Attractions of Kawagoe

Kawagoe, a key location in the north of Edo (former name of Tokyo), developed as a castle town of the Kawagoe clan. Connected to Edo by the Shingashigawa River and the Kawagoe Kaido Road, people and cargo continuously came and went, and the entire town bustled with a spirit of enthusiasm. Thus Kawagoe had deep financial and cultural connections to Edo, which led to it being called by the endearing name Koedo, meaning "a little Edo". Even into the Meiji Period, it was the premier merchant city of Saitama Prefecture, and it flourished as a logistic hub for grain and was known for the production of fabrics such as Tozan (pinstriped cotton fabric).
It is said, "There are many little Tokyo's in the world but Kawagoe is the only Koedo". However, the vestiges of Edo are not the only things which remain in Kawagoe. Following the war, the center of the prefecture became Saitama City which meant there was no large-scale development and the streets of the Edo Period (1600~1867), Meiji Period(1868~1912), Taisho Period (1912~1926), and Showa Period (1926~1989) are left behind like the tracks of time.
In Kawagoe you'll see merchant houses, which carry the feeling of Edo, the Western modernization with the romantic aroma of Taisho, the elegance remaining in the downtown Showa alleys, and the new Kawagoe lined with department stores and station buildings. Taking a walk through Kawagoe lets you meet Japan from various time periods.
30 minutes from Tokyo by train. You'll be able to see the traditional and authentic side of Japan in Kawagoe which can't be seen in Tokyo.

Kawagoe Festival


In 2005, the Kawagoe Festival, "Kawagoe Hikawa Festival Float Event" was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. The origin of the Festival dates back to 1648 when the Kawagoe clan lord Nobutsuna Mastudaira Izunokami offered religious artifacts such as a portable shrine and lion mask to the Hikawa Shrine. It is said that this act was the start of the festival we know today.
At the time, it was of course not a festival in the same state as it is today, but there is a record of a dancing stage in 1698, and it is thought that from this time it began to develop into the town festival.

The Kawagoe Festival, with such ancient history, is strongly influenced by the Kanda Festival, which was called the Tenka Festival, and the Akasaka Sanno Festival. In particular, it attracted attention as the float festival of Edo which changed into the festival of portable shrines. It is currently held annually on the second Saturday and third Sunday of October. Additionally, the "Kawagoe Festival Museum" usually displays 2 festival floats, and to match the scenery and image of the festival, there is a twice-daily performance of Japanese music on Sundays and national holidays where you can enjoy the music of the Kawagoe Festival.

Kurazukuri Zone (old storehouse zone)


Here in this photo, note the architectural detail of the large Onigawara roof with black plaster and the thick gatefold. The area around Ichiban Gai Street, which is lined with intriguing buildings of Kurazukuri (traditional architecture), will make you feel as if you've travelled back in time.
They look the same, but each and every house is made differently, and each exudes an individuality like an elegant personality. The oldest among them is the Osawa House built in 1792. It has been designated as an important cultural property.
In the Edo Period, due to the way the town was divided by Kawagoe clan lord Nobutsuna Mastudaira, the shops faced each other on the street.

The buildings were also resistant against fire because the shogunate promoted roof tiles for the buildings. In the Edo Period, towns with storehouses made of clay were popular.
In Kawagoe as well, Kurazukuri merchant houses were built because of the strong business ties with the old city of Edo (Modern day Tokyo). Most of the Kurazukuri we see today were built after the Kawagoe Great Fire and thirty or so still remain.
Due to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the subsequent destruction in war, the Kurazukuri disappeared from Tokyo. The "Toki no Kane" (Time Bell Tower), among other achitectural masterpieces in the Ichibanmachi area, was designated on December 1st of 1999 as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings of Japan.
Additionally, the old Western style building of Saitama Resona Bank was built in 1917. Recently, even new buildings are designed so as to not conflict with the surrounding area and modern-day development is carried out with the new and old in harmony.
At the "Museum of Kurazukuri", which was adapted from a wholesale Tobacco store of the time, you can see construction of the Kurazukuri as well as the arrangement of each storehouse in the Ichibanmachi area.

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Illustration of Kawagoe