Have you ever wanted to experience life in the Edo period? Looking for a short overnight trip close to Tokyo? Kawagoe is a cute little historic town with so much to see, eat and do! This article gives you tips for your Kawagoe excursion.
Tips for a Day in Kawagoe: Exploring Little Edo
Want to experience life in the Edo period? Do you have a love of old Japanese architecture? Want to get away from the busy streets of Tokyo for a bit? Kawagoe is a great place to spend the day, or even for an overnight trip.
Kawagoe is a cute little historic town about 45 minutes outside of Tokyo. It is known as 小江戸 “Koedo”, or “Little Edo”, and has many fun things to do, see and eat. Even if you don’t know much about history, it’s a cute little town to explore.
What to See
Want to experience culture?
- Walk around the Kurazukuri area 蔵造りの町, stopping at souvenir shops in the old storehouses.
- Walk down the 菓子屋横丁 (Candy Alley*), getting a feel for the old candy shops and trying some treats along the way.
- Visit the foot bath café (Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom). You’ll have a chance to soak your feet while looking out at the garden. Pay about ¥1200 for a drink and foot soak, or ¥1600 for a drink, sweet and foot soak.
- Rent a kimono for the day! There are various shops located throughout Kawagoe that offer kimono rental services.
- And if you’re a fan of unique Starbucks locations, visit the Starbucks housed in an old storehouse. Sip your coffee in the beautiful outdoor garden or in the dimly lit inside of the storehouse.
- Experience and Edo-period style festival! In the fall, Kawagoe is famous for the Kawagoe Festival with various floats. It is usually held on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday of October. You can even visit the Kawagoe Festival museum to learn more about the various floats!
Want to explore history?
- There are many temples and shrines to walk around and explore, if you like to dig into history and religion of the Edo period. The Kita-in Temple is the most well-known in the area. See the remains of Edo Castle (moved from the current Imperial Palace grounds) and see statues of 540 disciples of Buddha. Admission is ¥400.
- Another historic landmark is the Honmaru Goten 本丸御殿. It is the only remaining building of the Kawagoe Castle. It was used as housing for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period, since Kawagoe was a trade city and strategic point of defense north of the capital Edo. Admission is ¥100 (or ¥370 including city museum and art museum).
- And for general history and culture, visit the Kawagoe City Museum. It includes models of kurazukuri structures and geographical representations of Kawagoe over time.
What to Eat
- Sweet potato ice cream is a must! There are various varieties and toppings to choose from, depending on which shop you visit.
- Try some tasty cha-soba or eel rice bowl.
- Walk the streets while eating your dango. Take your pick of basic soy sauce or wrapped in seaweed.
Note: If you plan on staying in Kawagoe until the evening, make sure you have a reservation for dinner or go closer to Kawagoe station. There are several famous Japanese cuisine restaurants with a beautiful garden view; just be sure to make a reservation! All of the Kurazukuri area restaurants close around 4 or 5pm.
Where to Stay
- If you want the traditional Japanese experience, I recommend Matsumuraya (松村屋). Matsumuraya is a traditional ryokan with tatami rooms and even has English signage throughout the hotel. The public bath was recently remodeled and the rooms are comfortable and quaint. The experience of a delicious Japanese-style breakfast is worth the stay. The proximity to the Kurazukuri area is also a plus!
- The Hatago Coedoya (旅籠小江戸や) is modern and new and is very affordable with various room options, including dorm style bunk rooms. It is located not too far from the Kurazukuri area and has a selection of restaurant options (Food Hall) on the first floor. There is also a lounge area with a kitchen for hanging out with friends on the fourth floor.
- If you want an accommodation closer to Hon-Kawagoe station and the city life, Yuu-Rando Hotel Sanko (川越温泉湯遊ランドホテル三光) is a good option. The building has a hot spring on the 2nd floor and hotel rooms from the 5th-7th floors. There are also restaurants in the building.