Tokyo is a huge city with many landmarks to see such as the kawaii Harajuku‘s Takeshita street, the bizzarre Shinjuku district or the beautiful yet touristic temple of Sensouji. You never finish exploring and discovering corners of this metropolis but after a while you might get tired of the never-ending crowds and the countless shops trying to sell their products. When this urge to evade from the citylife strikes in, I’d advise you to have a one-day trip to one of the neighbouring cities.
Kawagoe – 川越
Kawagoe is a city located in the northern part of Tokyo and is easily accessible by train. The city flourished during the Edo Period because it served as commodity supplier to the bigger Edo (the way Tokyo was called in the past). Unlike Tokyo and other Japanese cities, Kawagoe managed to retain a part of its old town. Thus Kawagoe is called “Little Edo“.
Warehouse District – 蔵造りの町並み
The most picturesque place is the Kurazukuri Street flanked by very old shops and buildings, including the famous bell tower (時の鐘 toki no kane), one of the most-known Kawagoe’s landmarks. Walking along this street is like stepping back in the past although the continuous flow of cars going back and forth ruin the atmosphere a bit.
Japanese would describe the atmosphere lingering around this place with a very cute word “natsukashii ne“, which means “nostalgia“.
Japan had an unfortunate destiny throughout the centuries: many of its cities were intensively bombed as well as many fires broke out by reducing everything to ashes. The outcome was the loss of many old buildings but Kawagoe was lucky enough to maintain its heritage.
The shops are mainly about souvenirs, kimono and japanese sweets. This place is less “colonized” by foreign tourists so the shops could still keep their original vocation without changing in order to suit tourists’ tastes. While wandering around I hardly saw any westerners, which I found very weird given that Kawagoe is just 30 minutes away from Tokyo, Japan’s getaway.
Candy Alley – 菓子屋横丁
Candy Alley is a very small area 10 minutes away from Karazukuri Street. It earned its name because the alleyways are full of shops selling traditional Japanese sweets. Japanese really like buying some of these and give them as “omiyage“(souvenir) to their friends or relatives.
Strangely the place was not packed with tourists and the streets were relatively empty so it was not hard to get closer to shops and have a look at their products. Japanese sweets are a bit different from the sweets we would think of. Japanese sweets are mainly made from plants and not by using eggs or chocolate.
Kawagoe City Centre
The city of Kawagoe is rather modern and full of any kinds of shops. People living here have no need to go to Tokyo as they have anything they might need. Like any other Japanese towns, Kawagoe streets have a lot of shining signs all along the way.
From the station we walked until Hikawa Shrine, this allowed us to explore the city. Along the street, you can find different temples and, since I am very interested in Japanese culture, I went inside three of them: two were Otera (Buddhist temple), while the other was a Jinja (Shinto shrine).
I really do not recall the names because I found them when I was randomly roaming around. I really love how the atmosphere changes once you go beyond the Torii (the sacred gate).
Even though the temple or the shrine are located in the middle of the city and the people all around speak loud and are noisy, once you step inside everything calms down and you could hear a pin drop.
Suddenly it started raining so we took shelter under a Shinto Shrine while waiting for the rain to stop and we saw many people coming and praying in front of the shrine. I, later, got to know that the Jinja is dedicated to the God of Love. I could understand why so many young girls came to give offerings to this temple.
Hikawa Shrine – 氷川神社
The highlight of the trip, besides the Karazukuri street, was the Hikawa Shrine, where the “Wind Chime Festival” was taking place. The Hikawa Shrine was at the end of our itinerary and we reached it after passing through the temples and the old town.
The festival seemed to be pretty popular among locals and Japanese but we spotted no westerners nor asian tourists, just some Vietnamese girls. It is positively surprising that In Japan the tourism is much less invasive than in Europe and if there is, the most of tourists are Japanese. If the tourism is less developed, we can get to see the authenticity of a place more easily.
The shrine consists of various halls and a cute path located just behind the main hall. During the “Wind Chime Festival”, the path is all lighted up and beautified with countless and colorful wind chimes producing a harmonious sound.
I’d recommend you to come in the late afternoon or in the evening as you can enjoy the place more, everything will be lighted up. There were a lot of couples wearing Kimono and taking photos in front of the shrine, it was so nice! I wish I could wear a kimono too :,)
How To Reach:
There are different ways and lines you can take in order to reach Kawagoe:
- If you are using JR Rail Pass, I advice you to depart from Shinjuku and take the JR Saikyo/Kawagoe Line. It is direct and will take 55 minutes. The trip expense is fully covered by the JR Pass.
- From Ikebukuro there is a direct line called Tobu Tojo Line. The trip will take 33 minutes. There is also the “Kawagoe Pass“, which will allows you to pay 700 yen round trip while normally it is 470 yen just one way.
- You can also use the Seibu Shinjuku Line, which is directly connected to the Hon-Kawagoe Station. The trip will take one hour.
Note that in Kawagoe there are three stations: Hon-Kawagoe Station, Kawagoe-shi Station and Kawagoe Station. The closest to the already mentioned points of interest is Hon Kawagoe Station.
Have you ever been to Kawagoe? If so, do you have any other places to add to my list? Tell me in the comments below 😉
I will continue to write new one-day trips from Tokyo in the following articles, stay tuned 😀