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Cindy Bissig

6 Things to do in Kiryu on the First Saturday of the Month!

The Perfect Day to Discover Kiryu!

There are so many great places to visit just outside of Tokyo and Kiryu, a small town famous for its silk and fabric, is one of them!

Located just about 2h north-west of Tokyo, Kiryu is the perfect day-trip if you are looking for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a little bit. But as so often – timing is everything. These local towns can be rather quiet, so it is important to know when to visit them. In the case of Kiryu, every first Saturday of the month, this small town becomes alive with people coming from far away to explore its local markets and special events. 

Locals dressing up in Kimono for the Antique Market

With many dressed in Kimono for this special day, you might just mistake Kiryu for Kyoto, just much more local. Visitors can enjoy browsing through antiques at the Tenmangu Antique Market, or watch the traditional Kiryu Karakuri Puppet show and explore the textile museum with its work shops.

Here you can get a glimpse of rural Japan a great experience wheter you are visiting or living in Japan!

Jump on a Free Bicycle

The best way to explore Kiryu is on a bicycle and even better, you can rent one for free! The main bicycle rental place is conveniently located inside the train station, with other locations around town (find out more here). 

It really is the best way to explore Kiryu, as all the Saturday events are located a little further away from the train station. It would take you about a 30 min walk. Also, specially on a nice day cycling is really the best way to get around. Plus, it is giving you all the freedom you need to explore everything in your own time. 

Unless, you are planning to rent a Kimono, in which case you may prefer walking or taking the bus. The good news is, there is a local bus that does a loop stopping at all the main places of interests. 

Free bicycles available from Kiryu station

Experience Wearing a Traditional Kimono

With Kiryu famous for its fabrics and silk, wearing a Kimono was on top of my list. Even more so as many of the locals also dress up to go to the market. Actually, the first Saturday of the month is “Kimono Day” encouraging locals and visitors to wear a Kimono.

Of course, there are a few places where you can rent one. I chose “PLUS⁺ Anchor”, which is not a traditional shop, but more of a community space. It features a small shop and a cafe, where also other activities are being held.

Local Kimono experience at “PLUS⁺ Anchor”

Although the selection of Kimonos was small, they were beautiful garments and all belonged to the women working here. In addition it was great talking to them. Kuribara-san, my sensei, could speak a little english and was able to explain more about the fabrics. Also she and the other staff did a great job suggesting and helping me to match the outer Kimono with the inner layer as well as the obi belt.

I have worn a Kimono before, but this was a very different experience from what you would get at the big stores. There was no hurry or rushing, it almost felt like being at a friends house and once I was fully dressed I was looking forward to exploring the town.

A Stroll Around Tenmangu Antique Market

If you love markets then this one is for you. It is the largest antique market in north of Tokyo and only happens every first Saturday of each month. A highlight in the area with many locals flocking to this market to enjoy the vibe and take home a bargain. 

Of course, there were plenty of Kimonos in all colors and sizes, with many as cheap as 500Yen. Beautiful souvenirs to take home. But there were other things too, ceramics and other items and trinkets. One could easily spend half a day here just looking through boxes and what is presented on tables and blanket. 

Impressions of the Tenmangu Antique Market

There was also a small stage at the center of the market, where musicians were entertaining everyone. A really friendly and happy atmosphere. 

Musicians entertaining Market goers at the Tenmangu Antique Market

Eat all You Can!

There was no food at the Antique Market, but Kiryu has plenty of cafes and restaurants dotted all over town, making it almost impossible to choose just one. If you do love Udon, then heading to a Udon shop should be a must. In fact, the region is famous for its Himokawa Udon (Kiryu Udon), with the Udon noddles itself 10cm wide, they are unique and fun to eat. Just keep in mind that most restaurants close from 2 pm – 5.30 pm.

But there is nothing to worry, if you miss out on the Udon as there are food trucks and street food stall placed at every corner, from Yakitori, to Takoyaki, that you might expect to find here, but there is also Taco Rice and more western treats. So you will definitely not leave Kiryu hungry.

