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Exploring Kawagoe: The Beautiful Traditional Town Outside Tokyo (Day Trip Guide)

Exploring Kawagoe: The Beautiful Traditional Town Outside Tokyo (Day Trip Guide)

Date published: 14 October 2022

Located in peaceful Saitama, Kawagoe is the perfect place to feel like you've stepped back in time to experience ancient Japan. But what exactly awaits you in this traditional town?

Table of Contents
  1. Kawagoe overview and history
  2. What to do in Kawagoe
  3. Recommended Hotels in Kawagoe
  4. How to get to Kawagoe

Kawagoe overview and history

Kawagoe overview and history

From Tokyo Station, Kawagoe takes just one hour to get to by train, making it a great day trip from the city center to experience a little slice of traditional Japan.

The former castle town is often referred to as "Little Edo" (ko-edo in Japanese), with good reason. Tokyo was previously called Edo, giving way to the Edo period (1603-1867). During this time, wealthy merchants from Kawagoe were inspired by the Edo-style buildings they came across in the capital and wanted to bring that back to Kawagoe.

One of the characteristic buildings from that period was Kura Zukuri, or "storehouses." These Kura Zukuri had thick walls of 8-10 inches. In the Kawagoe Great Fire of 1893, many buildings burnt down, but some of the Kura Zukuri survived. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Edo's buildings that burnt in another widespread fire.

After the fire, Kura Zukuri in Kawagoe were rebuilt or renovated, so many of the buildings you see today were built in the late 1800s. But you can no longer see this style of building easily in Tokyo, so if you are looking to experience the Edo of years gone by, Kawagoe is the place to be.

Aside from the traditional architecture, Kawagoe is also known for its lively festivals, particularly the annual Kawagoe Festival on the third weekend of October, where 29 huge floats "battle" in the streets alongside energetic music.

What many people don't know is that Japan’s iconic Kitsune mask (fox mask) originated here at Kawagoe’s festivals. Telling the story of a Tenko (good fox), a woman would dance with a fox mask as part of the celebrations. You can get the mask all over the town!

What to do in Kawagoe

Ahead of Golden Week, koinobori carp streamers billow along Taisho Roman Yume-dori Street. In 2022, the event went from March 26 to May 15.
Ahead of Golden Week, koinobori carp streamers billow along Taisho Roman Yume-dori Street. In 2022, the event went from March 26 to May 15.

Modern-day Kawagoe has a great variety of sightseeing spots, both old and new. Some shops and restaurants have been in business for over 200 years, whereas others adopt old aesthetics but bring a new concept to the town.

A walk through the former castle town gives you a sense of the Japan of old, and you can even rent a kimono for the day for added authenticity.

So what is there to do and see in this traditional town? Here are our recommendations for the must-see spots in Kawagoe.

Toki no Kane Bell Tower

The “Toki no Kane” Bell Tower is a well-known symbol of Kawagoe, and is the star of the show in many photoshoots in the area. The 16-meter-tall tower was built around 400 years ago, but the one you see today is the fourth reconstruction, and was most recently reconstructed shortly after the Great Fire of Kawagoe in 1893.

The bell chimes four times a day, and the sound is so iconic that it was officially designated as one of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan.” You can find the Bell Tower on Kanetsuki Street, so named because kanetsuki literally means “the ringing of the bell!”

Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine

Tai (sea bream)
Tai (sea bream)

Kawagoe Shrine is one of the most well-known shrines in the area, not least of all because it is responsible for the impressive Kawagoe Festival in October, sometimes known as the Kawagoe Hikawa Matsuri.

The shrine is said to have been founded around 1,500 years ago during Emperor Kinmei’s reign. The shrine was held in high esteem by the lords of the Kawagoe Domain, and was considered an important guardian force for the former castle town. This led to various help in planning and construction from the Kawagoe daimyo, resulting in intricate engravings and a spot as an official Important Cultural Asset of Saitama prefecture.

Hikawa shrine worships five deities that contain two sets of divine couples, resembling a mortal family. So people come to the shrine for matrimonial happiness, household harmony, and matchmaking. Here, you can “catch” a Tai (sea bream) that contains a fortune slip.

