Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma

Angus Miyaji

Things to do in Kawagoe - Nearby Tokyo Interview

Talking about 'things to do' in Kawagoe city

We are excited to continue our popular interviews series, this month featuring things to do in Kawagoe City in Saitama prefecture. Located only about 1h from Tokyo it is a great day trip for anyone who wants to get out of the busy city and experience a more local Japan.  Because of this, I have been talking to the team of the Kawagoe Tourism Department, Shizue-san, Mariko-san, and Yuko-san and they shared some really great information about Kawagoe with me. You can find the whole interview below, I am sure you will want to visit Kawagoe after reading it.

Why should people visit Kawagoe?

Kawagoe City staff
Kawagoe city is where you can experience everything from modern times to the Samurai period within walking distance. It also has excellent accessibility from the Tokyo area. In fact, during your stay in Tokyo, we recommend that you plan to use Kawagoe as a base to visit other cities and other prefectures.
Old city (edo style) of Kawagoe city

Downtown Kawagoe

Which is the best season to visit Kawagoe?

Kawagoe City staff

The city has four distinct seasons to enjoy, in terms of townscape, nature and food.

In spring, the cherry blossoms and other flowers are beautiful. Whereas in summer, the gentle breeze will cool you down and the sound of the wind chimes Furin (風鈴) is said to bring good luck. Then in autumn, the Kawagoe Festival, one of the three biggest festivals in Japan, makes you feel like you are in ancient times. And last but not least in winter, delicious sweet potatoes await you.

Cherry Bossom / Furin/ Kawagoe Festival

Which are the top 3 attractions visitors shouldn't miss in Kawagoe?

Kawagoe City staff

There are a few places that are really great, but if we had to narrow it down, we think these three should not be missed.

1. Kita-in Temple Area (喜多院)

At Kita-in Temple (喜多院), the garden seen from the Birth Room of the Tokugawa Shogun (徳川将軍) is the most beautiful, and the weeping cherry trees in the Naka-in Temple (中院) are unforgettable once seen. The best time to visit is during Shidarezakura cherry blossoms season in spring and in autumn when the leaves are colored beautifully.

2. Honmaru Goten Area (本丸御殿)

The core of the castle, the Honmaru Goten (本丸御殿), survived only in two places in Japan. One of these is the Honmaru Goten (本丸御殿) of Kawagoe Castle (川越城). Surrounding it is a museum where visitors can get a sense of history and the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (川越氷川神社), which is famous for its good fortune in marriage.

In summer, the area is decorated with Furin (風鈴), colorful wind chimes made out of glass, making it a popular photo spot. 

3. Kura-zukuri Townscape Area (蔵造り) 

In the center is ‘Toki no Kane’ (時の鐘), the bell of time, that has been ringing since the Edo period. There is also a 400 m long north-south road that is lined with warehouses which are still in use as houses and shops. There is also a confectioner’s alley called Kashiya-Yokocho (菓子屋横丁), where you can buy traditional snacks that are very delicious.

Kita-in Temple / Honmaru Goten / Kura-zukuri Townscape

Do you have any local food or dish you would recommend visitors should try?

Kawagoe City staff

Yes, there is!! 

Kawagoe is famous for its eel and sweet potatoes and also Dango (sweet dumplings). There are also many shops where you can enjoy sweets made from matcha green tea. 

Many might not know, but Kawagoe is also the birthplace of Sayama tea (狭山茶), one of the three most popular teas in Japan. In addition, the Japanese restaurant (川越幸すし) Kawagoe Kousushi a restaurant offering vegan and vegetarian food, is very popular.

Kawagoe City "dango mochi"

A tray of Dango (sweet dumplings)

When in Kawagoe, what do you recommend visitors buy as a souvenir?

Kawagoe City staff

Popular souvenirs are for example food items including sweet potato snacks and Japanese tea.

Other recommended items include accessories and goods made from Kawagoe Tozan, a textile produced in Kawagoe.