Yakitori from a local store

An Almost Forgotten Art - The Kiryu Karakuri Puppet Theather

I did not quite know what to expect, but this is one of these old style puppet theathers, which these days are hard to find. If you love traditional Japanese things, then you will very much enjoy this play. Moreover, it is free and there are 5 show-times spread out throughout the day every first and third Saturday each month.

The show itself, is based upon a Takeda Izumo’s Karakuri Drama consiting of two parts and even if you do not speak Japanese, it is great because it is visually so beautiful. The dolls are all handcrafted and although they only have limited movements, together with the light and music create a magical scenery. 

It is definitely worth making time for and with its five performances a day easy to fit in, as it is also only a short walk from the antique market and all the restaurants and food stalls.

Kiryu Karakuri Puppet Theather performance

Textile Museum “Yukari”

I loved this museum, with its spacious layout and educational displays. Walking through the first hall, having a strong focus on how silk is made and showcasing some of the bigger, more traditional machines for weaving, the second room was a workshop that is used to teach. However, if you would like to participate make sure to sign up in advance. 

The main exhibition room and the workshop

Moving on to the second building, I could hear the rattling of more industrial machines, busy weaving and I could see how slowly a piece of fabric came into existence. 

Here you can also find beautiful small woven squares featuring different designs laid out for visitors to buy if you wish so. To be honest, they are very hard to resist as at 300Yen or 1000Yen for 3 pieces they make lovely gifts.

Beautiful woven souvenirs

Why Not Make it a Weekend?

Having so much fun, I was wondering if I could just stay for the night and it just so has it, that only a few minutes from the Textile Museum I found Kannonin – a temple stay!

Inside the beautiful temple grounds at the very back, I found the entrance to the accommodation, offering a small apartment-like room. As you walk in you can see a stunning Japanese garden in the center, which I thought would be gorgeous in autumn with the colourful Momiji leaves. In addition, there is also a small kitchen area for guests to use, a bathroom with a shower, and a tatami room with futons to be set up that looked incredibly comfortable.

But that was not all, as I walked out I also noticed a “Rotenburo” an open-air bath, the perfect place to relax after exploring Kiryu.

I was also told I could join the meditation in the morning, what better way to start the day before heading back to Tokyo or any of the nearby cities?

Final Thoughts

  • Whether you live in Japan or are visiting, a trip to Kiryu on the first Saturday of the month, is a great escape from Tokyo!
  •  
It lets you experience another side of Japan, local and intimate and you get a chance to learn more about Japanese culture without the crowds. This little escape is especially for you if you love antique markets or if you always wanted to wear a Kimono and learn more about it. Moreover, the experience you will have here, will be unforgettable and really show you a different side of Japan.
 
So if you have some time, make sure to visit Kiryu!
 

Useful Information

Bicycle Rental 

  • Location: website
  • Opening Hours:  10 am – 5 pm from Kiryu Station open 9 – 10 am close 4:30 – 6 pm
  • Fee: FREE

PLUS⁺ Anchor Kimono Rental 

  • Location: Google Maps
  • Opening hours: 9.30 am – 2pm? 
  • Fee: 2,500 Yen

Tenmangu Antique Market

  • Location: Google Maps
  • Opening hours 7 am – 2 pm
  • Fee: Free

Kiryu Karakuri Puppet Theater

  • Location: Google Maps
  • Show Times: 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm
  • Fee: Free

Textile Museum “Yukari”

  • Location: Google Maps
  • Opening hours: 10 am – 4 pm
  • Fee: Adult 700Yen, Student 600Yen

Kannonin – Temple Stay

    • Location: Google Maps
    • Fee: From 19,000Yen per night double occupancy (as per booking.com), but can vary depending on the season.

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Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Contributor:  Cindy Bissig

Cindy is a writer and photographer living and documenting her Japan experience. As a Digital Nomad, she travels all around Japan to discover its beauty and share what she finds on her YouTube channel, as well as through her articles and photographs. She is particularly passionate about local culture, food and sake. Tune into her Podcast “Sake Unplugged” to learn more about it. Her goal is to show you an authentic Japan to make sure you have the best possible experience when you visit!

youtube:  Let’s Travel and Eat

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