Why the Tai, and not another fish? Well, Tai has long been loved by the Japanese as a fish of good luck, and it can be used as a play on words for many good things:
Medetai - Auspicious
Antai - Peace
Aitai - Love

Catch a Tai to find out your fortune, cool off with the refreshing wind chimes in summer, or take part in one of their lively festivals to make the most of your time at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine.

Kashiya Yokocho Candy Alley

Kashiya Yokocho is a great place to experience the Edo atmosphere. With its cobbled streets and traditional sweet shops, the warm atmosphere welcomes you back to a time gone by.

The street has its roots as a vending street for cheap snacks and sweets for the local residents, and remains a place to get delicious traditional items like Nikki Ame, a sweet made with cinnamon, and dagashi, a catch-all term for Japan’s moreish cheap snacks.

Kawagoe Ichibangai

Kawagoe Ichibangai
Kawagoe Ichibangai

Kawagoe Ichibangai is probably what most people think of when they hear “Kawagoe.” This is the iconic street filled with Kura Zukuri (traditional storehouses) that will leave you with a lasting impression of Little Edo.

On this street, you’ll find a wide variety of shops and restaurants old and new, as well as rickshaw drivers ready to welcome you on board for a ride around the town. Kawagoe Ichibangai is about a 10-15 minute walk from Kawagoe Station and is a must when visiting the area.

Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan

Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan
Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan

The Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan is Kawagoe’s festival museum. Here you can find out all about the history and details of the impressive festival that is held each year in October that gets everyone talking.

Given that the festival floats are so impressive, people of the area wanted to make them available to be seen at any time of the year, not just during the festival season. Normally, there would be eight people on each float, two of which would be behind the red curtain, controlling the larger-than-life doll atop the float. With the modern electrical lines getting in the way, the floats were adapted so they can easily be shortened to 5 meters when going through streets.

There are always two floats on display in the museum at any given time, and they are changed out regularly every few months. Here you get a real sense of their grandeur and the festival spirit, even if you can’t visit Kawagoe during the festival itself.

Koedo Kurari

Koedo Kurari (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)
Koedo Kurari (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)

Set in a renovated sake brewery, Koedo Kurari has a restaurant, souvenirs, and locally brewed sake to try out and take home the best of Kawagoe.

The building was established as the Kagamiyama Sake Brewery in 1875 and is designated as a National Tangible Cultural Property. With the desire to keep the history of Kawagoe’s only brewery going, the building was renovated into Koedo Kurari and reopened in 2010. The original stately pillars and beams of the brewery were kept as is, but now it is home to artisanal souvenirs and delicious sake from all over Kawagoe and Saitama prefecture.

Selection of Saitama Prefecture sake (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)
Selection of Saitama Prefecture sake (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)

Koedo Kurari’s aim is to connect Kawagoe visitors with the local industry, so one of their major highlights is the fact that you can try out sake from each one of Saitama Prefecture’s 34 breweries.

Sake taster vending machine in Kawagoe (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)
Sake taster vending machine in Kawagoe (Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)

What’s better than trying out 34 different types of sake? The fact that you can try them out in a sake taster vending machine!

To try out the automatic sake tasting, you can buy four vending machine coins for 500 yen, and try one cup of sake for one coin. So, for 500 yen, you can try four different types of sake from all around Saitama.

(Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)
(Image courtesy of Koedo Kurari)

All of that can be found in the “Showagura” section of Koedo Kurari, but there are three other sections, the “Meijigura,” “Taishogura,” and “Tenjigura.” In Meijigura, you’ll find gorgeous Kawagoe souvenirs; at Taishogura, you can visit their restaurant, “Makanai Tokoro;” and Tenjigura is available as a rental or exhibition space.

When you visit, make sure to try out their Kawagoe Satsumaimo (sweet potatoes), which are sourced from the local Yamada Farm, with over 180 years of Kawagoe history behind it.

  • Koedo Kurari
    • Address 1-10-1 Shintomi-cho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0043
    • Phone Number 04-9228-0855
    • ・Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: Some English available on their website.

Teiku Matsusada

Teiku Matsusada
Teiku Matsusada

Established in 1872, Teiku Matsusada is a stationery shop that brings a light and modern feel to traditional practices.

