Located in the southwestern part of Saitama, and centered around Kawagoe Castle, Kawagoe has long prospered, and is a popular tourist spot called “Koedo.” There is so much to see: the elegant Warehouse District, “Toki no Kane”, a clock tower which was built about 400 years ago, “Kashiya Yokocho” (Penny Candy Alley) where you can see confections being made traditionally. Ichibangai Street, a main avenue in Kawagoe where stores in the warehouse architectural style line the street, is an area where you can enjoy the beauty of buildings, and try savory grilled rice balls, rice crackers, and sweets. It is a popular gourmet district where there are many famous eel restaurants, Shoyu-gura (soy sauce warehouses), and craft-beer brewers, which has become very popular across the nation. We will savor Kawagoe gourmet foods in this course. At the end, we will drop by a historic folk arts store where you can purchase a keepsake of your stroll around Kawagoe.
First, buy train tickets at Seibu Railway Seibu-Shinjuku Station. To go to Hon-Kawagoe Station, the SEIBU
KAWAGOE PASS (700 yen) is recommended. It is a good value for making the round-trip between
Seibu-Shinjuku Station, Takadanobaba Station, or Ikebukuro Station and Hon-Kawagoe Station (On the
return trip, you can get off at a different station than the one you started at.)
Buy the SEIBU KAWAGOE PASS and the limited express ticket (500 yen) at the red Limited Express and Reserved Seat Ticket Counter in the center of the picture.
If you need any help or tourist information, please feel free to ask the staff at the SEIBU Tourist Information Center shown on the left side of the picture!
*English-speaking staff members are available.
This is a picture of the SEIBU KAWAGOE PASS. When you board the train, show the pass to the staff at the counter at Seibu-Shinjuku Station, and then a station attendant will put a date stamp on the pass. When you arrive at Hon-Kawagoe Station, please present the SEIBU KAWAGOE PASS at the counter again.
Get on the Limited Express Koedo 5 which will leave Seibu-Shinjuku Station at 9:00, towards Hon-Kawagoe
It takes about 50 minutes from Seibu-Shinjuku Station to Hon-Kawagoe Station.
All seats are reserved on the limited express. They are comfortable, and free Wi-Fi is available.
You’ve arrived at Hon-Kawagoe Station. The ticket gate is in the same direction as the trains as they pull in. The tourist information center is located on the right hand side of the ticket gate as you exit the ticket gate. It might be good to get a map here.
The first destination is Kashiya Yokocho, which features many traditional candy and sweets shops. From Hon-Kawagoe Station, you can take the Koedo Loop Bus which goes around the sightseeing spots in Kawagoe.
After exiting the ticket gate, you will see Kura no Machiguchi (East Exit) on the right-hand side. The Koedo Loop Bus stop is located left of the exit, marked by a round yellow sign.
The bus leaves at 10:01. While enjoying the Kawagoe streetscape, head for Kashiya Yokocho.
There are 2 different types of Loop Buses: a small microbus, and a classic, beautiful, bonnet bus. On the bus, announcements are made in English and Chinese, in addition to Japanese.
After getting on the 10:01 bus, insert the fare (200 yen) in the slot shown in the picture.
* The fare slot may vary depending on the bus.
Please don’t worry if you don’t have small change. There is a change machine, shown in the lower right of the picture.
It takes about 35 minutes from Hon-Kawagoe Station to Kashiya Yokocho.
When the next destination is Kashiya Yokocho, press the button near the window. As shown in the picture, when the upper part of the button lights up, the bus will stop at the next bus stop.
In Kashiya Yokocho, about 20 stores line the corner of the stone-paved alley, centered around stores that traditionally make simple, nostalgic sweets.
You will be excited to see these traditional Japanese stores along the street.
Of the nostalgic cheap sweets stores, the one with the longest history is Tamariki Seika which has specialized in candies for four generations since 1914.
The store is packed with brightly colored candies. All the candies are traditionally handmade by craftspeople.
If the timing is right, you will see them making candies through a glass window at the back of the store.
The craftspeople will roll out a bar of candy in two colors, cut it and put it on top of itself…As they repeat the process, candies with beautiful patterns will be created.
It is getting closer to completion. What patterns will be made?
