1. What’s Koedo(小江戸）?
It means “small Edo（江戸).” In the Edo period (1603-1867), Kawagoe was called Koedo because it flourished as a castle town of Kawagoe Domain. At the time, General Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered them to protect the north part of Edo city, and they developed as a commercial city for business people by supporting the general. Kawagoe city in Saitama prefecture is located from Ikebukuro station, Tokyo within 30 minutes by train. It’s the third population city of this prefecture. There are surrounding many old-style buildings which is called “Kura Dukuri” (蔵造り): it is painted by white color with special material for fire accident. Also, you can see many old business buildings. You can feel the vibe of Taisho period, Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa while you’re walking around here. You might want to see people or go on a walk-and-eat tour. Of course, Asakusa is great place without doubt but if you live in Kanto region, why don’t you come to Kawagoe? Today, I’m going to share my favorite spot in Kawagoe. Let’s get started!
2. A Symbol of Kawagoe
Time bell tower was built in 1627-1634 by Tadakatsu Sakai who was the lord of Kawagoe castle. The aim is to tell people the time which was essential. After it burned down in 1893, it was rebuilt. You shouldn’t miss this photo opportunity. It’s worth sharing on social media. Look there, there is a store that sells freshly cooked Manju which is a Japanese sweet bun stuffed with red bean paste. It’s called “Imokoi.” You don’t want to miss it!
3. What’s “Kikizake” and “Nomikurabe?”
“Kikizake” is the word for tasting Japanese sake. “Nomikurabe” is to compare different types of sake and appreciate the taste, so this place is perfect for Japanese sake lovers. You can enjoy various kinds of sake. On top of that, you don’t have to talk a lot to sales staffs about the taste. Why? There is a vending machine for sake. It’s a breeze to use it. Don’t worry about that there are instruction written in English. First of all, prepare to 500 yen coin, and take a paper cup and put the coin into the machine when you find your favorite sake. That’s it.
There are seasonal sake and rare one like made with wine yeast. You shouldn’t miss to try “Atsukan”(熱燗), which means hot sake.
4. Koedo: Local Craft Beer
These days, there are a lot of craft beer places all over Japan, but this place is one of the pioneers. Koedo is a brand in local craft beer brewery in Kawage. You can buy the bottle at a supermarket and drink at restaurants even you don’t live in here but they offer it on tap. It’s hard to come by in other places. It has fine bubbles. The aroma is fruity and refreshing. Also it has deep taste of sweetness and bitterness. It depends on season, this beer goes well with “Unagimokushi” which is sold by side. You should try it.
5. Modern and Simple
It goes without saying that many Starbucks branches are here and there. Sometimes, we can see special ones that look different from typical Starbucks locations. That’s here. It feels like It has mixed traditional Japanese simple and modern architecture. Although there are a lot of people there, if you don’t have time, you may go after you appreciate beautiful garden.
6. How So Big and Thin the Chips Are!
Around the end of 1700s, sweet potatoes were widely known among people because sweets were hard to come by at that time. Sweet potatoes were an alternative, especially the one made of Kawagoe had good reputation from people lived in Edo. Also, since Kawagoe is geographically close to Edo, sweet potatoes became their specialty immediately.
Of course, there are “Yakiimo” and “Manju” too, but I’m going to share these chips. Look at this! You must eat it after you wait for long time. Dipping it into batter base sauce is hands down the best.
7. What Is Nekomanma?
Generally speaking, Nekomanma is bonito flakes on top of rice with soy sauce. This is because it looked like cats in Japan ate it, like leftovers. There are a lot of long lines here in Kawagoe but they are also worth the wait. This store was founded at the end of the Edo period. It’s been around for over 150 years. They serve “Nekomanma yakionigiri” in front of the store. Yakionigiri means grilled rice ball but this is not ordinary one. It used with local high quality rice and with special soy sauce made of bonito and kelp soup stock. And, it finally garnishes the store’s finest bonito flakes. It can only be eaten here.
8. What’s Kabayaki?
Kabayaki is one of the most famous dishes in Japan. It’s glaze-grilled eel. Kawagoe is known as that there are a lot of tasty unagi restaurants because of the clean river. Good restaurants tend to be sold out immediately, so it might be good idea to check before you go.
9. What’s Enmusubi(縁結び）?
En（縁）: Relationship with someone special and
Musubi (結ぶ）: tie rope.
So, when you have someone special in mind, you go to enmusbi shrine and make a wish. Of course you need to put your mind to it, but Japanese people like to do something special which is called “Kamidanomi(神頼み）.” We tend to pray to God after you bend over backward to accomplish your goal. There are a lot of Enmusubi shrine all over Japan. People who expect to meet significant others in future gather here and draw a lottery from ancient times. Hikawa shrine is totally different from others. You need to go fishing to draw a lottery. Isn’t that unique, right? This is called “Aitai mikuji(あい鯛みくじ）” which means “Ai(あい): see, meet,” and “tai(鯛): fish’s name also means “want to.” So the meaning is going to “Aitai (あいたい): I want to meet someone special. It’s popular among young girls since the lottery’s shape is so cute. Do you want to try fishing here?
10. Have A Coffee Break
Aren’t you tired? You must walk for a long time. Let’s have a break here. This shop offers freshly brewed coffee from raw beans, so it takes a little bit longer compared to other coffee shops. Take it easy, go with the flow and enjoy this vibe. Some beans are really rare. If you like the taste of coffee, you can buy it.
How was that? That’s all for today. This is my favorite route to enjoy Kawagoe. If you live in Kanto region, why don’t you come here. Thank you for taking the time to read my article to the end. See you next time!
I’ve been working at a trading company for many years. I live in Tokyo with my wife. Love skiing, traveling, IPAs, wine , X-treme sports, fashion, and learning English and Chinese.