Exploring Kawagoe: A Time Traveler’s Guide to Little Edo

by Nana Young

A trip to Kawagoe is like a journey through time, back to the ancient Edo land we now know as Tokyo. Read this guide to learn about the well-preserved architecture, modern-day attractions, and fun activities of Kawagoe City.


People dressed in traditional Japanese outfit and tourists walking in Kawagoe old town

Located in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo, lies the city of Kawagoe. It’s often referred to as "Little Edo" because of the many traditional buildings still existing in it. These buildings are reminiscent of the ancient structures that used to exist in Edo, the city we now know as Tokyo.

Kawagoe or Kawagoe-shi, a former castle town of the Edo Period (1603–1868), has some historical significance in Japan. It served as a place to gather supplies on the road to Tokyo during that period. Today, Kawagoe has long since abandoned its role as a supply town. Its kurazukuri-style houses are a popular attraction visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Kawagoe is also famous for its sweet potatoes, which you’ll find on the main menus of the top confectionery shops in the city.

There’s so much to do at Kawagoe. From sightseeing to attending cultural events, the list of possible outings is quite extensive. Read on to learn more about making the most of your trip to the city.

Discovering Kawagoe: Japan's Little Edo

The tourist ware Yukata walk around Kawagoe old town.

Kawagoe gets its nickname, Koedo, or “Little Edo,” from its numerous traditional buildings. These structures are well-preserved Edo-era architecture that tells a silent tale of what life was like in 17th-century Tokyo. Some of these buildings are traditional shops or warehouses. You can walk around famous site-seeing areas to get the full experience of the occasion. However, Kawagoe’s history extends way beyond its time as a supply town.

Between the 15th and 16th centuries, Koedo Kawagoe was at the center of a war for control of the Kanto region. The famous Battle of Kawagoe took place at the city’s castle between the Uesugi clan and the Hōjō clan in 1545–1546. But all of that is in the past. Today, Kawagoe doesn’t nearly hold as much political sway. Instead, it attracts tourists to its warehouse districts, museums, nostalgic streets, and candy shops. The city is also something of a religious force, as it is home to several temples and shrines. 

Top Attractions in Kawagoe

An Edo-period castle town, it’s known for its old clay warehouses and merchant homes, called Kurazukuri

Home to many must-visit attractions, Kawagoe offers more than enough value to local and foreign tourists. Below is our curated list of the very best of these attractions. Enjoy!

  1. Kurazukuri Street: Also called Kawagoe Warehouse Zone or Kurazukuri no machinami, this district is famous for how well it maintains the architectural style of the Edo Period. The streets are lined with warehouses and stores built with clay walls. In general, buildings constructed in that fashion are referred to as Kurazukuri.

  2. Kawagoe Castle: The famous castle was the center of power in the Kawagoe Domain but has only one surviving building, which is the Honmaru Goten, a large palace. This palace housed the feudal lords of the castle in ancient times. Today, it’s simply a tourist site where people can view the garden, cultural exhibitions, tatami rooms, and a 3D model of a feudal lord meeting.

  3. Bell of Time: Built by samurai and feudal lord Sakai Tadakatsu, this bell tower is one of Kawagoe’s greatest representations of the Edo period. The three stories of the tower combine to reach a height of 16 meters. It currently chimes four times per day.

  4. Kitain Temple: The Tendai Sect’s head temple is home to the only surviving buildings from the Edo Castle. These buildings were moved from the castle in Tokyo and preserved in the halls of the Kitain Temple. Later on, the actual Edo Castle would be destroyed, first by the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923 and then by World War II.

  5. Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine: A 1,500-year-old religious site, this building is a popular spot for people looking to pray for marriage and family. It’s perceived in that manner because of the five deities enshrined there; two of them are married to each other. Visit the shrine to see an open-air tunnel adorned with over 30,000 prayer plates, 600-year-old zelkova trees, and more. The temple serves as the venue for the annual Kawagoe Festival.

