1 Hour from Tokyo! Walking Tour of “Kawagoe” Saitama; A City Reminiscent of Edo
Kawagoe City is located in the Southwestern part of Saitama Prefecture, a neighboring prefecture of Tokyo. It is about an hour train ride from central Tokyo and its appeal above anything else is its retro townscape that is reminiscent of the Edo Period (1603-1867). In this article we hope to introduce this atmospheric city of Japan through a walking tour.
How to Get To the Major Tourist Destinations
There are a few train stations within Kawagoe City, but if you are hoping to visit the major tourist destinations, its best to get off at “Hon-Kawagoe Station”. The reason being that it is the closest station to get to the central area with kurazukuri (warehouse style) architecture, the most popular tourist spot in the area.
Walk out of the station to your left, and cross the intersection. You will come to a shopping district. When you first start walking you will see only a few stores but there are traditional toy stores and vegetable shops, several mom and pop stores that appear to have been in business from long ago.
Walk further down the street and you will see a townscape of unfamiliar black walls with imposing kirizuma-yane (One of the simplest types of roofs with both sides spreading outward at an angle from the ridge and terminating with their eaves extending beyond the walls) buildings. This is the popular tourist destination of the city, where you can see the “kurazukuri” architecture.
Tourist Destination 1: The Kurazukuri Architectures
It is a popular tourist destination that people visiting Kawagoe first head for. It is about a 10 minute walk from the city. Along the way, there are various shops lining the streets such as restaurants and souvenir shops. The biggest appeal though is the entire townscape of several dozen kurazukuri buildings that convey a reminiscent Japanese atmosphere.
We have in the past introduced the history of kurazukuri and some famous architectural structures built in the style. There are only a few areas in the entire country where we can stroll along historical buildings as kurazukuri and enjoy some sightseeing. For those of you who decide to visit, we would encourage you to walk around with a snack in hand, and immerse yourself in the atmosphere as you would see in a historical TV drama.
*Kurazukuri architecture starts from around this store. Information: Map
There are many areas recommended for walking around other than the kurazukuri town.
Tourist Destination 2: Kashiya Yokocho
The “Kashiya Yokocho” (literally Candy Shop Alley) is another popular tourist destination that people associate with Kawagoe. Here there are cheap snacks called “dagashi” that are popular among children, as well as shops that offer snacks that use sweet potato and other knick-knacks as souvenirs.
Other than tourists, there are children from local schools that visit this street as part of a school excursion. You will often see children with their twinkling eyes, buying their favorite candy; so it’s a heartwarming place. Information: Map
Tourist Destination 3: Kita-in Temple
This is a temple built in 830 AD. Its official name is “Seiya-san Muryōshuji Kita-in”. In a fire in 1638, the entire building burned down with the exception of the gate. The shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu of the time ordered for its restoration. Parts of the Edo Castle were relocated here and other parts were rebuilt. The building we see today is an important building that is the result of a series of such restorative projects.
There are annual events like the Daruma Market and Setsubun (a celebration of the day before the beginning of spring) that attract many local visitors.
It is also famous for having the “Go Hyaku Rakan (500 Arhats)”, which is regarded as one of the top 3 Rakan (Arhat) of Japan. There are over 500 stone Buddhist statues with various expressions which are comical and intriguing. Information: Map
Tourist Destination 4: Taisho Roman Yume Dori
Taisho Romantic Dream Street, 大正浪漫夢通り
It is street with a nostalgic air that is reminiscent of Japan’s Taisho period (912–1926). It used to be an arcade shopping district called Ginza Dori Shotengai, but it was redeveloped in 1995 to its current form. Among the tasteful buildings that line the simple streets are buildings recognized as tangible cultural treasures such as Kawagoe’s Chamber of Commerce with impressive Doric columns.
Also along this street are traditional and unique cafes, a restaurant with a famous dog which is said to “make dreams come true”, and other rare shops. We encourage you to walk around and see the area. Information: Map
Recommended Foods to Snack on During Your Stroll
1. “Imokoi” Kasho Umon
This is a type of snack called manju. This one is made of sweet potato, a local produce of Kawagoe. Inside the sticky outer layer, there is a paste and sweet potato. It’s a snack with a gentle sweetness which is its appeal. There are several shops that offer this snack, but if you want to snack on it while strolling along the street with Kurazukuri buildings, we recommend you make your purchase at the branch located next to the popular tourist destination “Toki no kane”. You can eat a heated snack that has been steamed on the spot. Information: Map
2. Naka Ichi Hon-ten “Neko Manma Yaki Onigiri” (Baked Rice-ball)
Photo by flickr
This is a traditional shop that started in 1867 selling bonito flakes, seafood and dried foods. The handmade “neko manma yaki onigiri” baked rice ball is an all-original rice ball of this store; there are bonito flakes sprinkled on baked onigiri rice balls basted with their homemade seasoned soy sauce. They start selling them at 12:00 noon every day except for the days they close. It is popular as a snack to eat as people walk around that as soon as they start selling a line forms outside their shop. Information: Map
Come Here for Souvenir Shopping!
There are many souvenir shops along the street but if you want to look for Kawagoe souvenirs in one stop, this place is convenient. It is a souvenir shop that is about 3 minutes away from Hon-Kawagoe Station. Other than a shop, there is a restaurant too making it easy to stop by for lunch or for a quick purchase before you leave. Information: Map
Throughout the city, there are bicycles offered for rent so that people can get around the tourist destinations.
So there you have it. We have introduced a small part of the appeals of Kawagoe, but there are so many more things to be seen in Kawagoe. Easily accessible from Tokyo, the townscape containing historically important buildings and the experience of walking around the area should make your tour even more memorable. This is one tourist destination that we want to recommend not only to visitors from overseas, but to people living in Japan as well.
Related: Other “Kawagoe” Articles