The patterns are complete. The craftspeople roll the candy bars thinly and efficiently, and cut them. This process takes only 30 minutes. If it took more time, the candy will become hard. “It is a race against time,” the confectioner said.
Here is the final product. This motif is a traditional Japanese pattern called “sankuzushi.” These candies are designed by Mr. Jun Kubota, the fourth generation master of this store.
They explained that they make three or four types of candies with motifs of seasonal flowers, etc. every day. If you want to see how candies are made, please come to the store!
Solid warehouse buildings line Kawagoe Ichibangai, a main avenue in Kawagoe just a short walk from Kashiya Yokocho. When the great fire occurred in 1893 and a third of the town burned, but many warehouses remained intact. Thus its strong fire resistance was recognized, and many stores were constructed in the warehouse architectural style. That’s how the Warehouse District began.
Occasionally a rickshaw travelling around the Kawagoe sightseeing spots comes and goes. You will feel as if you have been taken back in time.
Also Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street is a delightful spot for eating.
The especially wonderful smelling nekomanma grilled rice ball (250 yen) is a local specialty of Ichiganbai. It is sold at Nakaichi Honten, a specialty store selling bonito, konbu, and dried sardines, founded at the end of the Edo period. The rice ball is grilled after being basted with a homemade soy sauce stock made from the locally produced Kinbue soy sauce. Sprinkle a plentiful helping of dried bonito or small sardine shavings over the rice ball and enjoy.
The word “nekomanma” is derived from a cat food made by sprinkling dried bonito shavings over leftover rice at times when there was no pet food. While it was originally a treat for cats, it became a sort of fast food for people, made by sprinkling dried bonito shavings and soy sauce over rice.
The streets around the shopping street have a lot of other great gourmet foods. At Masuya Saketen, you can buy the local Kawagoe beer, COEDO. COEDO Beer is highly popular craft beer in Japan. All types of this craft beer are available at Masuya Saketen.
Moreover, you can have a cup of COEDO draft beer on the spot in the liquor shop. There are two on tap: Ruri, which features a well-balanced, refreshing taste of the bitterness of hops, and Marihana which has a lower alcohol percentage and an impressively refreshing citrus taste (370 yen for either).
A chilled cup of beer which cannot be experienced anywhere else. It’s our recommended beverage!
If you want to eat sweets, sweets made from sweet potatoes are recommended! Kawagoe is commonly associated with sweet potatoes, and this area has been famous as a source of sweet potatoes for a long time. There are many sweets made from sweet potatoes, but one that stands out is the trendy Koedo Osatsu-an’s Osatsu Chip (500 yen.)
With sweet potatoes from Kawagoe as the main, different kinds of sweet potatoes from across the whole country, carefully selected depending on the season, are thinly sliced and deep-fried without batter.
You can choose your dipping sauce, with options like salty butter, caramel cream, or brown sugar syrup cream.
One of the reasons why Osatsu Chips are popular is because of its resemblance to a bouquet, making it perfect for a photo. You can spot people sitting on benches in front of the store, enjoying the crunchy chips.
There is unfortunately a problem with trash being thrown on the streets in Kawagoe, as some people throw their trash on the streets after eating.
When you’re finished eating, the trash is collected at the stores where you bought the food. If you’re going to eat something on the move, please take the trash home with you.
Enjoy eating with good manners.
Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street offers a variety of foods for eating on the go, such as rice crackers, soft-serve ice cream, and sweet potato sweets, which are Kawagoe’s specialties. Please enjoy them.
“Toki no Kane”, the symbol of Kawagoe, is located at the entrance of an alley near the center of Kawagoe Ichibangai Shopping Street. It is easy to find, because immediately after you enter the small alley named Kanetsuki Dori you will see the distinctive bell tower. Old buildings line the area around the tower. When you take a picture, be sure to include these houses along the street.
About 400 years ago Toki no Kane was built by Tadakatsu Sakai, the feudal load who governed Kawagoe at that time. It was destroyed a few times in fires, but it was reconstructed every time. The present one is the fourth restoration, reconstructed right after the great fire in 1893. Although a third of the town of Kawagoe was destroyed in this fire, local people prioritized Toki no Kane over their own houses and stores. It is clear that Toki no Kane is a precious symbol for the people of Kawagoe.
