Dubbed as 'Little Edo', Kawagoe in Saitama prefecture is just a short ride from Tokyo, making it an great place to get a glimpse of history and soak in an ambience that is not found in the capital city.
To make the trip more hassle-free, I travelled with Lucky Wifi to help me guide my way as there are a lot of places to visit. If you want to visit Kawagoe for two days, that will be better. The longer you rent the wifi, the cheaper it is per day. You are also free to choose how much data you want to purchase. What's more, the devices are available at desirable locations such as hotels and airports. And fear not, as there are English guides available. Let's begin our journey.
Located in northwestern Japan, Kawagoe is a Edo-period town with preserved traditional houses during the period. Particularly, I visited Koedo Kawagoe. The distinct architecture here are fire-resistant kura (storehouses) which was originally built and used by merchants during the Meiji era. The town played importance in terms of political and military affairs especially to the nearby Edo Castle as a protection hub.
The highlights of Koedo Kawagoe is divided into four zones: Kurazukuri Zone, Central Zone, Kawagoe Castle and Kita-in Temple. Our journey will focus on the Kurazukuri Zone and Kita-in Temple.
Kurazukuri Zone is where the preserved kura (storehouses) are still standing today. Known as Kura no machi (Old Town) Ichibangai Street. Here, the aesthetics and atmosphere of the historical town can be experienced. This is also where the Toki no kane (Time bell tower) is located. It is a bell tower that has been running since the Edo Period. While the current tower is a restored one after the Great Fire of Kawagoe, it is a designated historical building by the Board of Education.
Starbucks, considered as a very contemporary shop is nestled between these traditional houses. But it's not the Starbucks you would expect. In fact, it's designed to blend in among the old-styled houses. It's probably the most traditional-looking Starbucks I've visited.
Nearby, you can also spot a post office and a bank in old-styled structures. There is also a Studio Ghibli shop near the main road. Totoro greets you outside the shop as he waits next to the bus stop.
Other sights in this area include the Kawagoe Festival Museum and the Kurazukuri Museum. It's advisable not to visit Kawagoe on Mondays as the museums are closed on this day. Kashiya Yokocho (Penny Candy Lane) is also located nearby lined with traditional sweets.
Kita-in Temple is perhaps the most important temple in Kawagoe as it has direct linkage to the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was founded by a monk named Ennin in the Heinan period. Some remains from the Kawagoe Castle including a drawing room and reception hall are placed here.
The temple complex also houses the Gohyaku Rokan (500 Disciples of Buddha), totalling 538 Buddha statues.
Given the town's historical aesthetics, it is also recommended to rent a kimono to fully get the experience.
Most of these sights are walkable, having the Lucky Wifi with me made the navigation much easier especially walking from Kawagoeshi Station to the Kurazukuri Zone.
Some good news too! Lucky users may receive a complimentary coupon from popular stores such as Don Quijote and various other electronic stores.For more information check out their website.
50 minutes from Shinjuku on the JR Saiko Line or from Shibuya via the Fukutoshin Line. 30 minutes from Ikekuburo ko on the Tobu Tojo Line, or 78 minutes from Yokohama. The town is accessible via Kawagoe, Kawagoeshi or Hon Kawagoe Stations.