A Journey Back In Time: A Day in Kawagoe, Saitama
Just an hour by train from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo is the city of Kawagoe, Saitama. It is a popular getaway spot for Tokyoites seeking to spend time amongst traditional Japanese culture and delicious food. Check out our guide for what delights Kawagoe has to offer for the perfect summertime day-trip!
Jul 09 2021 (May 13 2022)
[AM] Shopping and Savouring Street Food in the Warehouse District
The Warehouse District (Kurazukuri no Machinami) is the centerpiece of Kawagoe. With plenty of shops and food stalls lining both sides of the main street, you're never too far from a delectable bite or a shop full of treasures. This also makes it the perfect spot to hunt for presents or souvenirs.
Koedo Osatsuan – Fried Potato Chips
Koedo Osatsuan is a stall famous for its sweet potato chips. Sweet potatoes are cut into long, thin slices, deep-fried, and seasoned simply with a sprinkle of salt. The chips are naturally sweet, so there's no need for added sugar. It's hard to resist the lure of these golden slices! For an extra 40 yen, the shop will give you their homemade soy sauce, which is definitely worth a try.
Suisentei - Grilled Sweet Potato Triangles
Since you've made it all the way to Kawagoe, it is essential to try a range of different snacks. Another recommendation is the grilled sweet potato triangles at Suisentei. The locally-grown sweet potatoes used are massively popular in Kawagoe. Their signature snack is the "Imotaro," made by steaming peeled sweet potatoes, rolling them into an "onigiri" (rice ball) shape, and giving them a light fry. The sweet flavor of these soft and fluffy sweet potatoes is 100% natural and without added ingredients, making them a very tasty and nourishing snack.
※Reopened at a new location, see address below
Nakaichi Honten – Chargrilled Onigiri
Nakaichi Honten is a dry-foods store, but they are largely known for chargrilled "onigiri" (rice balls), which are sold from 12:00 pm. These triangular-shaped rice balls are drizzled in the store's specially-made sauce, grilled over charcoal to crispy perfection, and then coated with "iwashibushi" (dried sardine shavings) for a delicious, smoky aroma and flavor. There are often long queues at Nakaichi Honten, and once they're sold out, they'll close for the day. So make sure you get there early!
［12:00 PM］Head to the Bell Tower to Hear It Ring at Noon
Kawagoe has a very distinctive landmark—the Bell Tower. The tower is the symbol of Kawagoe, and chimes four times a day, at 6:00 am, 12:00 pm, 3:00 pm, and 6:00 pm. As the color of the sky changes throughout the time of the day, the sound of the chime also feels different at different hours. Unfortunately, the tower is no longer open to the public, so one can only admire it from outside and listen to the sound of the bell. Still, isn't it great to see a piece of Japanese heritage so well-preserved from the olden days?
［12:30 PM］Relax and Cool Off at Tsubaki no Kura
When it's time to find a restaurant for a break from the unbearable summertime heat, we have just the place. Tsubaki no Kura is a small restaurant, but what makes it special is that it has a footbath. You might think that a footbath in summer is the last thing you want, but at Tsubaki no Kura, they lower the temperature of the water, so it's actually very rejuvenating. Make it even more relaxing by enjoying a glass of sake or beer, or cool off with a dessert or an ice cream. Seeing as you've already gorged on streetfood, these light snacks for lunch should be just the thing!
［2:00 PM］Make A Wish to the Sound of Wind Chimes
After a break, head on to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. The shrine's best-known annual event, the Enmusubi Wind Chime Festival, is usually held between early July to early September. The grounds of the shrine are strewn with wind chimes. As the wind blows through the shrine, the beautiful sound of the tinkling chimes is crisp on the ears and refreshing to the soul. The wind chimes are decorated with colorful strips of paper, on which people can write their wishes and hang them up as a prayer. Another highlight at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine is its fortunetelling strips, which are placed inside cute little seabream-shaped capsules that come in red or pink. The red signifies a peaceful year, while the pink is a symbol of marriage. Both of them are extremely adorable, and you won't find them anywhere else!
［3:30 PM］Visit Kita-in Temple
A 20-minute walk from Hikawa Shrine is Kita-in Temple, one of the most famous temples in Kawagoe and Saitama. In the summertime, visitors are admitted until 4:30 pm. There is an entrance fee of 400 yen to visit the guest hall, the main hall, and the 500 Rakan Statues, but it is well worth the money. The 500 Rakan Statues are particularly fascinating as they all have different facial expressions. Take a closer look for some amusing discoveries!
［4:30 PM］Finish Off The Day With Shaved Ice!
After a long day of exploring and trying all sorts of delicious food, why not make a final stop at CAFE ANTI on the way back to the station for a bowl of shaved ice? CAFE ANTI opens from 2:00 pm. Their shaved ice uses natural spring water from Chichibu, and it is so fluffy that it instantly melts in your mouth. They've got many flavors to choose from, with the most popular ones being strawberry, hojicha (roasted tea), and matcha. The rich sauce topped with condensed milk makes it so delicious.
Cover photo: Chris Chan / flickr
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.