Exploring Kawagoe's Historic Kurazukuri Street

Old Japanese style architecture is popular sightseeing spot: Toki no Kane

Known for its clay-walled warehouse-style buildings that date back to the Edo period, Kurazukuri Street is arguably Kawagoe's biggest attraction. If you ever visit the city, you might find people referring to it as the Warehouse District or Kurazukuri Zone.

During the Edo period, wealthy merchants built their warehouses and stores on the street. They were made of clay instead of the typical wood to prevent vulnerability to fire outbreaks. The merchants kept their goods in these buildings until it was time to supply them to Edo. After centuries, some of these storage facilities survived, and you can explore them when you visit Kurazukuri Street. You’ll also find other attractions inside the building. The Museum of Kurazukuri, where people go to see traditional warehouse interiors and machines, is one of the street’s main tourist destinations.

You’ll probably find a lot more to do and see in the areas surrounding Kurazukuri Street. Candy Alley, a haven for traditional Japanese sweets, is adjacent to the street. The toki no kane (Bell Tower) is also nearby, and you can hear it chime periodically at 6:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. During the Kawagoe Festival in October, a parade coming from nearby Hikawa Shrine will pass through Kurazukuri Street.

A Guide to Kawagoe Festival: Saitama's Vibrant Celebration

Kawagoe Festival is Koedo-Kawagoe as liveliest event of the year

The Kawagoe Festival is an annual celebration that takes place on the third weekend of October in Kawagoe City. It’s the biggest festival in Saitama and a major event that showcases spectacular floats and traditional music, contributing significantly to the city's cultural heritage. The festival’s main event is a parade of Edo-style floats through the streets of Kawagoe. Each float is decorated with a unique color scheme and carries a doll. The dolls represent legends in the city's history. A group of musicians and dancers are present to accompany each float.

While moving through the streets, the floats occasionally engage in a music and dance contest known as Hikkawase. The Hayashi orchestra groups showcase their musical skills by playing flutes, drums, and other instruments while they dance.

The entire festival offers you the chance to enjoy the local delicacies served at street food stalls scattered across the different streets. Read on to get a quick guide to navigating Kawagoe’s culinary landscape.

Culinary Delights: What to Eat in Kawagoe

Sweet Potato Dango is a classic Japanese street food.

After participating in the outdoor activities of Kawagoe, you’ll need to refuel with some of the local culinary delights. Visit food stalls, restaurants, and candy shops to enjoy authentic Kawagoe meals. Below are the highlights of the culinary scene.

  1. Sweet potato dishes and treats: Kawagoe grows some of the best sweet potatoes in Japan. They are a major ingredient in treats like sweet potato ice cream, chips, mochi, and cakes. Visit any candy shop to get a taste of this treat. Mochi is an especially popular snack in Kawagoe. It consists of a glutinous rice cake filled with red bean paste and sweet potatoes.

  2. Beer: You can enjoy both craft and local beer in the city. Coedo beer is one of the most popular craft beers in Kawagoe because it’s brewed locally. Shops and bars also sell local sake.

  3. Kaiseki ryori: Kawagoe contains numerous restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori, a multi-course Japanese meal. In the past, kaiseki ryori restaurants only served the elite, but today, more accessible restaurants exist.

  4. Unagi: There are many unagi (eel) shops and restaurants in the city. Some of them, like Ichinoya (established in 1832), are older than 150 years. 

Shopping in Kawagoe: Souvenirs and Traditional Crafts

Candy lane or Kashiya Yokocho in Kawagoe, Saitama

Shopping in Kawagoe can be a simple activity if you know where to find what you’re looking for. There are hundreds of shopping malls, districts, and markets in the city selling different items at affordable prices.

If you’re looking for local crafts, we recommend that you visit Tsubaki No Kura, a store in the Saiwaichōn. There, you’ll find religious goods made with precious stones. The store also sells all kinds of unique souvenirs that reflect the city's historical character.

