Originally published on 2020/02/24
I initially wanted to be placed in Kyoto (Osaka or Nara even, as long as it was close to the culture capital of Japan), but I don’t regret being here in Tokyo.
While there are indeed too many people milling about in central Tokyo, the far west and far east of this metropolis can be havens for an introvert like me. But when even the farthest reaches of Tokyo are not far enough, there are always day trips to Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.
It was a four-day weekend, and I didn’t want to spend most of it at home, but I also didn’t want to spring for a full trip, what with the novel coronavirus already making rounds in Japan (and the fact that payday was still a week away).
So, I decided to go to Kawagoe (in Saitama), also known as “Little Edo” because it was near (just around an hour), and it’s cheaper if you’re coming from western Tokyo and have access to the Seibu lines.
So, I hopped on the train and arrived at Hon-Kawagoe. I didn’t want to spend so much money on transpo, so I walked to all the places on my list, inspired by the Top 5s and 10s on the internet.
Kawagoe Kita-In Temple
This was just 11 minutes from Hon-Kawagoe station, so walking it wasn’t such a chore for me. There were several people there, so the shops were open. It’s known for having 500+ Buddha statues carved more than two centuries ago. You need to buy a ticket first to see them, but I decided to do that the next time I went to Kawagoe with my friends.
I was feeling peckish, so I decided to find the famous bell tower since it was located in an alley with a Starbucks and other restaurants.
Bell Tower or Toki no Kane
The bell tower or Toki no Kane is Kawagoe’s most famous symbol. It served as the city’s clock tower, and even now you can still hear the bell ringing every six in the morning, noon, and three and six in the afternoon.
It’s right next to a Starbucks that looks like a Samurai X location. My plans never came to fruition and I never saw what it looked like inside because there were just too many people milling about. I did enjoy the view though.
The street with the bell tower is where you’ll find many Edo-style shops. Beyond that are more alleys with more traditional architecture. While I was able to take some pictures, I wasn’t able to go in and out of the restaurants and stores because there were too many people and I had other places to see (and I knew I was going to come back anyway).
Kashiya Yokocho / Candy Alley
This was just 3 minutes away from the bell tower. I thought I’d find more restaurants here, but the Candy Alley is really just one alley with many sweets shops.
I honestly didn’t know what the heck I was looking at, but they all looked good, and they weren’t too expensive either. I couldn’t find somewhere to eat though. Good thing I brought some snacks with me.
One driving factor of learning Japanese is being able to try restaurants that don’t have an English menu or English-speaking staff — what I remind myself every time I’m too lazy to bust open a book or when I’m visiting a new place.
Kawagoe Castle (Honmaru Goten)
Just 14 minutes from Candy Alley, this is a historical treasure, but it was sadly closed when I went there. It’s the only building left from the original Kawagoe Castle, which was built in 1475. This building, though, was added to the landscape only in 1848.
It was renovated and opened to the public in 2011, so it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to seeing again.
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
Thankfully this one was open, with many people. My feet were so thankful this was just 7 minutes away. There were some people offering prayers and fishing some stuff in a box.
There was something going on, but I didn’t know what. The place was beautiful though, and I wasn’t the only one taking pictures of lamps and flowers, so I didn’t feel stupid or disrespectful.
This shrine was my last stop, but before I got here, I passed by a beautiful river that would be more beautiful with cherry blossoms in the upcoming weeks.
I was going to wait for a bus but again, there were too many people lining up, and the bus doesn’t come very often. So, I just decided to walk back to Hon-Kawagoe station for 25 minutes.
I didn’t mind though since it was a great way to see the area. I liked that there weren’t many skyscrapers and towers. What miffed me though was that I didn’t find a restaurant I could go into. Many places were closed, and it was around 4, almost 5 in the afternoon.
A few minutes from the station, I spotted California Kitchen. I was so relieved, thinking I could already eat some real food. Unfortunately, when I went there the “cafe menu” was the only one available — in short, pancakes and dessert.
I was really hungry so I decided to just get some caramel banana pancakes. I admit, it was very delicious and very filling.
All in all, it was a very productive and nice day. The sun was out, and it wasn’t very windy. The pace was definitely slower than in Tokyo, and I liked that high rises didn’t block out the sky.
I will definitely be back in Kawagoe again. Soon.