The three-storied wooden Toki no Kane is about 16m in height. It still rings out the time four times a day: 6 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. It is operated mechanically nowadays. It was selected as one of the Top 100 Soundscapes of Japan, and it is known as a special local Kawagoe spot.
When you go through the bottom of Toki no Kane, you will see a small shrine. This shrine, named Yakushi Jinja, is believed to bring the benefit of relieving disease, especially having a great effect on eye diseases.
In the right rear of Yakushi Jinja, there is a small Inari shrine. It is popular, and bestows promotion and success in exams, nicknamed “Oinari-san.” The head Inari shrine is Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. It is famous for attracting many tourists from overseas. In front of the shrine stands a handsome okitsune-sama, said to serve as a messenger of the god.
We’ve strolled around the area while enjoying a snack. Now it is time to have lunch. Enjoy eel, a local specialty in Kawagoe. A 5-minute walk from Toki no Kane is Unagi Ichinoya, Kawagoe’s main, long-established eel restaurant, opened in 1832.
Hanging scrolls, paintings, and antiques unique to this famous store with its long history are displayed in the corridor leading to a main hall. It is spectacular, just like a museum.
In addition to private rooms and a main hall, tables are available for casual dining.
We ordered the special unaju kiku (4266 yen), lavishly using a whole eel.
Once we were served the unaju, you could see Toki no Kane drawn on the lid of the Oju, the container for the unaju. It brings you enjoyment even before opening the lid. This attention to detail allows you feel the hospitality.
Open the lid, and look at the grilled, savory eel! At Ichinoya, the eel is steamed to remove excessive fat before grilling. The decisive factor in the taste is the secret sauce which has been passed down from generation to generation. The savory soy sauce and subtle sweetness bring out the taste of the eel.
Now that you’ve enjoyed strolling around the Warehouse District and had lunch, take a break at Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori Starbucks Coffee. It’s a 10-minute walk from Unagi Ichinoya.
Japanese cedar, grown locally in Saitama, is used to create a modern Japanese look which matches the town of Kawagoe.
The store is characterized by a pitched ceiling that evokes the image of the inside of a warehouse.
The fabrics used for the bench cushions are Kawagoe Tozan, the Kawagoe-made fabric. It is Kawagoe’s main cotton woven fabric, characterized by stripes and passed down from the Edo period.
There is space where you can relax while enjoying the view of a Japanese garden at the back of the store. Order your favorite food and drink, and relax, enjoying the traditional Japanese atmosphere.
At Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori Starbucks Coffee, mugs and tumblers with Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms motifs are available for sale. They are very popular. Don’t miss out!
The last stop after strolling around and eating in Kawagoe is Tsuchikane Folk Arts, where you can find souvenirs to keep as a memory of sightseeing in Kawagoe. It’s a 10-minute walk from Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori Starbucks Coffee.
Folk art products which impart the feeling of the season are displayed on the store window. There are many things made from Kawagoe Tozan, which you saw in Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori Starbucks Coffee, displayed here.
Postcards (320 yen) with illustrations such as the Warehouse District, Toki no Kane, and floats from the Kawagoe Festival, which was registered on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, are popular souvenirs.
Many pieces of folk art are displayed in the store. The most impressive are the miniature Japanese tea ceremony tools. All of them are wooden handmade products, and they are turned by craftsmen on a lathe.
Many other folk art objects are displayed, including Japanese armor, and beckoning cats which are believed to bring happiness. All of them are elaborately crafted, uniquely handmade, and full of warmth. You will recognize the precision and skillfulness of Japanese craftsmen’s hands.
It’s a 5-minute walk from Tsuchikane Folk Arts to Hon-Kawagoe Station.
Upon arriving at Hon-Kawagoe Station, buy a limited express ticket (500 yen) just as you did on the way to Kawagoe, and get on Koedo 32.
Show the SEIBU KAWAGOE PASS to a station attendant at the counter, and go to the limited express platform.
Kawagoe is a tourist location full of delicious gourmet food. You can fully enjoy these gourmet foods even on a day trip. Please come visit this tourist spot, just a short trip from central Tokyo.