Kawagoe is a short thirty minute train ride out of Ikebukuro. This year the burb became known as the setting for a popular NHK asa-drama, but in the samurai days it served as a castle town on the way to Edo. Today, the castle is gone, but what makes Kawagoe a unique tourist destination is the feeling that the streets have been untouched by the hyper-urbanization you find in Tokyo. In fact, the city's nickname is Koedo, or Little Edo because it retains the characteristics of when Tokyo was called Edo.
A short walk from the train station is Kurakuzuri Zone--a perfect place to walk around and explore for its mix of historical architecture, charming shops and of course food! The centerpiece of the zone is the wooden time bell tower. It still rings four times a day, but I believe its just a recording played on speakers. Even so, just listening to the sound of the bell, you couldn't help but feel like you were stuck in time. The can't miss attraction is "Kashiya Yokocho," an alleyway of traditional candy shops filled with all kinds of Japanese sweets.
I timed my visit to Kawagoe for the Kawagoe Festival in October. The festival is celebrated by tall floats pulled by townfolk around the city streets. On each float are drummers and flute players and a dancer in mask and costume. The best time to see the floats are at night (between 7-9pm) when the lanterns are lit up. When two (or more) floats meet up on the street, a kind of musical showdown takes place where each team tries to throw the other off beat.
So if you are looking for a quick get-away from Tokyo, try checking out Kawagoe! Visit the city website for more info.
And now, some pics:
Kawagoe Bell Tower
"Kashiya Yokocho" Penny Candy Alley
Two floats face off on the streets of Kawagoe
Performers on a parade float
Kawagoe Matsuri at night
Watch short festival videos on my YouTube page.
Food I ate!
Salty cucumbers - 100yen
Tofu donuts - 80yen
Yakiimo, roasted sweet potatoes - 2 for 100yen
Dango, mochi balls on a stick - 120yen
Taiyaki - 130yen