Things to do in Kawagoe, the Little Edo

In my quest to see more charming towns in Japan, I visited the town of Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture. Kawagoe is known as Koedo or Little Edo. The town earned the nickname due to its close relationship with Edo, the former name of Tokyo during the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Anyone walking in the old town today will feel like they have stepped back in time to the Edo period thanks to the traditional houses called Karazukuri.

The city of Kawagoe is less than 45 km from Tokyo. The short distance to the capital makes Kawagoe a great option for a day trip from Tokyo. Here are some of the amazing things to do in Kawagoe.

How to get to Kawagoe

You can get to Kawagoe in less than an hour from Tokyo by train from either Ikebukuro or Shinjuku stations. Depending on your location you could take:

  • Tobu Tojo Line from Ikebukuro to Kawagoe ( 30 minutes, 940 Yen)
  • Seibu Shinjuku Line – from Shinjuku to Hon-Kawagoe (43 minutes, 1000 Yen)
  • JR Saikyo/Kawagoe – Line from Shinjuku to Kawagoe (60 minutes, 1520 Yen) Better option for JR Pass holder as the trip is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

There is a choice of 2 passes for international visitors.

  • “Kawagoe Discount Pass” offers a round trip between Ikebukuro to Kawagoe for 700 Yen plus discounts at selected shops in Kawagoe.
  • “Kawagoe Discount Pass Premium” the “premium” version for 950 Yen includes unlimited rides on selected local trains and buses.
Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

As my friend and I were travelling from Yokohama, our journey was a little longer. To find the easiest, quickest or cheaper way, check out Hyperdia.

After arriving at the station, we boarded the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus for the small fee of 300 Yen. Even though we got the bus pass for the day, we did most of the exploring on foot like many other visitors. Buses or even taxis are good options if you want to get to two attractions located on opposite sides. Otherwise, walking is the way to go.

Things to do in Kawagoe

Visit Kitain temple

Like many Japanese towns and cities, Kawagoe has lots of temples and shrines. The most important religious site is Kita-in.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

As soon as we exited the bus, we signed up for a free guided tour (saturdays, sundays, bank holidays), right next to the bus stop. We were lucky since we waited for only 5 minutes and were the only people! Our guide was very enthusiastic and responded to all our questions. Although the tour started in English, it soon ended up being a mix of English and Japanese which was weird.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

The Buddhist temple dates as far as 830 however became important during the ruling of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was so important that after being destroyed by the fire, the Shogun ordered to dismantle some parts of Edo Castle and other important buildings to rebuild the temple.

The part of the tour that got our guide excited was when she was talking about the Gohyaku Rakan, a collection of more than 500 stone statues of Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples. You can find the figures in a small courtyard at the entrance of the temple ground. Each of the stone statues has its unique character and personalities. Some of the monks are accompanied by the various animals of the Chinese zodiac, and some are depicted with cute expressions like laughing, sleeping, drinking, whispering to one another or picking their nose. As per the guide, no two figurines are doing the same thing.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo
Gohyaku Rakan, disciples of Buddha

Not too far from the temple is the the Shinto shrine of Hikawa.
People who seek love or a a good marriage visit the shrine since two of the deities enshrined on-site were married. We didn’t spend too much time there but the shrine is a lovely and peaceful place to visit.

Address: 1-20-1 Kosemba-machi, Kawagoe City, Saitama – Admission: 400 Yen

Walk the streets of Kawagoe’s Warehouse District (Kurazukuri no Machinami)

The charm of Kawagoe is without a doubt its architecture. As soon as you arrive in the Old Town (Kura no Machi) you feel like you stepped back in time. The main street is about 15-20 minutes from Kawagoe-shi and Hon-Kawagoe stations. Add another 10 minutes from Kawagoe station. Kurazukuri is the most traditional street in Kawagoe.

Kawagoe originally developed as a merchant town. It’s full of historical buildings make in kurazuki style, a traditional construction method made to resist fire. Kura means warehouse in Japanese and Kurazukuri refers to steep tiles and fire-resistant clay walls used to build the towns’ warehouses. Thanks to good trade with Edo (old Tokyo) merchants in Kawagoe became quite wealthy, so they were able not only to build their warehouses in these structures but their houses and shops too.

