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. The main reason is that it is an Edo period timeslip with dozens of houses from the beloved period of Japan’s rich history. The Edo period was a time of samurai and shoguns and it ranged from 1603 to 1806. Thousands of tourists flock to the area to walk through history.
There is plenty on the web (and this blog) about all the things to do and see in Kawagoe, but I want to introduce Another Kawagoe, information not readily available on the web in English about the other side of Kawagoe. That of current times, of living artists and commercialists, of recent architecture and businesses and natural beauty and events. This episode looks at a fun feature of modern day Kawagoe: the styrofoam art displays.
Kawagoe Styrofoam Art
If you are travelling to Kawagoe with kids, the styrofoam art is a way to engage them more in the trip. In the past I’ve created a “search and find” worksheet for them, a type of scavenger hunt where they have to find the styrofoam art animals as we toured the area. They really enjoyed that.
You can actually see one of Yajima’s pieces from the minute you arrive to Kawagoe, if you come by train. There is a replica bell tower, the symbol of Kawagoe, made of styrofoam in Kawagoe station.
However, most of the art is dispersed greatly over the vast area of Kawagoe. Thankfully there is a concentration of it in the greater “kashiya yokocho” area, literally meaning sweet alley. It is most commonly called Penny Candy Alley. And it is also a fun spot for kids.
Penny Candy Alley Area Works
The following styrofoam art pieces are currently in the general Penny Candy Alley area of Kawagoe:
- Penguin with chick
- Small chimpanzee
- Asakusa Samba Judge
All are mapped on a Google My Map at the bottom of the post.
Styrofoam Art Animal: Panda
This is the panda in his younger years! When he used to be opposite Raku Raku Bakery, but they built an extension of the bakery and he was moved. At the end of last year he was one of two pieces at the Chimoto Sweet Cafe. (Google Map)
Styrofoam art: Big penguin and chick
A few of Yajima’s work were created in big and little versions. The penguin with chick is one of them. The penguin and chick are also currently with panda beside Chimoto Sweet Cafe. This is the bigger one, more than 2 metres high. The small one is also in the area:
Small penguin with chick
Last spotted in a confectionary shop in the penny candy alley. The shop is not on Google maps, but it is easily recognisable. It is the old style Japanese shop beside the old post box and traditional “amezaiku” candy blower stall.
Styrofoam Animal Art: Frog
One of my favourites: the singing frog. He’s just called the frog, but that pose and the hand gestures – doesn’t he look like he’s singing? How awesome is he!? He’s 2.8 metres high. And like all of Yajimas’ work: completely made of styrofoam. Yajima’s blog says that he is currently in the Penny Candy Alley, but I actually haven’t seen him for a while. The last I spotted him was beside Chimoto Sweet Cafe, but that was a couple of years ago now.
More permanent fixtures
A short walk down from Chimoto sweet cafe you will find another styrofoam art animal. I can’t say for sure, but the shoebill seems to be a permanent or at least long-term resident of the Okono Udon restaurant on the Takazawa street side of penny candy alley. (Google Maps)
Styrofoam Animal Art: Chameleon
The giant chameleon on a five yen piece might be the most famous of Yajima’s artwork. It is located at Imozen Unagi Unakko unagi restaurant (Google Map) on the way to penny candy alley from Ichibangai. This is one of the consistent pieces that hasn’t changed sites in years.
There is also a bulldog there at the same site, by the door of the restaurant. Another one that has been in the same location for years is the chimpanzee:
Styrofoam Art Animal: Small Chimpanzee
The small chimpanzee has been located at the front of Hama-chan for as long as I can remember. Hama-chan is a food kiosk selling take away food and drink such as stick sweet potato and coffee. It is right at the inner entrance to Penny Candy Alley and less than a minutes walk from the chameleon site. (Google Map)
If you go out the Takazawa end of the penny candy alley, the end going away from the storehouses and station, and turn left down to the river, you will see Mokkokan on the other side of the river:
Stryofoam art at Mokkokan
On my last visit to Mokkokan, a small retail park with cafes and a gallery, there were two pieces of Yajima’s art in the car park. One of his rabbits and a piece called (from what I can tell) “Asakusa Samba Judge”. According to an official article written by Kawagoe Media, the carp on the front of the Mokkokan cafe building are also Yajima’s artwork.
Artist Kimio Yajima latest work
On Mr Yajima’s blog you can see most of his work showcased and even the step by step development of a piece. This seems to be one of his latest works. An Onigawara, literally demon roof tile, are a type of roof decoration . This was on display in Kawagoe City Museum last year, but I don’t know where it is now! If you know where this or the singing frog are, please do let me know!
You can find Mr Yajima’s blog here: https://kerokero2016.g.dgdg.jp/
For more on Kawagoe, please see the Kawagoe Guide.
You can find seasonal events for Kawagoe on the main Saitama events calendar.