Shopping for sweet treats? Get a taste of traditional and commercial sweets by exploring places like Kashiya Yokocho (Candy Alley), where you’ll find several candy spots. For general shopping, you can patronize the shops in the Warehouse District, Crea Mall, or any of the three Midoriya store branches.

The Charm of Kawagoe's Temples and Shrines

Kitain temple in springtime at Kawagoe town Saitama in Japan

The temples and shrines around offer a perspective on the spiritual side of the city. The most prominent of these sites in Kawagoe worth visiting are Kitain Temple, Hikawa Shrine, Renkeiji Temple, Kumano Shrine, and Hachimangu Shrine. Each one has its own rich history, cultural significance, and main attractions.

The Kitain Temple is the most popular temple in Kawagoe, thanks to its role in preserving the remaining building from Edo Castle. The general belief is that Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun, was born in one of the temple’s rooms. Some of the other notable attractions of the temple are the 540 stone statues of Gohyaku Rakan (Buddha disciples) and the general's armor.

The 1,500-year-old Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine is the most important shrine in the city. As a focal point of the annual festival, it serves as one of the city’s main tourist attractions. People come from far and wide to see Zelkova trees, purchase matchmaking charms, and enjoy illuminated windchimes at night.

Family Activities in Kawagoe


One great fact about Kawagoe is that the majority of its famous attractions are family-friendly. If you’re visiting Kawagoe with kids, Candy Alley is a must-see. The children will love eating different varieties of ice cream, rice crackers, mochi, candies, and fried cookies. If the family is up for it, you could go for picnics or leisure walks in the historical parks.

You can also turn the outing into an educational event by exploring the city’s vast array of museums. We recommend Kawagoe City Museum, City Art Museum, Kawagoe History Museum, or Museum of Kurazukuri. To make the family trip to Kawagoe more enjoyable for all, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Secure accommodation in advance to ensure the entire family is indoors on the night of arrival.

  2. Renting a car provides a lot more convenience than relying on public transport.

  3. If you’ll be staying for more than a week in Tokyo, get a Japan Rail Pass so you don’t have to buy tickets for each ride. Kids 6 or younger get to ride trains for free.

  4. Pack light if the family will be doing a lot of walking on the trip.

  5. Do your best to explain simple Japanese customs to kids when you can.

How to Get from Tokyo to Kawagoe

Scenery of West Exit of JR "Kawagoe" Station

Kawagoe is only about 30–50 minutes from Tokyo by train. When coming from Tokyo, you want to stop at Hon-Kawagoe, the city’s main station. This will provide a good starting point for reaching all of the other areas and districts of Kawagoe via bus or taxi. To get there from Seibu Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, take an express train on the Seibu Shinjuku Line and stop at Hon-Kawagoe Station. In case you don’t know where Seibu Shinjuku Station is, walk north from JR Shinjuku Station and you’ll be there in 5 minutes. 

Kawagoe Through the Seasons: Best Times to Visit

Sakura cherry blossom along the Shinkashi-gawa river near by Hikawa-jinja shrine

Kawagoe has a lot to offer in different seasons, so you don’t have to restrict yourself too much when planning your trip. Mid-October is a fantastic time to visit Kawagoe because of the favorable autumn weather. This is also the Kawagoe Festival period and sweet potatoes will be in peak season. Early April is also a wonderful time to schedule your trip, thanks to the abundance of blossoming cherry trees in the region. The scenic beauty created by the cherry blossoms during that period is nothing short of breathtaking.


Kawagoe Festival, great day trip from Tokyo

Great food, delicious treats, vibrant cultural experiences, and rich historic exhibitions. Those are some of the unique appeals of Kawagoe that have made it such a popular tourist destination. If you’d like to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Kawagoe would make the perfect day trip destination for you and your loved ones.

Feel free to amplify the holiday experience by gifting friends and family authentic items from Japan. Explore Bokksu Boutique and choose from our collection of unique and thoughtful gift items for all seasons.

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