In Saitama prefecture, a short train ride from Tokyo, Kawagoe is a convenient day trip. During Edo Era (1603-1868), the city was strategically and commercially important, neighboring Japan’s capital. But unlike Edo, which is now known as Tokyo, Kawagoe’s past shape remains, with ancient buildings in the city center. The main sight is Toki-no-kane, the bell tower, and the storehouses area. And Kawagoe is one of the Heisei 100 landscape.
After a few days in a more unknown Japan, around Nagatoro or Kusatsu Onsen, reaching Kawagoe was also a real come back to the touristic beaten path. Because the small city, convenient to reach as only 30 minutes away from Tokyo, can be very popular and crowded on a sunny day. But still, “Little Edo”, as Kawagoe is often nicknamed is worth a visit and really allows to catch a glimpse of Japan’s past.
The main area is the storehouses one, with many traditional kurazukuri. This type of building, with its retro feeling, is actually not so old – dating back from the 19th century, mainly as an answer to the many fires that struck Kawagoe at the time. These thick-wall storehouses are indeed way more fireproof than the more common wooden ones. Today, they are used as shops and restaurants.
The other famous sight of Kawagoe is Toki-no-Kane, the time bell as the top of a wooden tower. The original structure dates back from 350 years ago, but because of the above mentioned fires, the current one was rebuilt in 1893.
Since 1996, Toki-no-Kane is officially one of the 100 soundscapes of Japan. Visitors can hear its sound four times aday, at 6am, 12am, 3pm and 6pm.
Another historical and popular district of Kawagoe is Kashiya Yokocho (菓子屋横丁), which might be translated by “candy street”. The factories of the area were the main producer of candies of the whole country after the 1920s and for about 30 years. About 20 shops are still there, but most of them close after 5pm.
And the sugar sweet smell of the Kashiya Yokocho is officially one of the 100 aromatic sites of Japan!
How to get there?
Kawagoe is a convenient gateway from Tokyo, which can be reached after a 30 minutes journey from different stations of the big city.
Using JR lines (thus comprised in the JR Pass), Kawagoe is 55 minutes away from Shinjuku (760 yen, using the JR Saikyo/Kawagoe line). From neighboring Shinjuku Seibu station, the Seibu lines journey to Hon-Kawagoe is slightly less expensive, at 500 yen for about the same length of time.
The fastest option is to travel from Ikebukuro with Tobu lines. Express trains are reaching Kawagoe in about 30 minutes for 460 yen. A convenient option is to use the “Kawagoe Discount pass“, only with a tourist visa, which costs 700 yen and is valid both ways, to and from Kawagoe, and offers reductions for the city main attractions.