Kawagoe City novelty store

Novelty Souvenir Shop in Kawagoe

Is there a festival with a special meaning associated with it

Kawagoe City staff

Yes, the Kawagoe Festival. This festival has been held for more than 370 years since the Edo period.

It takes place every year on the third Saturday and Sunday of October, this year it is on Saturday 14th and Sunday the 15th of October (2023).

There are 29 floats in total with about 20 floats parading through the city every year, and the decorations and dolls on each float are amazing to see. 

In 2016, the festival was designated an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

Kawagoe City Festival banner

Kawagoe Festival at night

Does Kawagoe has any legends or myths related to it?

Kawagoe City staff

Kawagoe has an old legend called “The Seven Wonders of Kawagoe Castle”.

Because of one of the wonders Kawagoe Castle is also known Kirigakure, the castle hidden in fog.

The story goes, that there was a large moss-covered well in the castle. Normally, the well would be covered, but in the unlikely event that the castle was attached by the enemy, a cloud of fog would rise from inside the well. And if the lid of the well was removed, the fog would exit the well and make the castle invisible to the enemy.

In the summer, visitors can join a popular night tour that visits places related to this legend.

Kawagoe vintage bus tour

And Finally, are there any special discounts or passes available for visitors?

Kawagoe City staff

Yes , there are a few.

Both the Tobu Bus “Koedo-Kawagoe One-Day Pass” and Eagle Bus “One-Day Free Pass” for the Koedo Junkai Bus offer a variety of special offers at their respective partner shops. They are great value and many Japanese people use them when they visit as well.

Next, the Seibu Railway offers the “SEIBU KAWAGOE PASS”  which is only available for foreign visitors to Japan. The ticket is shaped like a good-luck charm making sure your travels are safe. It allows one round trip between Seibu Shinjuku, Takadanobaba or Ikebukuro stations and Hon-kawagoe station for 700 yen.

There is also the “Kawagoe Access Ticket”. This includes a return ticket from Seibu Shinjuku and Takadanobaba Stations to Hon-kawagoe Station and a return express ticket for the express trains.

And last but not least is the Tobu Railway: “KAWAGOE DISCOUNT PASS Premium”. This offers discounts on train fares between Ikebukuro Station and Kawagoe-shi Station,  as well as unlimited rides on Tobu Bus for one day. With this pass you can also get discounts at 10 stores in downtown Kawagoe City. The ticket cute and can be taken home as a souvenir.

Different passes and tickets that can be used in Kawagoe

Final Thoughts

It is always enjoy talking to someone local to find out more about a place right from the source and as with every interview I do, I learned so much about Kawagoe from the team of the Kawagoe City, Hon-kawagoe Station Tourist Information Centre. Their local perspective was very helpful and I feel I now have a better understanding of what this city has to offer.  I am looking forward to visit  again for one of the upcoming festivals!

I hope that if you are reading this, you may decide to go and visit Kawagoe too and have a wonderful time in this small town so close to Tokyo!

How to get to kawagoe

If you are coming from Tokyo, taking the train or driving is going to be the easiest.

By Train (to Hon-Kawagoe Sta.)

45min by train. (‘Koedo Go’ Express from Seibu-Shinjuku Sta. via the Seibu Shinjuku Line )

60min by train. (Kyuuko-Express from Seibu-Shinjuku Sta. via the Seibu Shinjuku Line )

By Train (to Kawagoe-shi Sta.)

30min by train. (Express from Ikebukuro Sta. via the Tobu Tojo line)

60min by train. (From Shibuya Sta. via the Tobu Tojo line)

By Car

1.5 hours by car (Via Kanetsu Expressway)

Further useful information

Read these articles to plan your trip!

Kawagoe City Guide

Kawagoe Festival

Kawagoe City Travel Guide

Kawagoe Festival Guide

Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Profile photo rowing a boat on Lake Haruna in GUnma

Contributor:  Angus Miyaji

Founder of Nearby Tokyo and Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama north of Tokyo). He regularly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourism and Japanese sake.

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