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

Travel

ReleaseNovember 19, 2021

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.

writerRima

I’m Rima—born, raised, and currently living in Saitama Prefecture.
I achieved my lifelong dream of traveling abroad when I went to study in the United States. It was there that I realized the beauty of Japan. In college, I majored in Japanese culture and arts. I am fascinated by Kyoto’s geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) and have continued my research on them even after graduating. My family and I love to travel around Japan to devour delicious cuisine! I have a habit of frequently returning to my favorite destinations.


*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.

Koedo Kurari
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.

Kawagoe Kurari Omiyage-dokoro Meijigura
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.

Kawagoe Kurari Omiyage-dokoro Meijigura
The individually wrapped baked treats make perfect souvenirs.


Kawagoe Kurari
There is also a wide selection of rice crackers.


Kawagoe Kurari Craft beer
COEDO Beer, a craft beer made with Kawagoe sweet potatoes


Kawagoe Kurari Kura Cafe
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.

Kawagoe Kurari Kikizake-dokoro Showagura
Kikizake-dokoro Showagura


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

Kawagoe Kurari
An impressive display of Saitama specialties


Kawagoe Kurari Japanese sake
Japanese sake from Saitama Prefecture


Kawagoe Kurari Japanese sake-tasting machines
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.

Kawagoe Kurari Token machine
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.


Kawagoe Kurari Japanese sake
A selection of souvenir Japanese sake


Kawagoe City Industrial Tourist Center, Koedo Kurari
Access: 3-minute walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line)
https://www.machikawa.co.jp/


After trying some Japanese sake, I ventured out of “Koedo Kurari” and continued on for about five minutes in the direction of the warehouse district. On the way, there was a busy shrine.

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine


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

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine
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.”

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine 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.

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Omikuji
An assortment of omikuji


Kawagoe Kumano 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.”

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Try your luck at the ring toss
Try your luck at the ring toss


Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Zeniarai Benzaiten money-washing pond
Zeniarai Benzaiten money-washing pond


Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Prayer Hall
Kawagoe Kumano Shrine Prayer Hall


Kawagoe Kumano Shrine
Access: 5-minute walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line)
https://kawagoekumano.jp/


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.

the “Tokinokane” Bell Tower, the symbol of Kawagoe
A view of the town and the “Tokinokane” Bell Tower, the symbol of Kawagoe


Kawagoe Warehouse district
Buildings from a bygone era


Kawagoe Warehouse district
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.

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


Kawagoe Confectionery Row
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 Confectionery Row
Kawagoe’s famous sweet potato snacks


While Kawagoe has many other great features, one thing to watch out for is overindulging in the myriad of delicious foods to be found on your stroll. And as you enjoy your own journey back in time, do try to avoid the crowds.

Koedo Kawagoe Tourist Association
https://www.koedo.or.jp/foreign/english/


*The information herein is as of Novermber 2021.

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