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The History of Kawagoe, and its Present

The History of Kawagoe, and its Present

A castle town culture led by Michizane and Dokan Ota, father and son

Kawagoe has a long history, and it is known from the many ancient tomb clusters that it was already populated with by the Jomon period. The namesake of Kawagoe is a Kamakura-period samurai named Kawagoe. He exerted power as a vassal of the shogun by arranging his daughter to become Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s legal wife. Later Michizane and Dokan Ota, father and son, who were vassals of the Uesugi clan who governed the territory, built Kawagoe Castle, and the castle town of Kawagoe began to develop.

Koedo prospered through water transportation, linking Kawagoe with Edo

During the Edo period, the Kawagoe clan was regarded as important for the defense of the northern approaches to Edo, and major feudal lords were assigned to control the area. After the great fire of 1638, Kawagoe developed transportation infrastructure along the Shingashigawa River, and a castle town was developed by feudal lord Nobutsuna Matsudaira. Since then Kawagoe has developed as a distribution hub, with local agricultural and specialty products flowing to Edo. Notably, Kawagoe Tozan, the Kawagoe-made fabric, gained popularity in Edo. The latest culture was brought back from Edo to Kawagoe, and thus Kawagoe became “Koedo”, which means “Little Edo”.

The Warehouse District, created because of the great fire becomes a tourist spot!

In 1893, another great fire devastated the prospering Kawagoe. Most of the central town of Kawagoe was burned down by this fire. This inspired Kawagoe’s merchants to focus on the ‘warehouse’ architectural style because of its strong resistance to fire. The Warehouse District which still remains to this day, is the remnants of merchant houses built at that time, and they are a must-see Kawagoe sightseeing spot that conveys the Edo atmosphere today.