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Good substitute for Costco in the Kanto area
Price: 500 yen
If you don't drive and / or don't live near a Costco, Ok can be the answer to your shopping prayers! It is not as big as Costco, but the OK stores are very good value for money considering it is not bulk buying.
Their meat is fairly standard costs and sometimes a little expensive, but their fruit, veg, baby goods and particularly their foreign produce is cheaper than most supermarkets. If you sign up to become a member you get a further 3% off your bill when you show your member card. It is easy to sign up for the card too, they create it there and then on the spot and you don't have to give much personal information.
This branch is part of the Shimachu off route sixteen and route 254. Parking is plentiful and free. The shop is open from 10 am to 8 pm, seven days a week.
In the Area
There is a song that almost all Japanese people know and sing called "To-ryanse", but most people outside the area don't know that it is based on this otherwise plain shrine in Kawagoe. The shrine also features in the Tales of Ise, a Japanese uta monogatari, or collection of waka poems and associated narratives, dating from the Heian period. The shrine itself isn't anything special to look at, but the history is fascinating.The shrine was established in 807. Miyoshino means "sacred beautiful wide land" and it is said at that time it fitted the scenery of the site. The shrine has looked a bit shabby the last few years, but they have hoarders up at the moment and it would seem that it is getting a long overdue lick of paint. The long path leading to the shrine looks particularly beautiful in spring with the torii and the cherry blossoms. The temple is dedicated to the brain. There are two large picnic tables on one side of the shrine and close by there is a small restaurant that sells snacks and udon. The shrine has a great playground for toddlers on its grounds, but they are officially under the management of Hatsukari Park, a sports ground at the back of the shrine. Across the road is the famous remains of Kawagoe castle, Honmaru Goten. Access is free and the parking immediately at the back of the shrine is free. That car park is almost always full because it is free, but there are 2 more car parks nearby that are charged. The shrine is on the tourist bus route which stops at Honmaru Goten.
Isanuma Park is not a particularly big park, but it is popular with locals. It is famous on a wider scale for the marsh beside which it was built. Isa marsh / swamp is a popular spot with birdwatchers and professional bird photographers. Supposedly you can see pheasant tailed Jacana in the marsh, which is a rare bird in Japan. There are also other species of bird that attract bird lovers.The park has an adventure / athletic playground, a splash pool and wading river, BBQ facilities and some open space. It is on a river and the trees along the river are cherry blossoms. They are beautiful in spring and lots of people come to enjoy Hanami (picnic under the cherry blossoms) in the height of the cherry blossom season. These trees quite nice in autumn too. In the winter, thanks to the abundance of trees, the park is covered in a blanket of leaves. It is a great place for kids to enjoy kicking up leaves and making leaf castles. In Autumn you can collect acorns there too. There is a restaurant and some tennis courts on the West side. In the summer the restaurant has kaki-kori, a popular shaved ice treat for children. If you want to have a BBQ here during the official BBQ season, one member of your party is supposed to be a Kawagoe resident, but to the best of my knowledge, they don't police it. You can check the official website for further details. There is parking on both the North and South side of the parks, as well as a few places in front of the restaurant. The parking on the North is shared with the swamp and the parking on the South is shared with the industrial park. The park is open twenty four hours, every day of the year.
The English given by Kawagoe City to this art gallery is "Kawagoe City Art Museum", but it is in fact a gallery and not a museum. That is reflected in the Japanese name. The building is a contemporary industrial architecture style with an equally stark interior design. What put me off this gallery is neither the design of the gallery nor the exhibition space, but the staff. Grant it I know that galleries are not an ideal place for very young children, but on our first visit I brought the kids to an exhibition for children. Well at least I thought it was for children. The exhibition was a Dick Bruna one, as in the author of the very famous and popular children's books and cartoon character Miffy (among others). They even had some activities and colouring sheets for children, and a craft to make your own bunny ears. So I couldn't understand why the staff were so short tempered and strict on the children. On entering the building, before we had gone near the exhibition area, the staff told the children they had to be quiet, couldn't run, and not to touch anything. Of course, this made the kids and I uncomfortable before we'd even got in the door. The tension continued in the gallery and it ruined what could have been a very interesting and pleasant experience for the children.There is a little bit of information available in English. There is a lift for wheelchairs and buggies. There are toilets and a nappy changing area. There is a rest space with some books. The gallery opens 9 am to 5 pm Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays. The current exhibition is of cats.
Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin Temple is a branch of the Naritasan Shinsoji Buddhist Temple of Narita, Chiba. It has a very interesting, but complex history with many layers of detail. It is often overlooked by tourists as it is not as big or as advertised as neighbouring Kitain Temple, but people in the antiques world or with an interest in the protective deity Fudo Myoo are more familiar with its charms.There are various points of interest in the temple grounds such as the area to worship one of the seven lucky Gods of Kawagoe, or the turtle pond near the North Gate where you will also find a statue dedicated to the protector of lost babies and behind dozens of tiny jizo. They temple carries out some interesting ceremonies too, such as one to protect your car. You drive your car up to the designated spot and the sermon is carried out. The temple is known as a good place to pray for good eyesight due to the history of the founder who had his eyesight restored. It is also known for the ceremonies it carries out for miscarried or aborted babies. However, the temple is probably most famous for the antique fair it hosts every month on the 28th of the month. Also, it is currently attracting some attention for its Rilakkuma omamori, a type of amulet cum talisman. The temple is free to enter and they have free parking for about 20 cars. You can't use this parking when there is a big event on. You can take the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus from Tobu Tojo and JR lines Kawagoe station and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop 「成田山前バス停」.
The building and its books have been around for quite a while, and you can tell with the faint smell of must and mildew. However, for foreigners living in the area with children it is a valuable asset as they have a relatively decent collection of foreign language books for children. The main foreign language available is English, but they also have French and German. They have some multi-lingual books too. However, their website is Japanese only. If you do read Japanese it is a very user friendly website with apps for phones as well as a comprehensive reference and booking system. The library is free and open to the public. However, only residents of Kawagoe and the rainbow cities* can become a member. You need to become a member to borrow a book, CD or DVD. The form is in Japanese, but the library attendant will show you were to write your name, address and phone number. It is okay to write in English, if you can't write Japanese. They make a library card for you on the spot after you fill out the form. You can borrow 10 books on one card. You can borrow books, magazines, CDs, DVDs and videos for two weeks. They have a small room for nursing mothers. They have a reading area for kids and organise story time on different days of the week.The Kawagoe City Chuo Library is near Kawagoe City Hall, but unfortunately is quite a distance from the Tobu Tojo, JR and Seibu Shinjuku line train stations. You can take a bus from each of those stations to the city hall and walk to the library. By car; it is near route 254. They have outdoor parking and some parking in the basement. All parking is free. The basement parking is quite narrow and when it is full it is difficult to park in a larger size car. It closes Monday and the last Friday of the month.*The rainbow cities of Saitama are Tsurugashima, Sakado, Moroyama, Hidaka, Kawajima and Ogose (and Kawagoe).