One-Day Trip Old Town in Tokyo

Old Town in Tokyo can be reached in approximately 40 minutes by train from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo.

The old city in Tokyo which has the name Kawagoe is an alluring destination for you lovers of hidden gems in Sakura Country.

One-Day Trip Old Town in Tokyo

Kawagoe earned the nickname Little Edo because it is where old buildings stood since the Edo empire period (1603-1868).

If you're coming from Tokyo, exploring Kawagoe all day is the right choice.

After arriving at Kawagoeshi Station, you can continue your journey on foot to visit five destinations in Old Town in Tokyo.

1. Kitain Temple

Kitain Kawagoe (喜多院) is a special shrine of the Tendai Sect in the Kanto Region. Between the halls is one of the surviving palace buildings from the remains of Edo Castle.

Originally part of a three-shrine complex built in 830, Kitain grew and became a special shrine at the turn of the 17th century under the leadership of Tenkai, an illustrious personality who developed trusted friendships with the first 3 shoguns of the Edo Period.

In 1638, a fire destroyed a large number of Kitains. To help rebuild it, the 3rd Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, ordered several palace buildings to be moved from Edo Castle to Kawagoe.

Today, it is one of the surviving Edo Castle structures due to the damage Tokyo suffered during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and World War II.

One of these chambers, decorated with a floral ceiling and a set of generals' armor, is believed to be Iemitsu's birthplace.

Another highlight of a visit to Kitain is the Gohyaku Rakan statue, 540 stone statues of several Buddhist disciples, each with its own facial gesture.

It is very interesting to walk between the statues, which offer good photo opportunities. The rooms are in a separate small courtyard on the temple grounds.

After the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, died at Sunpu (present-day Shizuoka), his body was transported to Nikko.

Along the way, a memorial service was held by Tenkai at Kitain, which led to the Semba Toshogu Shrine being built in its place.

Therefore, the three most important Toshogu shrines in Japan are those in Shizuoka, Kawagoe, and Nikko.

To complete the tour of Kitain territory, stop by Nakain (“middle temple”), which is one of the shrines of the original three-temple complex.

It exists as a separate institution today and can be reached in a five-minute walk. Little survives from the 3rd temple, Minamiin ("Southern Temple").

2. Kurazukuri Street

The Kawagoe Warehouse Area (蔵造りの町並み, Kurazukuri no Machinami) provides a memorable view from the Edo Period (1603-1867).

The word “kuna” means “warehouse” in Japanese, and Kurazukuri is a clay-walled warehouse-style building made with a taste for Edo architecture.

In the past, Kawagoe was an important commercial city that supplied resources to Edo (present-day Tokyo ).

Due to the rapid expansion of trade, many merchants became wealthy enough to set up not only their warehouses but also their shops in the Kurazukuri style, more than usual in some other cities.

Several successful buildings survive to this day. A large number of residential shops and restaurants can be found as far as the special Kurazukuri Street which stretches for several hundred meters.

However, the densely packed motorways along the way eliminate many monumental situations and limit people's walking to the narrow sidewalks.

In the past, cities in Japan were almost entirely composed of wooden buildings, which made them prone to fires. 

Kurazukuri's construction is used both for making structures fireproof and for protecting them from intruders.

They were very expensive to manufacture, as their construction involved working with thick walls consisting of several layers.

Because of the prosperous trade with Edo, some of the merchants in Kawagoe thrived, and many displayed their wealth by constructing as beautiful buildings as they could.

Not far from the special street stands the Bell Tower (時の鐘, Toki no Kane), a landmark and symbol of Kawagoe. It beeps 4x a day (6:00, 12:00, 15:00, and 18:00).

The tower was rebuilt in 1894 after the Great Kawagoe Fire of 1893 destroyed the original structure.

3. Ryotei Yamaya Restaurant

You can't miss culinary delights at Ryotei Yamaya when you visit Kawagoe. This place is a restaurant that has existed for more than 1.5 eras.

They serve traditional Japanese menus, such as sashimi, yuba or tofu skin, Imo or Kawagoe's signature baked sweet potato, and there's a lot more.

If you come to Kawagoe using the Tobu Tojo Line train, you will get a Kawagoe Pass discount that you can use when dining at Ryotei Yamaya restaurant.

The reduced price of this pass is 710 yen for adults and 370 yen for some children.

4. Kashiya Yokocho

Candy Alley (菓子屋横丁, Kashiya Yokochō) is a small shopping street adjacent to the Warehouse Area. The alley is lined with several shops selling traditional Japanese sweets and cakes, which gives the alley its name.

Among the items marketed are a variety of candies, rice crackers, Karinto (sugar-coated cake, cooked), ice cream, and cakes made from red bean paste and sweet potato.

There are small toys and accessories that make great souvenirs to take home.

Immediately after the Great Earthquake of 1923, Tokyo experienced a severe shortage of Japanese sweets; orders made to the candy shop in Kashiya Yokocho went up. At one point during the early Showa Period, more than 70 such shops existed.

These days there are just over 20 left, providing a variety of delights to their loyal customers.

The Candy Alley is a wonderful place to try traditional Japanese food while experiencing a memorable atmosphere from decades past.

5. Hikawa Shrine

Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine (武蔵一宮氷川神社, Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Jinja) is a famous shrine in Saitama City, a 20-30 minute walk from Omiya Station.

As its name suggests (“Musashi Ichinomiya” literally means “Top shrine of Musashi”), this shrine was formerly the chief Shinto shrine of the rest of Musashi Province, which includes present-day Greater Tokyo, including most of Saitama Prefecture. This shrine gave Omiya (literally “great shrine”) its name.

The shrine is set in lush greenery and has many outbuildings on the grounds. One long approach from the south towards the shrine grounds, where tall vermillion torii gates and several secondary shrines exist.

Continuing north takes visitors to a bridge that crosses a pond. Here, the two-storied Romon Gate identifies the entrance to the special shrine grounds, where the special hall (honden), prayer hall (haiden) ,and dance (maiden) stage stand.

Musashi Ichinomiya is the most important of the many branches of Hikawa Shrine in Japan, documenting Susanoo, the god of sea and storm.

Additional structures have been added to the shrine throughout its history and the current main building dates from 1940.

For nearly a year, the shrine enjoys a serene environment. However, during some special occasions, such as hatsumode (the first visit to a shrine in the New Year), this shrine is one of the most visited shrines in Japan.

With a variety of historical tours and culinary delights on offer, a trip to Kawagoe is definitely an itinerary worth trying. If one day trip is still not enough, you can spend the night.

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