Located about 45 minutes from central Tokyo in the neighboring prefecture of Saitama, the quaint city of Kawagoe is easy for the average tourist to miss. After all, there is little reason to visit a region that could be considered a dormitory for those commuting to and from Tokyo. However, unlike the majority of Saitama prefecture, Kawagoe’s history is well-preserved. Known as “Little Edo” for its resemblance to medieval Tokyo (which was then called Edo), the central areas of the city contain buildings dating back hundreds of years. A visit to Kawagoe much like stepping into a historical time machine.
In an age gone by, the city of Kawagoe was once a major supplier of goods to the bustling metropolis of Edo which was actually one of the biggest cities on the planet at that time. As a result of the abundant trade and commerce between the two cities during the Edo period (1603–1868), Kawagoe grew to adopt many of the characteristics of Edo’s culture and architecture. The city was so important that the shogunate strategically stationed some of their most loyal men to protect Kawagoe and to oversee the region.
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to Kawagoe from central Tokyo with the Seibu Shinjuku Line connecting to the closest station, Hon-Kawagoe as pictured above. Personally, I find it much easier to take the rapid train on the Tobu Tojo Line to Kawagoeshi from Ikebukuro as it will get you there in only 30 minutes (though you will have to walk slightly further). From there it’s a mere 10 minute walk to the central area of Kawagoe.
The roads are pretty straightforward but refer to this map if you’re looking for directions. Kawagoe’s shops and attractions closes in the late afternoon around 5:00 PM so make sure to get an early start if you’re looking to get everything done.