What makes Teiku Matsusada stand out from other stationery shops is that they sell kami fūsen, which are paper balloons or lanterns. Teiku Matsusada’s shopkeeper told us that this art form originated in the Toyama and Niigata areas of Japan, where pharmacies would make the paper lanterns with their brand of patterned paper as a kind of northern souvenir.

Now, you can buy fun and light-hearted paper lanterns at Teiku Matsusada without having to get a stomach ache first!

Aside from their paper lanterns, you’ll find plenty of cute and practical stationery, but you’ll also find some Kawagoe-specific souvenirs.

These adorable postcards were hand-drawn (then digitized) by an older customer called Nangaku Sensei, who used to visit the shop often and would capture the essence of Kawagoe’s major spots in no time.

They also did a small collaboration with Fukushima Prefecture to create this cute tote bag.

  • Teiku Matsusada
    • Address 3-16 Nakacho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0065
    • ・Weekday Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM
      ・Weekend Hours: 10:30 AM – 5 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: None

Vivian Kimono Rental

Vivian Kimono Rental
Vivian Kimono Rental

On an unsuspecting street near the famous Kawagoe bell tower, you’ll find Vivian Kimono Rental.

Here, you can rent a kimono for the day for as little as 2,200 yen for women and 3,300 yen for men.

Vivian holding her “Omotenashi” prize
Vivian holding her “Omotenashi” prize

Vivian opened her kimono rental shop in 2008, with the idea of letting people enjoy the Kawagoe atmosphere to its fullest. The shop was the first in the area to rent out kimono, much to the surprise of those around her. But now, renting a kimono in Kawagoe is common practice!

No two kimono are exactly the same here, so you can choose the best pattern and style to bring out your personality while walking around the town. Of course, there are kimono with similar colors, and kimono with different colors but the same pattern, so you can choose to mix and match with your partner or friends however you like.

You can also choose to add special decorations to your kimono, such as pearl charms and bags, or lace sleeves for an elegant twist. Each plan comes with simple hair styling, but if you would like something fancier, there are more extravagant plans, too, such as their wedding plans or photoshoot plans.

A regular dressing and styling process takes as little as 10 minutes, but of course, how long you’re in the store will depend on how quickly you can decide from the huge selection of beautiful fabrics and patterns. If you really can’t decide, you can ask for omakase (“up to you”), and the staff will recommend a style to suit your needs.

The kimono come in sizes up to “5L,” which is around 185cm in height, and you can wear the kimono for the entire day until closing.

It is recommended to arrive at least half an hour before closing to allow time to get changed. And don’t worry about coming with large bags, as everything can be kept at the store if you would like to carry around something a bit lighter and more suited to your overall ensemble.

・Language Support: Limited English available. (Staff speak simple English, reservations can be made in simple English)
*Please note that opening hours and other factors may change in response to COVID-19.

  • Vivian Kimono Rental
    川越着物レンタル 美々庵
    • Address 14-5 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0063

Engawa Chabudai

Engawa Chabudai
Engawa Chabudai

Often called Enchabu for short, part of the inspiration for the shop’s opening was to give everyone a chance to wear a kimono, and to offer good quality products for a low price. So when you visit Enchabu, you know you’re getting a good deal. Some of the pieces available start as low as 1,100 yen!

These days, people often call Kawagoe Kimono no Machi, meaning “Kimono Town,” so he wanted to be a part of that culture and to offer people a chance to easily be a part of it too.

One of the main items the owner Hikari Makiyama recommends is a haori, which is a traditional style of jacket usually worn over a kimono. Makiyama recommends haori because you can match them with regular Western-style clothes to create a new style altogether.

But if you don’t want to commit to an entire kimono or haori just yet, you can also take a look at some of Makiyama’s smaller accessories, such as kimono fabric earrings and traditional brooches.

Makiyama sources his kimono from auctions and shops all over Japan, because he wants to show his customers different styles and patterns from across the nation.

All in all, Enchabu offers varied styles from across Japan at incredibly reasonable prices, so it’s a pretty good place to buy your first-ever kimono!

  • Engawa Chabudai
    縁側・ちゃぶ台 お着物や
    • Address 2-6-6 Motomachi, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0062
    • Phone Number 090-2498-0852
    • ・Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM
      ・Closed: Thursdays
      ・Language Support: Limited

Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori

Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori (Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)
Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori (Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)

At the Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori branch, you certainly won’t find your average city coffee shop.

