The preserved houses and and main street Kawagoe will transport you back to Edo-period Japan, between the 17th and 19th century. Known to travelers and locals alike, as Little Edo, it’s home to a quiet town with a bustling marketplace.
How to Get to Kawagoe
Kawagoe is a short thirty-minute from the Ikebukoro on the Tobu Line. There is a discounted pass for Canadian residents that is issued from Tobu Railways has a discount pass for foreigners at C$8.50, this covers round-trip travel between Ikebukuro and Kawagoe, and offers discounts at some shops in Kawagoe.
Getting around Kawagoe
Bicycles are available for rent throughout the town, but you’re going to require an understand of Japanese to understand the app and rental. Kawagoe is one of the towns that we visited where we struggled a bit more with the language barrier.
Fun fact: the 18th of each month is designated as Kimono Day in Kawagoe, so visitors in kimono or yukata get discounts in special shops.
Though there is the language barrier, you will still be able to find your way around Kawagoe. Plan to spend most of the day there, and give yourself time to leisurely explore. There is a fair bit of walking, but Google Maps will help you to figure out the transit. Included in your discounted pass is a bus that will take you throughout Kawagoe, allowing you to hit all of the local sights.
The headquarters of the Tendai Buddhists, the most notable aspect of the temple is the 540 Rakan (Buddha’s disciples) each with a different expression on their face. While talking with the groundskeeper, we learned that it’s good fortune to spot the statue that looks most like you, leave an offering. Hidden in the statues, you’ll also find the Chinese Zodiac animals, try and spot them al.
At Kita-in, you’ll also find the Hikawa Shrine, which enshrines the God of Marriages, and has a 15 meter torii (Shinto shrine gate).
Inside the temple, if you’re lucky, you can witness a ceremony. Among its halls are the only remaining palace buildings of the former Edo Castle. The room decorated with a floral ceiling and a set of armor is believed to be where Iemitsu was born.
Admission is 400 yen to the temple, but you can browse the grounds at no cost.
Kashiya Yokocho is a shopping street in Kawagoe City. Candy stores including penny candy stores line both sides of the street, it’s a must travel with kids, and a short walk from the Kura no Machi.
Kura no Machi
A stroll down the main street of Kura no Machi will transport you back in time. The buildings on either side of the street sell snacks, pottery, chopsticks, and local art. While there, we found an artist selling original pastel pieces of the local architecture for $1,000 YEN.