Kawasemi-gawara is the name of a BBQ spot and
free cheap campsite by the Arakawa (Ara River) in Yorii, Saitama Prefecture. If you’ve ever been to the Saitama Museum of Rivers you will have seen it by the car park entrance to the river museum. You can also see it as you come over the Tamayodo bridge from Fukaya to Yorii. It is a really popular spot in summer for barbecue and river play. Until the autumn of 2020, it was free to use during the day and even at night for camping and there was just a 500 yen parking charge. However, things have changed greatly since this post was first written in the summer of 2020. Not just because of the pandemic, but more significantly due to a national deregulation of riverside areas.
For example, in Autumn 2020 they started to charge for overnight camping. At first it was just 500 yen, but it quickly went up to 1000 yen. The 2022 information is not yet mainstream, but it looks like the charge will go up to 2000 yen when they reopen at night. They have reopened during the day, but not for overnight yet. The official website still says that the area is closed, but it actually reopened on April 25th. Again, during the day only and you can no longer reserve in advance. But thanks to the info not being readily available and the official website being out of date, the area is really quiet this year! And probably will be until Yorii Town decide what to do with the area.
In 2022, I highly recommend that you contact Yorii town directly in advance, before coming a long distance. Especially since the tragic drowning on August 11th. From what I can tell, the area where the drowning occurred was to the West of the Tamayodo Bridge. Kawasemigawara is to the East of the bridge. In addition, there is a large typhoon expected to hit the area on August 13th. There is a chance they will suspend river play and swimming, possibly even access to the area.
Kawasemi is the name of the flood plain at this part of the Arakawa in Yorii, Osato-gun Saitama. The camp / barbecue site takes it name from the kingfisher bird, which can be seen in this area. (It is also the symbol of the neighboring river museum). The flood plain is really wide as is this stretch of the river. Kawasemigawara is the name of the barbecue and camp area at this point along the Arakawa. It is marked in yellow in the photo from Google maps above. The blue line shows the route in from route 254.
Arakawa BBQ spot
The Arakawa or Ara River is a popular river for riverside barbecues in Saitama. One of the reasons is the width of the river and of the riverbeds. At Kawasemi-gawara the Arakawa is deep in some parts and shallow in others. Therefore you can both swim* and paddle at this Arakawa BBQ area. But also for this reason you do need to be careful as there are parts of the river where it suddenly deepens. The fire brigade come around a couple of times a day to remind people of this.
*There are areas of the river where swimming is forbidden, they are clearly marked with large signs in both Japanese language and visual images.
There are also large rocks in the river, which older children and adults like to jump off. In areas there are shallow pools formed by stones, rock and / or sediment which are great for toddlers to splash around in.
The river beach is mostly gravel, stones and rocks, but there are some areas of sand. The riverbed is also quite stony, so river shoes are recommended for playing in the water.
It is okay to use canoes here. Fishing is allowed too. And most play items are okay as well. However, you are not allowed launch fireworks and / or use sparklers (hand held fireworks).
Free Cheap Campsite
no charge to camp at Kawasemi, but like the barbecue day trippers, you do have to pay for parking. Update November 2020: it now costs a 1000 yen to camp at Kawasemigawara. The fee for campers includes garbage disposal. A staff member collects garbage from campers between 8 and 9 am. Generally, no reservation is required – first come, first served. But again, in the summer of 2022 they are not supporting overnight visits and the area is roped off at night.
At the barbecue area at Kawasemi BBQ spot there is nothing but the flood plain and river. There aren’t even toilets. However, there are toilets very nearby. They are just across the road from the entrance to the barbecue / campsite. The entrance to Kawasemi is marked by the green triangle campsite mark on the photo above. The toilets are in the yellow box! This is where the sinks are too.
Beside the toilets, the pindrop in the yellow box on the photo, there is a little shop that sells drinks, water, ice-cream, charcoal and some water play goods (such as fishing nets and balls). It is open from 10 am to 5 pm from Wednesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There are a couple of vending machines in front of the shop that are open 24-7. Beside the shop there is a small playground.
There are even showers / baths at a nearby facility too. There is actually a bath in the Kawasemi Elderly Welfare Center which is also across the road. It is marked in purple in the photo above. It is open from 10.30 am to 4 pm. The bath only costs 300 yen per adult. There is a children’s community center in the same building (jidokan) should the little ones want to get out of the sun for a while.
The Saitama Museum of Rivers, which has an excellent water adventure playground is just a three minute walk away. It is marked on red on the above photo from Google Maps. There is a 7-11 within walking distance too (not on the map). And by car there is lots within driving distance. If you want to catch some fish to grill on your barbie that day, I really recommend Fuppu Nijimasu Fishing Ponds which are only a 15 minute drive away. Garden Forest Hanazono and Hanazono Roadside Station (both in Fukaya) are only a 7 minute drive away.
**This is subject to change in 2022. As of May 1st, they still haven’t decided prices or a fixed system for 2022. It is closed at night indefinitely**
It only costs 500 yen for parking at this BBQ spot in Saitama. For several years that was the only charge, but they introduced a 1000 yen overnight charge in autumn 2020. For day trippers it is just the 500 yen which is on par with other barbecue sites such as Kurakake Clear Stream Village. However, Kurakake Clear Stream Village has some facilities that are lacking at Kawasemi. It is cheaper than Ranzan BBQ, which charges a 1000 for the day. However, Ranzan provides garbage disposal, which Kawasemi doesn’t for day trippers.
One of the many things I love about Japan is the honesty and trust in society. At Kawasemi often there is nobody manning the gate. In that situation is up to you to be honest and deposit the 500 yen in a shoot by the gate. There are envelopes at the gate. You write your name and reg number on the envelope, insert 500 yen and deposit it in the money shoot. For overnighters that will now be 1500 yen from November 2020.
Other river BBQ spot in Saitama
- River BBQ Kurakake Higashimatsuyama
- Ranzan Valley for a country BBQ area on Tsuki River
- Off the beaten path river play and BBQ spot in Ogose
- Sanba Gorge accessible nature spot Tokigawa
- Kinomura Camp | TOKIGAWA
- Comoriver Tokitama Himitsu Kichi| TOKIGAWA
|Address:||315 Hodawara, Yorii, Osato District, Saitama 369-1221|
|Phone:||+81-485813012. The phone number provided regarding the reopening in April 2022: 048-581-2121.|
|Hours:||24 hours in the past, they still haven’t decided for 2022. But for the moment, from April 24th 2022, the area will be open from 9 am to 4 pm only.|
|Cost:||500 yen for parking. From Autumn 2020: 1000 yen for camping. **CHANGES ARE COMING IN 2022!** From April 25th 2022 it costs 2000 yen for a reserved area. But you actually can’t book yet! Its all up in the air until they figure out what they are doing!|
|Online:||Official web page on the Yorii town website . The page that states the area opened back up on April 25th. The official website which has not yet been updated to reflect the changes (as of May 1st 2022).|
A good blog account in Japanese but that was written before charges etc came into play.
Kawasemi is close to the Hanazono Interchange of the Kanetsu Expressway which is very convenient for anyone who wants to come on a day trip or indeed overnight trip from Tokyo or Gunma. It is also close to the Minano Yorii bypass (route 140 toll section).
By public transport you can get a bus going toward the Saitama Museum of Rivers or walk 20 minutes from Hachigata Station. Hachigata station is on the private Tobu Tojo Line that goes from Ikebukuro and Kawagoe. However, make sure you get on a train that is going to Yorii. Many of them stop at either Kawagoe or Shinrinkoen. But in that case you can then transfer to one that is going on to Yorii and alight at Hachigata.