Slip back in time in “Little Edo” Kawagoe! A day trip to explore some lesser-known spots

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture was a castle town of the Kawagoe Domain. Once a thriving merchant town, the area is known locally as “Koedo,” or “Little Edo.” To this day, many Edo Era buildings remain, and more new shops have been opening. You can experience the sensation of weaving back and forth between the past and present while strolling around the town. Taking only 30 minutes by train from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station on the Tobu Tojo Line, Kawagoe has become a popular day-trip destination. But since the popular take-away food stands and photo spots can get quite crowded, as a Saitama native, I will introduce some of the lesser-known interesting places in Kawagoe.

*Please note that there are places where eating while walking is prohibited.

Koedo Kurari

Located three minutes away on foot from Hon-Kawagoe Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, Koedo Kurari is a shopping complex consisting of a gift shop, restaurants, and a sake-tasting shop. This calls for a slight detour on one’s way to the famous warehouse district.

This facility is located in three separate warehouses, each built after the late 19th Century during the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras.
My first stop was the “Omiyage-dokoro Meijigura” gift shop.

Omiyage-dokoro Meijigura

Inside, I was greeted by an array of Saitama Prefecture specialty products such as miso paste, soy sauce, rice crackers, and baked treats.

The individually wrapped baked treats make perfect souvenirs.
There is also a wide selection of rice crackers.
COEDO Beer, a craft beer made with Kawagoe sweet potatoes
Kura Café

Inside the gift shop is a cafe where you can enjoy a soothing cup of coffee and desserts made from Kawagoe’s famous sweet potatoes.

Next, I headed to the “Kikizake-dokoro Showagura” sake shop.

Kikizake-dokoro Showagura

This shop offers Japanese sake from the 34 breweries in Saitama Prefecture.

An impressive display of Saitama specialties
Japanese sake from Saitama Prefecture
Japanese sake-tasting machines

The main attraction is the Japanese sake-tasting machines. Four tokens cost 500 yen, and one token will get you an 18 ml cup of Japanese sake from the machine. In this way you can try out different kinds of sake.

Token machine

Ceramic sake cups were available, but due to COVID-19 measures the drinks are now offered in disposable paper cups.

Japanese sake ranges from fruity to lighter flavors, so even a newcomer to the drink can have an easy introduction. At izakaya restaurants and bars, sake is usually sold in one go (about 180 ml) at a minimum, but here you can try a few sips of each at a time. This makes it much easier to discover a Japanese sake that suits your taste.

If you discover a favorite from the sake-tasting machines, you can purchase a bottle from the shop. Any left-over tokens can be traded in for snacks.

A selection of souvenir Japanese sake

Access 3-minute walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line) 

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine is famous for its blessings for good fortune, success in love, and protection against bad luck.

Torii Gate at Kawagoe Kumano Shrine

Many shrines have chozuya, or water ablution pavilion, in the area beyond the torii gate where visitors can cleanse their hands and mouth before paying their respects. While most shrines have temporarily closed these areas due to COVID-19, this shrine has transformed theirs into a visually appealing “love fountain.”

Sparkling “Love Fountain”

Perhaps the most iconic feature of this shrine is the number of omikuji paper fortune slips available. Shrines typically only offer a few types of omikuji, but here, you can take your pick from 24. From luck in love, to wealth, to health, choose a fortune for the area of your life that most concerns you.

An assortment of omikuji
Choosing is the hard part

There are many other experiences offered at the shrine. You can try your luck at the ring toss, visit the money-washing pond to increase your financial luck, and even have your fortune read by Yatagarasu, the three-legged crow, in the “Musuhi Garden.”

Try your luck at the ring toss
Zeniarai Benzaiten money-washing pond
Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Prayer Hall

Access 5-minute walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line) 

Warehouse district

I finally arrived at the warehouse district, the main feature of Kawagoe. After a third of the town was destroyed in the Great Fire of Kawagoe in 1893, a number of fire-resistant warehouses were built. Since I visited over the weekend, this area was bustling with people.

A view of the town and the “Tokinokane” Bell Tower, the symbol of Kawagoe
Buildings from a bygone era

Kashiya Yokocho (Confectionery Row)

Kashiya Yokocho is a street lined with some 20 sweets shops. Walking along, it feels like stepping back in time. It’s a spot that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

Here, I also found some nostalgic Japanese toys including koma (spinning tops), kaleidoscopes, and kendama (cup-and-ball games).

Colorful Japanese snacks

I also found many Japanese snacks called dagashi that I enjoyed as a child. The children in the shop also seemed very keen on them.

Kawagoe’s famous sweet potato snacks


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The information herein is as of November 2021

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