Also called Little Edo, Kawagoe is a city with a pleasant feeling of ancient times. You can enjoy the warehouse district, a special temple and an annual festival… and it is just one hour away from central Tokyo by train!
Great day in Kawagoe
I went to Kawagoe city only once but enjoyed my time there very much: walk with my girlfriend in the street of traditional buildings and cute products, visit of temple with 500 great statues, discovery on day time of the floats to be used during Kawagoe Matsuri (festival) that evening (very intricate designs, impressive and exciting!), and view of the festival at night both from ground level then from above through the window of a shop on a second floor. Kawagoe Festival is very lively: the floats advance, turn, come in abrupt contact with each other, the lanterns are lit on, the big animated dolls move… It is every year so you should not miss it if you visit Japan at that moment! Note that foreigners too are welcome to help pull some of the floats to the exhibition/gathering area. Wouldn’t that be a great shared moment for the two of you?
Kawagoe is a quiet city with a really small area for tourists situated north 15 minutes away on foot from Kawagoe station: the warehouse district called Kurazukuri. There, you can see old buildings reminding of Tokyo a few hundred years ago. As Tokyo was called Edo at that time, Kawagoe is naturally nicknamed “Little Edo”. When you walk in the warehouse district, look at the second floor of the buildings; you will see windows with very thick doors to protect the products from thieves as well as from fires! The shops and restaurants of Kurazukuri Street have a great atmosphere that is fun for both men and women walking around. Nearby, you will also find the Bell Tower, which looks like a tower from a fantasy movie with cities under siege! This tower chimes at 06:00, 12:00, 15:00 and 18:00 so open your ears if you are nearby at one of these times. The other interesting street to visit is “Kashiya Yokocho” i.e. Candy Alley (north-west of the warehouse district). Try many traditional Japanese sweets in an ancient ambiance :)Will you and your partner choose the same sweets to taste and will you like the same ones?
If you look for a place to have lunch or dinner, consider one of the many local eel restaurants if you are neither vegan nor vegetarian. In ancient time, when it was forbidden to eat meat, eel became the common source of protein for the inhabitants of Kawagoe. This is why there are so many delicious eel restaurants in the area!
If you like art and are interested in religion, you must visit Kita-in Buddhist temple to see its stone statues of the “Gohyaku Rakan”, 500 disciples of Buddha. Notice how every face is different! You will have a great time walking around and taking photos. The light and shadows get really interesting at the end of the day…
Kawagoe Festival is a Japanese traditional festival with a 370-year history, and held every year for two days at the end of October. The pageant of the festival is notably held in the Kurazukuri old storehouse zone. It is really super exciting and I believe it really deserves the designation it obtained as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property under the title “Kawagoe Hikawa Festival Float Event”.
Approximately 20 floats take part in the festival, going in the streets on daytime and nighttime. The most exciting part is at night when 2 floats meet each other and the 2 teams start a dance & music battle! With the lanterns, the masks of foxes and lions, and the dolls on top, it is quite a sight!
You can easily access Kawagoe city (Saitama Prefecture) from the heart of Tokyo in one hour via Shibuya station, Shinjuku-sanchome station (beside Shinjuku station) or Ikebukuro station. Just ride the Fukutoshin Line and/or Tobu Tojo Line for 470-590 yen.
If you plan to visit Kawagoe but have not chosen your hotel yet, consider reserving a room in Tokyo near Shibuya station, Shinjuku station, Shinjuku-sanchome station, or Ikebukuro station, all very convenient to go to Kawagoe!