Sweet potato digging in Kawagoe, Saitama

Photos by Lynda Hogan
Photos by Lynda Hogan

Sweet potato digging in Kawagoe, Saitama

by Lynda Hogan
Japan Travel

Sweet potato digging in Kawagoe

Kawagoe needs little introduction within Japan and even internationally the city is quite famous for its Edo period timeslip tourist town. However, there is another side to Kawagoe, which I have been introducing in a series called 'Another Kawagoe'. In this episode I introduce one of several hands on experiences that may not be as well known internationally as it is locally. You may already know that while touring Kawagoe you can pick up various different sweet potato flavored treats, including ice-cream, chocolate, potato fries and rusks, to name but a few. However, what you may not know is that more than just taste sweet potato, you can actually dig your own sweet potatoes too (in Autumn).

Sweet potatoes in Kawagoe

Kawagoe is famous for many things, not least its sweet potatoes. Even the city mascot Tokimo is a mash (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the sweet potato “imo” and, the symbol of Kawagoe, the landmark bell tower “Toki”. Moreover, there is even a “Kawagoe Imo” which refers to sweet potatoes that are grown in the wider area of the old Kawagoe Domain, which apart from Kawagoe also includes the cities of Tokorozawa, Sayama, Niiza and the town of Miyoshi. While walking around the tourist town you can see sweet potato props here and there. Moreover, there is even a mini sweet potato museum in the tourist area.

Tokimo, the mascot of Kawagoe

Sweet Potato are not native to Japan. They were introduced to Japan in the early 18th century. They got their Japanese name Satsumaimo from their point of origin in Japan: Satsuma, an area that is part of the current Kagoshima. Imo is the Japanese for potato. Records in Kawagoe show that they began cultivating them in 1751. They were grown as an experiment in a desperate bid to prevent a famine. All other crops including rice had failed for several years consecutively. The sweet potato crops in Saitama, in particular, flourished beyond their wildest expectations. The people were so grateful that there are shrines and temples dedicated to the sweet potato around the Kanto area. And in Myozenji in Kawagoe they have a prayer service to the sweet potato deity annually on October 13th.

Sweet potato digging tourism started almost a 100 years ago in Kawagoe. And in 1963 a cooperative of ten sweet potato digging farms was established. They enhanced the tourism trade for sweet potatoes by working together to improve production of sweet potatoes and to provide facilities for tourists. Supposedly in the 1970s the area was receiving up to 200,000 sweet potato digging tourists a year! Nowadays the average is 40,000 according to the Kawagoe Imo Research Association.

Sweet photat photo prop Kawagoe

Six Sweet Potato Digging Farms

The season of digging / picking at the Kawagoe Sweet potato farms is from September to early November. Ring in advance to make a booking at the number provided. They are all open now for the season. I have not included individual prices as they are subject to change. Some charge by the potato, some by weight, some have a standard fee. Budget for at least 600 yen per person, but most likely 1000 yen or more. Unfortunately the number of farms in the coop have gone down since its inception in the sixties. However, there are still six farms to choose from:

  • Arahata Farm
  • Arahata-en
  • Sakamoto
  • Yamada-en
  • Mutou-en
  • Nakagawa Farm

Arahata Farm
Seaon: mid-September – early November
Address: 6-12-33 Minamiotsuka, Kawagoe City
Phone: 049-243-3895
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Access: By public transport: a 20 minute walk from Minami Otsuka Station. By car: 5 minutes drive from the Kawagoe Interchange. Parking available. On Google Maps.
Online: Official website

Season: early September – early November
Address: 6-12-34 Minamiotsuka, Kawagoe City
Phone: 080-1160-1234
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Access: Within walking distance of Minami Otsuka station. 5 minutes drive from the Kawagoe Interchange. Parking available. On Google Maps.
Online: Official website

Season: mid-September – early November
Address: 2-2-2 Nakadai, Kawagoe City
Hours:9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Access: Bus from Hon-Kawagoe or Kawagoe stations in the direction of 今福中台. 3 minute walk from 今福武蔵野 bus stop. Parking for 9 cars. On Google Maps.
Official website

Yamada Farm
Season: Mid September –
Address: 2 Chome Nakadai, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-1159
Phone: 049-242-6213
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Access: On Google Maps
Official website

Season: mid-September – October
Address: 2-15-20 Nakadai, Kawagoe City
Phone: 049-244-3247
Access: Parking for 10 cars. Not on Google maps, but I’ve pinned it here.
Online: No official website. 
On Kawagoe Info website here.

Nakagawa Farm
Season: mid-September – October
Address: 2-1 Nakadai, Kawagoe City
Phone: 049-242-6146
Hours:10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Access: On Google maps
Official website


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