Here, the main concept of the shop is connection. Connecting the community, and connecting the exterior and interior with a seamless experience for the customer. The design of the branch was made with respect for the history and local characteristics of the area.

(Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)
(Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)

Inside you’ll find plenty of nods to Kawagoe tradition. The bar counter uses materials inspired by the Edo-style black plaster and white plaster used in Kawagoe warehouses.

The art in the store is Fusuma-E (paintings on wooden panels) that were made in the late Taisho/early Showa era, and are framed with local Saitama cedar wood.

In the shop they make use of "Kawagoe Tozan" for their bench coverings, which is a striped fabric that has remained popular since the Edo period.

(Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)
(Image courtesy of Starbucks Coffee)

Being so close to the famous Kawagoe Bell Tower means that you can take in the swelling chimes of the bell alongside a relaxing matcha latte in Japanese garden in the back, or the bright and welcoming courtyard in the center of the branch.

  • Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki-dori
    スターバックス コーヒー 川越鐘つき通り店
    • Address 15-18 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0063
    • Phone Number 04-9228-5600
    • ・Hours: 8 AM – 8 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: English available

Kawagoe Pudding

Kawagoe Pudding
Kawagoe Pudding

Kawagoe Pudding does exactly what it says on the tin – it provides delicious pudding cups that make use of local Kawagoe flavors.

Here you’ll find a boutique selection of carefully chosen flavors that change with the seasons sold in a cute glass container. If you hand your glass container back, you can get 10 yen back from the staff.

When we visited in April, we were lucky enough to try out their “Kawagoe Imo” (Kawagoe sweet potato) flavor. The pudding has a natural sweetness to it that complements the fresh cream flavor, and you can really taste the sweet potato. It tastes almost like a roast sweet potato in pudding form!

For the early summer season, they’ll be offering a “Yuzu jelly” flavor. Yuzu is a type of sweet citrus fruit native to Japan, that tastes like a cross between a lemon and an orange, so we’re sure the pudding will be a wonderfully refreshing treat for that early summer heat.

If pudding isn’t your thing, you can also try out their ice cream, "Kawagoe Potato Pudding Soft Cream."

  • Kawagoe Pudding
    • Address 1-13 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0063
    • Phone Number 04-9277-5762
    • ・Hours: 10:30 AM – 5 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: None. Menu with images available.

Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom

Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom
Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom

Tucked away behind the Kawagoe Tsubaki no Kura souvenir shop, you’ll find the charming Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom.

Not often can you rest your tired feet in a warm bath while sipping on a rich matcha latte, but that is exactly what you can do here. With its warm foot spa, it’s no surprise that the café can get quite popular in winter, but the café makes for a quiet reprieve at any time of the year, with seasonal decorations and flowers to match.

Much of their menu is made with Kawagoe ingredients, such as their green tea powder for the popular matcha latte, and each of their menu sets gives you access to the foot spa and a cute towel to dry off afterward.

If you want to get a little merry, their alcohol sets also come highly recommended, as they offer locally produced Coedo Beer, too. Their “Beni-Aka” flavor of Coedo Beer particularly caught our eye, as this is made with satsumaimo (sweet potato) to give you that signature Kawagoe flavor.

If you really enjoy the foot spa, you can even buy the same hinoki balls used at the café to take home. The balls are made from Japanese cypress, and are used for a massaging effect and for their elegant aroma. You put them in the bath and you can use them on your feet for a massaging effect. All you have to do is scoop them out and dry them between each use, and you can use them for about a month.

  • Tsubakiya Foot Spa Tearoom (Within Kawagoe Tsubaki no Kura)
    足湯喫茶 椿や
    • Address 3-2 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama 350-0063 (in Tsubaki no Kura)
    • Phone Number 04-9227-7030
    • ・Weekday Hours: 12 PM – 6:30 PM
      ・Weekend Hours: 10 AM – 7:30 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: Menu available in English.



In Kawagoe, you’ll find a few branches of Umon selling sweets and soft serve, but at their Ichibangai branch on the main stretch of road, you can sample their hot or packaged sweets as well as sit down for a unique sweet potato set meal.

