Step back in time to the Edo Period
About an hour outside of Tōkyō, this medieval castle town is popular with locals but still pretty off-the-radar for inbound travelers. Enjoy while you can!
#2 Fan Fave!
kawagoe day trip, history tour
Kawagoe is called “Little Edo” because it preserves a lot of architecture, particularly kura storehouses, that used to line the streets of Edo (modern Tōkyō). Step back in time among beautiful sweets shops in traditional buildings, inspect knives that cost thousands of dollars, and step explore classical architectural spaces from the palace of a feudal lord or local watering holes for the every-man. With no skyscrapers in sight, it’s awesome to dig your teeth into a truly Japanese city that hasn’t changed much since the war but has been populated continuously since prehistoric times. There’s so much to do and see here that whittling down the day’s agenda can be bittersweet. That said, you’re never at a loss for things to do in this less-traveled gem in Tōkyō’s backyard.
- Kashiya Yokochō
This charming alley features storehouses that sell traditional Japanese sweets.
- Kawagoe Castle
The main palace of this castle is preserved which makes it quite unique in Japan (most were torn down)
Local enshrinement of the war god, Hachiman, for the protection of samurai
- Hikawa Shrine
A beautiful Shintō shrine for matchmaking and harmonious relationships
- Kita-in temple complex
Founded in 830, this temple features the only extant rooms of Edo Castle, including the birthplace of shōgun Tokugawa Iemitsu, the graves of the lords of Kawagoe Domain, and a stately pagoda that dates back to the 1300’s.
- Ko-edo Yokochō
This street is lined with fireproof and weatherproof kura, traditional Japanese storehouses. Don’t miss the knife shop or the traditional town bell.
- Naka-in temple complex
Famed birthplace of Sayama Tea and famous cherry blossoming viewing spot
- Osawa Merchant House
Built in 1782, this is the house a prominent Edo Period merchant family.
- Senba Tōshō-gū
Built in 1633 to enshrine the first shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, this building is evidence of Kawagoe Domain’s importance to the samurai government in Edo.
- Taishō Roman-dōri
Kawagoe remained relatively unchanged from the Edo Period until the 1920’s when wealthy merchants began buildings western-style homes and shops on this street.
- Yamazaki Residence
1920’s detached residence of a local candy maker featuring a private Japanese garden and teahouse.
- Explore Benten Yokochō, a derelict alley that was once home to “the worst geisha in Japan.” Perfect for photographers! (I’m probably the only person who takes people here lol)
- We can also check out Kawagoe History Museum, Kawagoe Matsuri Museum, or Kurazukuri Museum. If we get caught in the rain or if the summer heat is too oppressive, these are nice options.
- For Buddhists, I can arrange the day around a pilgrimage of Minami-in (the ruined south temple, also known as Tamon-in), Naka-in (the middle temple), and Kita-in (the north temple/the lucky temple).
- Kawagoe has tons of great lunch and dinner options!
- Kawagoe has its own craft beers!
- Upgrade to first class on the train?
Don’t mind if I do!
- Door to door pick and drop off
Starts at ¥65,000
You Might Also Like
- My Kamakura Day Trip is equally comprehensive and educational
- Here are my other Day Trips
- Wanna stay in Tōkyō? Try a Day Tour!
- Prefer to be indoors or require wheelchair accessibility? My Crash Course in Japanese History is also popular.
- The definitive English article on kura storehouses
Build Your Own Tour
Choose your own adventure, dawg.
private tour, custom tour
Here’s a secret. All my tours are customized in one way or another. If you need a private tour or someone to make things smoother, or if you’re gathering contents and shooting video and need a fixer, I’m sure I can help out and get you sorted.