Kawagoe, "Little Edo of Tokyo", is a 30 minutes train ride out from central Tokyo. During the Edo Period, Kawagoe was an important city for trade and strategy. Its history from the Edo Period are still left to be discovered on its streets and people.
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What to Experience...
Warousoku | Wah・Row・So・Ku
Warousoku differs from more commonplace, Western candles in terms of shape, but the most distinct aspect is the material. These Japanese candles are made out of natural fats derived from plant matter, while Western candles consist of beeswax or animal lard. Historically, warousoku were made for Buddhist temples to use as candles memorialising ancestors. As a result, animal products were not used because Buddhism opposes the idea of intentionally killing animals. Not only are they made differently, but warousoku last longer, burn bigger and brighter, produce very little smoke, and less likely to drip and extinguish in a draft. Warousoku, or Japanese candles, are different from those that are mass produced in a mould. With just one glance, one can see the perfect imperfections that hint at its handmade qualities.
What to See...
Hikawa Shrine 武蔵一之宮 氷川神社
Hikawa Shrine is a famous shrine in Kawagoe, Saitama known for worshipping deities related to fate and destiny, or more specifically known in Japanese as enmusubi (縁結び.) Every shrine has a deity or group of deities that they celebrate and since Hikawa Shrine houses the God of relationships, many weddings take place here for good omen. It is said that this place was established 1500 years ago, and the gods commemorated here found around the year 541. The shrine also hosts one of the three great Kanto area matsuri summer festivals. The Kawagoe Hikawa Matsuri is coined as Japan’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, and it is a nationally recognized event. Moreover, the shrine itself is very small and quaint but has lots to see in and around the area. Over the summer, there is a tunnel of glass wind chimes with wishes written and dangling. The cool, light, high pitched chimes flowing with the wind definitely adds to the summer atmosphere of Hikawa Shrine. Take a break and have a moment in peace during your adventures!
What to Do...
Kashiya Yokocho 菓子屋横丁
In Japanese, this street is called Kawagoe Kashiya Yokocho which translates to Candy Store alleyway. This was established towards the beginning of the Meiji period, to provide humble and homey sweets for the children in the area. There was a time in the early Showa era where there were more than 70 stores on this street. As time passed and wars were waged, lifestyles had changed, more and more stores started to close shop. Now, there are 20 plus stores-- less than half of what there used to be, but the energy runs just as high. This area appeals across generations. Children can experience what it was like to be children when their parents were younger, and the parents can take a trip down memory lane. Everyone who visits can embrace their childish side even just for a day. No matter how long this place has been around, no matter what time period it is, the Kawagoe Candy Stores Street provides a place of comfort, nostalgia, and hominess.
ReReRe no Record レレレのレコード
If you love listening to music on records, and sipping on a drink while sharing the moment with your friends, ReReRe No Record is the place for you. They host live performances once every few weeks. In addition, they have a large variety of foods, from sides, salads and mains. You can purchase and sell records here too. This place is a six minute walk from Honkawagoe station and close to other sightseeing spots, so it is a cozy place to stop by to take a break from the adventuring. They have coffee, but also the usual lineup of alcoholic drinks. What we found especially unique was the fact that they had cold brew coffee steeped in “shochu”, Japanese distilled spirits. The combination yields a deep and smoky flavour, in a way reminiscent of whisky.
What to Eat...
Matsuyama Shoten 屋台・出店
Kawagoe is full of shrines to explore, and Renkeiji is one of them. It is a five minute walk from Honkawagoe station, and within the gates there lies a dango store that both locals and visitors adore. For just 80 yen a stick, people can get chunky, bite sized pieces of “mitarashi dango”, mochi dumplings coated with a sweet soy sauce glaze. You can eat in the store, but just be warned that it is small and it would be just as exciting to order it to go to explore other areas. Make sure all of the eating is done before going further into the shrine-- some people might see it as a sign of disrespect. It is a quick, easy, delicious snack to pick up while enjoying the sights at Kawagoe!
Let us introduce you to Hyakujou, a restaurant where they serve hand made soba. It is a 15 minute walk from the station Hon-Kawagoe, on the Seibu-Shinjuku line but it is worth every minute of the journey here. They pride themselves on the high quality soba harvested from Fukushima prefecture, where they cooperate with the farmers to produce the best buckwheat flour for soba. The interior is cozy and homey, with wooden interiors and a relatively spacious seating area. It is interesting to note here that Hyakujou’s building is a Nationally Registered Tangible Cultural Property, so visitors can admire both the architecture and the food. They have a wide range of standard, classic dishes both hot and cold. What we recommend is their hot soba dishes, where they put in yuzu peel to add a little extra zing to the flavour. The tarty but sweet aromatic effect makes a world of a difference, so we highly suggest travelers to drop by and try it out.