Region
Kanto
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Saitama
Population
6,938,004

Kawagoe

Step into Kawagoe and step into the past, back when Tokyo wasn't all high-rise buildings and neon lights – back when it was still called Edo.

A picturesque old merchant town within 30 minutes train ride of Tokyo, Kawagoe is a great way to swap the frenzy of the capital for a peaceful stroll through traditional Japan. The architecture is charming, the food is homemade and the local people are chatty – just as Tokyo might have been back when it was still called Edo.

Kawagoe's Traditional Streets

Kawagoe’s traditional streets are perfectly #Instagrammable. Photo by kisaxdots.

You’ll find little shops selling sweets, tea leaves and other souvenirs lining the stone-paved streets. Shop buildings are as interesting as what they’re selling, with traditional tiled roofs and clay walls in the kurazukuri architectural style. There are museums and temples to visit, including Kitain temple which houses the only surviving buildings of the original Edo castle (where the Imperial Palace now stands).

Take a turn off the main street onto Kashiya Yokocho, an alley where you can buy dagashi, Japan’s version of penny candy. The 22 traditional candy shops are a whimsical delight – see how much you can buy with only a hundred yen. You’ll also want to try the local fugashi (a kind of baked gluten sweet covered in sugar). Kawagoe’s is the longest in Japan at 95 cm.

Kawagoe Street Food

Wear your stretchy pants and make the most of Kawagoe’s street food stalls. Photo by w00kie.

The Toki No Kane clock tower, erected during the Edo period and since rebuilt multiple times, is a key feature of Kawagoe’s historical landscape. The beautiful tower rings four times a day at 6 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM and 6 PM. In 1996, the bell was designated as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan by the government, a list which also includes Japanese cranes in Hokkaido and the bamboo forest at Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Kawagoe is also famous for sweet potato, available in a range of irreverent forms.

There’s sweet potato snacks, sweet potato cake and ice cream dessert, and sweet potato coffee and beer to wash it down – somehow pretty tasty even if it feels weird to be drinking a potato.

Held on the third Saturday and Sunday of October, the Kawagoe Festival draws huge crowds to see the parade of giant floats through the town streets. The climactic nighttime Hikkawase is a riot of music, dancing and general yelling; you won’t be able to move for the volume of people but it’s all part of the fun.

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Things To Know

Getting around

The traditional area of Kawagoe (known as “Koedo”) is about a 20 minute walk from Kawagoe main station. Take the exit for Crea Mall and follow this long shopping street all the way along until you reach the Tourist Information Center. From there, head left to get to the main sights.

How To Get There

Address

Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, Japan

By train

From Tokyo, take the express train on the Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro to JR Kawagoe station.

Kawagoe also has two other railway stations: Hon-Kawagoe (on the Seibu line) and Kawagoe-shi (on the Tobu line). The closest station to the main sights is Hon-Kawagoe station.

By bus

There are two buses you can take from Kawagoe station. One is the CO-EDO Loop Bus (1 trip 200 yen, day pass 500 yen), which takes you around old Kawagoe in a retro bus that fits perfectly with the historic atmosphere.

The other is the Koedo Famous Locations Loop Bus (day pass 300 yen), which has a cheerful exterior and hits the same tourist sights.

Both buses offer discount services in Koedo, but the CO-EDO Loop Bus has more partner shops, so if you plan on spending the whole day in Kawagoe, the CO-EDO Loop Bus may be the better deal.

Where To Stay

Ryokan Matsumuraya
  • Motomachi 1-1-11 Kawagoe-Shi, Saitama 350-0062
  • 8.4/10
  • 0.1 km
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Kawagoe Prince Hotel
  • Shintomi 1-22 350-8501
  • 7.8/10
  • 1.4 km
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Kawagoe Shine (Adult Only)
  • Kosenbamachi 999-8 Kawagoe-Shi, Saitama 350-0031
  • 7.6/10
  • 1.4 km
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Vanilla Resort Kawagoe (Adult Only)
  • Osenba 324-2 Kawagoe-Shi, Saitama 350-0032
  • 8/10
  • 1.6 km
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