Koedo Kawagoe

Japan Travelogue Series: Koedo Kawagoe

There are places that seem untouched by time. Such a place is Koedo Kawagoe.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867) the city of Kawagoe was a bustling district for trade and commerce and was an asset for the city of Edo (presently known as Tokyo). The two cities formed close ties through the years and Kawagoe adapted many qualities of Edo architecture and culture. Kawagoe is more popularly known as “Koedo” (little Edo) as it once was the most prosperous suburbs of Edo.

Only 30 minutes from central Tokyo

Koedo Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture is around only 30 minutes away from Tokyo’s center, and an ideal location to revel in Japan’s history and culture. The quickest way to get to Koedo Kawagoe from Tokyo is the Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro. Kawagoe Station is a stop on the JR Saikyo Line and the private Tobu Tojo line while the Koedo Kawagoe Loop Bus provides access to all the main attractions of the city. The buses make their roundtrips every 50 minutes on weekdays and every 15 to 30 minutes on weekends and holidays.

Places to discover

Kajimachi Hiroba Square

The Kajimachi Hiroba Square is a great starting point to explore for visitors. The area was called Kajimachi, “Kaji” literally meaning “blacksmith” and “machi” meaning “neighborhood”, for the many blacksmiths who lived in the area.

Kita-in Temple

Kita-in Temple

Kita-in is said to have been founded by Ennin (Jikaku Daishi, a priest of the Tendai school of Buddhism) by the orders of Emperor Junna (53rd emperor of Japan). Kita-in is popular for its main hall which was originally part of the Edo Castle and the 540 statues of the Rakan disciples of the Buddha.

Get a taste of Ryotei food

During the Edo Period, Ryotei  (Japanese Traditional restaurants) started as “Caretaker Tearooms” and used by caretakers of each clan for officials of the shogunate or for dealings with other clans. The food served at Ryotei are usually described as banquet food that includes soup, vegetables, smoked, stewed, fried, or grilled food, raw fish, and towards the end of the meal, rice, miso soup and other aromatic items. The utensils and atmosphere reflecting the era long gone but still very much alive. An experience that truly epitomizes the traditions of the times.

Toki no Kane

Toki no Kane

It is said that the lord of Yamura (Tsuru City, Yaanashi Prefecture), Akimoto Takatomo, was made lord of Kawagoe Domain. He brought with him a bell that was used in the castle town of Yamura. The bell was originally cast in 1694. In 1733, a fire tower was placed on top of the bell tower as the population of the city increased. The bell was tasked to be the city’s fire bell. The present structure, a three-story tower, is 16 meters high with the bell weighing about 700 kilograms was built in 1894 after the Great Fire of Kawagoe.

Toki no Kane or “Time Bell Tower”, was designated as a tangible cultural asset by Kawagoe City in 1958 and was one of “100 soundscapes of Japan : Preserving Our Heritage” by the Ministry of the Environment in 1996.

Kashiya Yokocho

“Kashiya Yokocho”, or Penny Candy Alley, is a well-known alley in Kawagoe. The cobblestoned street is a haven for anyone who appreciates candy! There are numerous candy shops dotting the narrow lane that specialize in traditional Japanese candy. Get to sample all kinds of treats. It’s a favorite place for children and adults alike!

Honmaru Goten

Honmaru Goten or “the palace in the inner-most circle of defense” once served as the lord’s residence and offices. It is the only building that remains intact from the former Kawagoe Castle that was originally built in 1457. Kawagoe was a city of importance because it was a bustling city of trade as well a strategic point of defense north of the capital. The structure standing today was added in 1848 shortly after the feudal age.

A relaxing stroll through Koedo Kawagoe is like going back in time to ancient Edo. There are so many cultural landmarks to see and visit as well as local gastronomic delicacies to try. Explore the side streets and get a feel of living life as a local.