Sadly the Great Kawagoe Fire of 1893 destroyed many of the buildings. But most have been restored or rebuilt in the same style. Unlike in Tokyo, in Kawagoe you can still see preserved warehouses some dating back to 1792 like the Osawa Residence. Nowadays most of the remaining structures have been converted into restaurants and shops. Wander around and visit some of the traditional crafts shops. Actually, some tourists were making the most of their visit by walking the streets of the town wearing kimonos and yukatas. It reminded me of Kyoto a lot!

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Enjoy a delicacy

To complement our visit to the historic town, my friend suggested we eat our lunch in a traditional restaurant. She suggested either a ryotei or a unagi restaurant. A ryotei is a type of restaurant that was once reserved for officials of the Shogunate and aristocrats. Nowadays, these restaurants are open to anyone. Since i’ve never tried “unagi” (eel) before, we opted for it, it happens to be the town’s delicacy as well. Kawagoe has been known for making eel since the Edo period and has several restaurants in town.

We had lunch at Unagi Daikoku (うなぎ 大穀), which decor reminded me of a ryokan by the style: tatami mat, sliding doors and waiting staff wearing full kimonos.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

We had to wait a little before being served since we didn’t reserve a table, nonetheless, we were entertained by the kitchen staff prepping the eel via a see through window. The food was delicious and despite the quality, the meal didn’t cost a lot. We both opted for the lunch set which costed around 2,000 Yen. The lunch was served with the usual miso soup, green tea and pickles. Address: 2 Chome-9-1 Motomachi, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0062

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Enjoy a tea break in a cozy cafe

After the lovely lunch, we were in a mood for coffee so we headed to a little shop called Banon. It’s a cafe, a store and showroom where artists can showcase their creations. The shop is located in a quiet street away from Candy Alley. It’s really a nice and quiet place for tea, coffee and cakes. It’s not really a place you would bring small children because of the size, there wouldn’t be any space for prams etc…

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

There are many more fun, unique, quaint, chic and cozy cafes in Kawagoe. One of them is Starbucks. I actually wanted to stop by there as I quite fancied drinking my latte in period building. However, the cafe was packed with people. Which is understandable since you won’t find a quaint Starbucks like that anywhere else in the world. Addresses: Banon – 1 Chome-12-7 Motomachi Kawagoe-shi Saitama-ken 埼玉県 川越市 元町 1-12-7. Starbucks – 15-18 Saiwaichō, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Stop by Candy Lane (Kashiya Yokocho)

One of the best things to do in Kawagoe is to sample all the snacks you can get your hands on in the streets of Kashiya Yokocho. Just minutes away from Kurazukuri is a street famously named “Penny Candy Lane”. It’s full of vintage and traditional sweets and snacks shops. Even though the street has far less shops than during the Edo period, it’s still buzzing for the delight of tourists. If you visit during the weekend, you will be able to see artisans creating the retro sweets. You can even join in the fun as some shops offer sweet making classes.

Strangely you will lots of sweet potato flavoured snacks while walking around. Kawagoe is known for its sweet potato. You can enjoy it in various ways like soba and udon noodles, ice cream, cheesecake, fries etc…

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo
Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Be sure to head over to Bromagee where you will be able to taste an amazing chocolate and sweet potato fondant cake. You can see them making the cakes via a glass partition.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

Toki no Kane

On our way back to the train station, we passed by the bell tower which name translates to “Bell of Time”. It is the symbol of Kawagoe. Located in the warehouse district, the 16 metres tower has been telling the time since the Edo period. You can hear the bells four times a day: at 6am, 12 noon, 3pm and 6pm. There is small shrine under the tower. People visit Yakushi Jinja to seek a good recovery and health.

Things to do in Kawagoe on a day trip from Tokyo including where to eat, what to see and do in the historic town. #Kawagoe #Japan #Tokyo

I really enjoyed my trip to Kawagoe and being so close to Tokyo, it makes the perfect day trip. With so many things to do in Kawagoe and the rich culture of the town, it makes it an alternative destination, in case you are not to found of busy places.

For more day trips ideas, check out these articles below:

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

7 thoughts on “Things to do in Kawagoe, the Little Edo

  1. I’m visiting Japan in May so this comes at a perfect time! I had never heard of Kawagoe but it looks like the perfect day trip from Tokyo.

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