Rows of Su Lab kendama for playing with (Photo: Rows of Su Lab kendama for playing with – Lynda Hogan)

Su Lab Kendama Cafe

Try your hand at the age old Japanese toy

Rows of Su Lab kendama for playing with (Photo: Rows of Su Lab kendama for playing with – Lynda Hogan)
Lynda Hogan   - 4 min read

Kawagoe may be best known as a tourist town, but in this episode of "Another Kawagoe," I introduce another thing the city is famous for: Kendama. Kendama is a traditional Japanese toy whose popularity has prevailed throughout the years. Moreover, in modern times, kendama is more than just a toy, but a competitive sport. Su Lab (sometimes written Sulab) in Kawagoe is renowned worldwide for their custom-made kendama and kendama events.

On our first visit in 2017, I was ecstatic in the fleeting belief that I had made a really special new “find” when I stumbled upon the Su Lab Cafe. My bubble was soon burst, when a quick Internet search revealed that it wasn’t as much a new find as the good fortune of coming across a well established and celebrated specialty café. But while this may not be “breaking news,” it still is one to get excited about, if you haven’t already heard about it. It is a fun and unique space that will appeal to people of all ages, especially those into the kendama street sport.

For those that play kendama, this cafe or at least the name Su Lab is probably already on your radar. Su lab not only sells Kendama, they make them too and the brand name is famous worldwide. According to some articles I read online, people come from all over the world to visit the small shop and cafe in Kawagoe. The pockmarks on the floor are testament to the throngs of people who’ve played on the shop’s floor. The wall of kendama for sale had noticeable empty spaces where beautiful handmade kendama had a transient place, before swiftly finding a new home. You can even order their kendama online, however due to the pandemic they have had to temporarily cease international shipping.

The Cafe

Apart from the wall with kendama for sale, there is a wall of kendama you can borrow to play with in the cafe. They also have a large box of the toy for playing, outside on a picnic table. They cater to both left handed and right handed people. In order to play with the kendama you just have to buy a drink. For a group of adults visiting everyone must buy a drink, but for a family you can just buy a couple of drinks if you aren’t staying too long. Considering you get to play indefinitely, the drinks are quite reasonable; ¥500 for the first non-alcholic drink for an adult, ¥650 for alcohol and ¥350 for a child’s drink. Any subsequent drink you buy is cheaper. They have quite a good choice of drinks considering the type of place it is. Their food though is very limited, basically just toast or a toasted sandwich.

Opening hours: Friday to Tuesday (closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays) from 11 am. On Mondays and Fridays they are open until 7 pm and on Tuesday to 10 pm. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays they are open until 9 pm. **There maybe changes to the hours due to the pandemic**

Also in the "Another Kawagoe" series:

Getting there

From Ikebukuro it is only 31 minutes to Kawagoe on the Tobu Tojo Line. You can also get to Kawagoe direct from Shinjuku and Akabane in about 45 minutes. Su Lab is only a few minutes walk from JR Kawagoe Station, Tobu Tojo Kawagoe Station and Seibu Shinjuku Hon-Kawagoe Station.

If you are coming by car, there are two coin parking lots nearby. Also, Maruhiro's car park is within walking distance.

Lynda Hogan

Lynda Hogan @lynda.hogan

Lynda has been in Japan for 20 years and blogging about Saitama on her personal blog for 14 of them.  Despite its central location, just North of Tokyo, Saitama is still quite unknown to the international tourist, but frequented by domestic travelers. It is a great place to experien...