Until recently, Kumagaya City was a hidden gem in Japan’s rural landscape, and a place I was lucky to call home for five years.
Now with the Rugby World Cup soon approaching and Kumagaya being a host town for three of its matches, the city has found itself under the international spotlight.
Officially nicknamed “Rugby Town” for its role hosting prestigious rugby matches at the professional, collegiate and high school levels, Kumagaya is a city with just under 200,000 residents in northern Saitama. The Kumagaya Technical High School has long been an incubator for Japan’s top rugby players.
Whether you’re visiting Kumagaya for the first time this fall for the Rugby World Cup, or you’re just looking for a day trip within an hour-long train ride from Tokyo, I recommend swinging by Kumagaya for its cultural heritage, sports-centered attractions and incredibly delicious food.
Things To Do
If you’re visiting Kumagaya in the summer, the biggest event of the year is held annually in July: the Uchiwa Matsuri, or Fan Festival in English.
It’s a three-day event held every July and is filled with taiko drum performances, 12 festival floats pulled around town representing Kumagaya’s districts and hundreds of food stalls. The event is named after the Japanese traditional fans that vendors have passed out to customers since the festival’s inauguration in 1750. It’s a welcome gift on the hot summer days of the festival.
Another Kumagaya attraction, this one open year-around, is the Kangiin Shodendo temple, about a 30-minute bus ride north from Kumagaya Station. With incredibly detailed and vivid carvings decorating the temple, it’s a beautiful sight and one of the three great Shoden temples in Japan. It was recently renovated over a seven-year period and reopened in 2010 with brighter colors and even more elaborate detailing.
If you’re looking for shopping, look no further than the historic Yagihashi Department Store with hundreds of shops and restaurants. If you’re into sports, you can also find plenty to do at the Kumagaya Sports & Culture Park, where you’ll find several rugby stadiums, running paths and playground equipment. Just south of the station you’ll find the famous Sakura Tsutsumi, located just next to the Arakawa Cycling Road, where thousands of cherry blossom trees blossom in spring.
Where To Eat
One of the things I miss most about living in Kumagaya is the food. There are so many options around the station, and even now living in Tokyo I find myself craving the dishes from my old haunts.
Kikuchi Hiroki is one of the biggest names in ramen in Kumagaya and has a reputation of being one of the city’s best places to eat. With its unique skull and crossbones sign hanging out front, you can’t miss it.
Another noodle restaurant that’s a newcomer to Kumagaya’s gourmet scene is Golden Tiger. Although they just opened last year, they’ve gotten rave reviews for their various broth types with salt, soy sauce and tomato bases.
If you’re looking for a quick snack, Boulangerie Matsuoka in front of the Kumagaya City Hall is your place. They have a wide selection of tasty treats based on seasonal fruits along with their classics, and even their plain bread has a tantalizing flavor.
How To Get There
Getting to Kumagaya from Tokyo is quick and convenient. By Shinkansen, you can take a snappy 40-minute ride from Tokyo Station to Kumagaya Station.
Using local trains, take the JR Takasaki Line, JR Ueno-Tokyo Line, or JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line from Shibuya, Shinjuku, or any other major central Tokyo station.
Once you’re in Kumagaya, you can take local buses to Kangiin Shodendo or the Sports Culture Park. Check here for local bus information.
Things To Know
• For more information about visiting Kumagaya, check out the city’s official tourism page (English).
• To learn more about the Rugby World Cup and games held in Kumagaya, check here.
• You can buy Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets here.
Tickets for the Kumagaya games are limited for now, but more tickets will become available at an undisclosed date in May. Stay posted!