If you’re just stopping by for a moment, you’ll be welcomed in by the aroma of their freshly steamed “imo koi manju” (sweet potato steamed bun), which you can grab as a snack to eat while exploring the town.

But if you have more time, we highly recommend sticking around to try out their “imo okowa” sweet potato dishes at the restaurant.

In line with the rest of the beautiful buildings in Kawagoe, Umon makes use of the traditional aesthetic both inside and out, and has tatami mats for floor seating as well as Western-style table seating available inside.

While we were there, we sampled their three main set meals: Ichiban zen, Machiya zen, and Honmaru gozen. Each set was more luxurious than the last, and while each came with sweet potato sticky rice and a simple soup, the Honmaru gozen also came with eel and shabu shabu beef.

The sweet potato rice was warm and comforting, and the eel was soft and sweet. Overall, each dish was delicious with a hint of luxury that you might not expect when you hear “sweet potato dish!”

Given the sheer number of potato dishes that Umon provides, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they cannot serve only Kawagoe sweet potatoes, so many of their sweet potatoes come from Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, but they also use Kawagoe sweet potatoes where they can.

If you visit their other shops, you can try out their seasonal goods, such as the strawberry daifuku, but at the Ichibangai store and restaurant, you’ll be greeted with regular favorites.

  • UMON
    菓匠右門 一番街店
    • Address 1-6 Saiwaicho, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0063
    • Phone Number 04-9225-6001
    • ・Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM
      ・Closed: Open all week
      ・Language Support: Menu available in English

Recommended Hotels in Kawagoe

  • Hatago COEDOYA
    • Address 8-1 連雀町, Kawagoe, Saitama, 350-0066
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    • Nearest Station Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line)
      11 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

  • Kawagoe Tobu Hotel
    • Address 8-1 Wakita Honcho, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama, 350-1123
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Kawagoe Station (JR Kawagoe Line / Tobu Tojo Line)
      6 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

  • Matsumuraya Ryokan
    • Address 1-1-11 Motomachi, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama, 350-0062
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Hon-Kawagoe Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line)
      21 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

  • Tsuki no Yado Kaguya
    • Address Yatsushima 52-1, Kawagoe, Saitama, 350-0003
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Minami-Furuya Station (JR Kawagoe Line)
      28 minutes on foot

    Vacancy search, reservation

    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

Of course, this is just a selection of the vast array of shops and sights to be found in Kawagoe, so make sure to put on your exploring shoes and see what else you can find. Just don’t forget to start off by renting a kimono for the best photos to commemorate your visit!

How to get to Kawagoe

To get to Kawagoe from Tokyo Station, take the Marunouchi Line to Ikebukuro Station. Then change to the Tobu-Tojo Line on the “Rapid-Liner Ogawamachi” train, and get off at Kawagoe Station. From there, either walk or take the “Kawagoe 01” bus five stops and get off at Nakamachi bus stop.

The train journey takes 45 minutes to an hour, and a further 11 minutes by bus or 25 minutes on foot to the old town.

Walking from the station
Stepping out of Kawagoe Station, you might be surprised to find regular high-rise buildings and modern infrastructure. But travel up “Kawagoe Sakado Moroyama Sen,” roads 229 and 39, and you’ll eventually find yourself in the old town. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you start to see old-style buildings, but look out for Kawagoe Pudding on the left side of the road if you need a landmark.

Nearby stations
・Honkawagoe Station: Seibu Shinjuku Line and Shinjuku Line
・Kawagoe-shi Station: Tobu-Tojo Line
・Kawagoe Station: Tobu-Tojo Line, Kawagoe Line

Recommended rail pass

Written by:

Cassandra Lord

Cassandra Lord

Cassandra Lord is a British journalist specialising in food, travel, and culture, and has been in Japan for five years after studying Japanese at Edinburgh University for four. With a year of experience as co-editor for LIVE JAPAN, Cassandra has since transitioned to freelance writing, contributing to a variety of platforms including The Japan Times and Tokyo Weekender. During her time in Japan she has visited 25 prefectures, with a goal to eventually visit all 47. She also manages her own YouTube channel, "Cassandra Lord", which is dedicated to all things related to Japanese culinary culture. She also works as a translator and photographer. Website: https://cassandralord.com/. YouTube: @cassandra_lord. Instagram: @incassieskitchen.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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