One nice thing about Kawagoe, it’s an all in one place making it very easy to explore. So whether you plan on traveling here by car, by Co-Edo Loop Bus, or even by foot, exploring Kawagoe and its Edo Period remains shouldn’t take more than a day.
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Kawagoe Sightseeing Guide
Kawagoe is actually an ideal side trip from Tokyo as it is only 30-minute train ride from Ikebukuro Station by Tobu Tojo Line express. To give you a head start, I would recommend that you first download and print this Kawagoe Sightseeing Map for you to be familiarized with the places that will be mentioned later. If you plan on exploring by foot, you should start from Honkawagoe Station and walk along the Taisho-Roman Street until you see the famous Kurazukiri Zone or Warehouse District.
If walking isn’t your forte, make sure to purchase the Unlimited Co-Edo Loop Bus Daily Pass Ticket. It’s only 500 yen and it can take you to all sightseeing spots of Kawagoe. From Honkawagoe Station, just look for the Eagle Bus Stop with the famous “Bell of Time” logo. Board the bus and purchase the ticket directly from the bus driver.
1. Kurazukiri or Warehouse District Street
This famous lane is lined with many beautiful historical warehouses dating from the Edo Period (1603-1867), with quaint cafes and souvenir shops at every corner and easy access to the other sights of Kawagoe. Just watch out for the traffic during the Kawagoe Festival.
2. Kawagoe Festival
Widely considered as one of the liveliest city festivals in Japan, the Kawagoe Festival has floats and live musicians, and is held for two days on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday of October, centered around the Hikawa Shrine.
3. Kawagoe Festival Museum
If you’re not visiting during the festival, you can still see the elaborate floats, watch videos of previous parades as well as see some performances and acquaint yourself with the history of this celebration, in this museum any time of the year.
4. Kashiya Yokocho (Candy Lane)
Known for the numerous candy stores which produce traditional Japanese sweets in virtually every flavor and according to methods passed down generations, you can get awesome treats like tea sweets, sweet potato and cherry blossom candies for great prices here!
5. Toki no Kane (Bell of Time)
This beautiful clock tower has survived many fires and subsequent restorations, and the clarity of its melodious bell tones, which can be heard four times a day in Kawagoe, has earned it a place amongst the ‘100 Sound Sceneries of Japan’. It is also the famous symbol of Kawagoe.
6. Osawa House
One of the oldest warehouses in Japan dating back to the Edo period, this warehouse has been carefully restored and painstakingly preserved, as it is a prime example of Japanese architecture and considered a national treasure.
7. Hon Maru Goten (Kawagoe Castle)
Founded in 1547, this ancient center of power of the Kawagoe clan is one of only two structures in Japan which has preserved the remains of daimyo residences on the grounds and renovated rooms for tourists to visit, complete with tatami mats. It is also the site of several historic battles and sieges.
8. Agresh Kawagoe or Fresh’s Farmers Market
Only a skip and a beat away from the Kawagoe Interchange, you’ll be able to buy some of the freshest fruit, meat and vegetables in the area at this wholesale market, as well as enjoy dishes in the in-market restaurants prepared from this delicious produce.
9. Hikawa Shrine
This ancient Shinto shrine and the center of the Kawagoe festival is also well-known for its spacious park full of cherry blossom trees, as well as a zoo and museum you can visit to learn about the history of this shrine—which is said to go back up to nearly two millennia!
10. Renkeji Temple
This Buddhist temple is known for its unique statue of Binzurusama, a disciple of Buddha. Located at its entrance, touching it is said to cure visitors of illnesses. Devotees come to pray here every day, and there’s a temple fair here every 8th of the month.
11. Kita-in Temple
Known for the Tokugawa Rooms inside its museum, as well as housing the statues of the 500 Rakan—the disciples of Buddha—this temple has charming gardens and holds a daruma festival on the 3rd of January each year.
12. Narita-San Temple
Considered an annex of the larger temple in Chiba Prefecture, this Buddhist temple is known for holding a flea market on the 28th of each month, where you can purchase Japanese handicrafts, charms and even good luck dolls from dawn until dusk, no matter what the weather.
13. Senba Toshogu Shrine
This shrine was built to honor the great Tokugawa Ieyasu, and it is home to a museum full of artifacts dating from that period, as well as lovely sculptured pillars and lacquered ornaments, centered around a magnificent statue of Ieyasu himself.
14. Experience Wearing a Kimono
The sheer craftsmanship and detail of traditionally-made kimono requires skills and knowledge of weaving and fabric that goes back to centuries and are closely-held secrets in some families—kimono can be very expensive, but you should at least try learning how to put one on and take some lovely photographs of yourself wearing one in the hauntingly historic grounds of Kawagoe. Interested? Read this blog to know more about the experience.
15. Try Some Sweet Potato Dishes
Kawagoe is also known as “Sweet Potato Town”, due to the numerous delicacies they have revolving around this root vegetable. Try the sweet potato and whipped cream-filled rice cakes, as well as sweet potato udon or soba, and even sweet potato beer!
16. Eel Dishes
Eel is also very popular in Kawagoe — broiled or grilled over charcoal, many families and local restaurants serve the rich eel with their own secret blends of sweetened soy sauce passed down through the centuries. Perfect over steaming hot white rice!
17. Co-edo Loop Bus
Easily the most convenient way to get around Kawagoe, all instructions and destinations are flashed in both English and Japanese in this charming vintage bus service, ensuring that you won’t get lost or confused while you go to your next destination. As mentioned above, it is recommended that you purchase the unlimited CO-EDO Loop Bus daily pass for 500 yen when exploring Kawagoe. You can purchase the ticket directly from the bus driver.
18. Museum of Kurazukuri
This museum was formerly a tobacco wholesaler’s shop, and now houses some excellent examples of traditional Japanese architecture. It’s a great place to learn more about the history and manner of construction of the warehouses in this district.
19. Eat Kurazukuri Monaka Misegura
This delicious Kawagoe delicacy consists of a wafer that’s shaped like a traditional Japanese storehouse and is filled with coarsely ground red bean jam—perfect to bring home as a souvenir for your friends and family!
20. Flavored Sembei or Rice crackers
Kawagoe is also known for its tasty, freshly-toasted rice crackers sold virtually everywhere there, and they’re available in every flavor under the sun, from sweet soy to chocolate, to hot pepper and miso paste. They’re crunchy and portable snacks, and make unique gifts to bring home.
21. Dine at a Ryotei
A ryotei is a first-class traditional Japanese restaurant, known for serving elaborate meals with multiple courses, and menus that change according to the seasons—hearty stews in winter or refreshing soups and sorbets for the summer. It’s definitely a must-try if you visit Japan!