Kawagoe is known as a little Edo-period town located in the southwestern part of Saitama Prefecture. Conveniently situated only one hour from Tokyo by an express train, Kawagoe is a perfect destination for a day trip from the capital city. The easiest way to reach it is to catch the Seibu Shinjyuku Line, get off at the Hon Kawagoe station and walk for 10 minutes. As the town gets busy with tourists, renting a bicycle is strongly recommended. The unique township of Kawagoe is what attracts many tourists. The warehouses that were built in the Edo period and the retro-modern buildings of the Taisho era are well preserved. Exploring the remnants of those days in Kawagoe is a sort of time travel to the Edo period.
There are many places to be explored in Kawagoe, such as Kurazukuri merchant district where precious buildings are lined up, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine which is a powerful matchmaking power spot, and many many more. Kawagoe is also famous for its yummy street food.
Kawagoe Ichibangai is an area where you can witness luxurious Kurazukuri (uniquely fireproofed) merchants’ buildings whose walls are covered with black plaster. Some of these buildings were opened as shops in the Edo period, and they are still used nowadays. The Kurazukuri townscape of Kawagoe Ichibangai was selected as an "Important Traditional Buildings Preservation District" in 1999. This merchant district is always very lively with tourists from all over Japan and overseas.
Toki no Kane, which means the bell of the time, has been a symbolic structure of Kawagoe Ichibangai. This multi-story wooden tower, also known locally as Kanetsukido, is 16 meters high. In the past, there was a bell-striking guard who told the time when it was scheduled, but now it is mechanically operated four times a day (6 am, noon, 3 pm, 6 pm). Passing through the gate of the tower, you will find yourself in the precincts of Yakushi Shrine, which is said to have beneficial effects on healing illnesses, especially eye diseases.
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine is believed to be originally built in the Kofun period, some 1500 years ago. In the Edo period, it was supported by the local Shogun at that time, and the current main shrine was constructed and beautifully carved. Now, it is an important cultural property of Kawagoe. Since the five pillar gods (gods of worship) enshrined here are family members, they have long been worshiped as "gods of family harmoniousness" and "gods of harmonious marriage".
Matchmaking wind chime event is one of the unique features of Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. Instead of tying the amulet on the tree, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine uses wind chimes. Apparently, the sound of many wishes being carried by the wind will reach the God of Enmusubi (matchmaking), and it will bring good luck in love. Every year between July to September, an event featuring wind chimes is being held in Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. Based on the "Legend of the Shining River", the river in the shrine is lit up, creating a fantastic view resembling the Milky Way floating in the summer sky.
There are many wonderful spots in Kawagoe where the history and culture of Japan are firmly rooted and alive. So, if you happen to look for an enriching day trip from Tokyo, why not visiting Kawagoe to experience a little time travel to the Edo-period?
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