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Little Edo (Kawagoe): A leisurely walk in the Tokugawa Era

November 24, 2016
Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower), Little Edo, Kawagoe

A visit to the Little Edo in Kawagoe is like a travel through time sans distortions in the space-time continuum. Think about having leisurely walks in the sets of “Rurouni Kenshin” (Keishi Ootomo) or “The Twilight Samurai” (Hiroyuki Sanada) without the ronins and assassins, though the occasional passing of modern cars and women in stilettos are unavoidable.

Also known as “Koedo,” this small district in Kawagoe has managed to preserve both cultural and architectural features of the Edo Period (1603-1868). Edo is the capital’s name before it became known as Tokyo.

For the maximum experience, ride one of the jinrikisha (pulled rickshaw) around the area. It will tour you around Little Edo for an hour for ¥6,000. Or get overboard — dress in kimonos or bring your samurai swords.

Jinrikisha (Pulled Rickshaw), Little Edo

For ¥6,000, you can tour Little Edo for an hour on a jinrikisha (pulled rickshaw).

Kurazukuri no Machinami (Warehouse District)

Kurazukuri no Machinami (Warehouse District), Little Edo

Kurazukuri refers to the clay-walled warehouses that line the main street. These warehouses were used to hold rice and other supplies when Kawagoe was the center of product trades back in the old day. The warehouses are now converted to souvenir shops, restaurant, and cafes, but the traditional elements in terms of service and architectural style are still being maintained.

Jonah and the sweet potato onigiri
Sweet potato onigiri vendor

A sweet potato onigiri vendor

While walking the main street of Little Edo, we passed by a kiosk selling sweet potato onigiri. We tried a few pieces and they’re interestingly good.

Also read: Tokyo Trip in a Hurry: Asakusa, Akihabara, Shibuya, Roppongi

Here’s a fun fact. Due to its ease of cultivation, the sweet potato became a staple in Japanese cuisine and Kawagoe was the biggest source of food after the war. Nowadays, Kawagoe remains famous for its sweet potatoes that sweet potato tours are being conducted during the harvest season (mid-September to early November).

Check out Kawagoe Station Tourist Information Office (049 222-5556) if you’re interested. Arahata Noen (Kawagoe-shi, Saitama) and Musashi No Mura (Kazo, Saitama) are two of the popular sweet potato farms that offer digging tours in Saitama.

Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower)

Toki no Kane (Bell of Time Tower), Little Edo

The original bell tower was located northeast of its current location and was later rebuilt where it is now after the Great Fire of Kawagoe in 1638. The bell was rung every hour to inform the people of the time, and it was controlled by two persons living right next to it.

Nowadays, the bell is being rung electro-mechanically by a metal hammer which swings and bangs the bell in four designated time each day – 6:00 AM, 12:00 NN, 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. In 1996, the Ministry of the Environment has chosen Toki no Kane bell tower to be one of the “100 Soundscapes of Japan“.

The photo above shows the Toki no Kane as overseen from a nearby alley. It was taken just a few minutes before the bell was rung at 3:00 in the afternoon.

Yakushi Shrine, Little Edo

Yakushi Shrine, Little Edo

Right past the bell tower is the Yakushi Shrine. People come here to pray for good harvests, money, and recovery from various illnesses.

In front of Yakushi Shrine, Little Edo
Praying at the Yakushi Shrine, Little Edo

In the photos, my sister can be seen teaching our niece Jonah how to pray in the shrine – “ring the bell once, drop a coin in the saisenbako (wooden box), bow your head twice, clap your hands twice followed by another bow.” But I’m not sure whether her prayer was granted because she skipped the purification part from the chouzubachi (water basin) nearby. The ritual purification is as essential as the prayer itself.

I realized it was so similar with the Muslim’s practice of ablution before salah.

A small shrine right of Yakushi Shrine
Chouzubachi (Water Basin), Yakushi Shrine, Little Edo
Ema (Shinto wooden prayer plaques)

Ema (Shinto wooden prayer plaques)

Perhaps she just had to take another chance by hanging an ema in front of the shrine.

Saitama Resona Bank, Little Edo

That’s the Saitama Resona Bank (Saitama Branch), the opal building at the far right.

Building No. 85 (Saitama Resona Bank, Saitama Branch)

At the start of the Meiji Era, a certain millionaire called Yokota Gorobei of Saitama donated a land and, together with his fellow affluents, ordered the construction of a building that would function as a National bank in Saitama. The building was designed by Tasuoka Katsuka and was completed during the Taisho Period. The bank was named No. 85 National Bank and later renamed to Saitama bank, to Asahi Bank, and finally to Saitama Resona Bank.

The building was designated as one of Japan’s registered tangible cultural properties in 1996.

Souvenir Shop, Little Edo

I was busy looking for good quality Inari kitsune masks in this souvenir shop in front of the Resona Bank building that I forgot to take a photo of this New-Renaissance architectural piece.

Inari Kitsune (Fox) Mask

Festival masks displayed in front of Kawagoe Festival museum.

From the souvenir shops, to the cafes, to the mail boxes, vending machines and the drinking fountains, everything is in character in Little Edo.

Cafe de Coco, Little Edo

Cafe de Coco and Kawagoe’s fabulous senior women.

Drinking fountain, Little Edo

This is Tifa’s first drinking fountain experience in Japan.

I used to regret having not pursued architecture during my college days but upon seeing the magnificent architectural styles from these forgotten eras, I suddenly had a change of heart. I, for sure, could not cough out intricate designs such as these.

Perhaps now I’d start regretting not having pursued a master in letters for I am surely not worthy of describing these works of art with my very limited command in language.

Getting around Little Edo

MapBy TrainBy BusTourism Information
There are three train lines going to Kawagoe

  • Tobu Tojo Line: From Ikebukuro station to Kawagoe-shi station; approximately 30 minutes by Express.
  • Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line: From Shibuya station to Kawagoe-shi atation; approximately 60 minutes.
  • Seibu Shinjuku Line: From Seibu Shinjuku station to Hon-Kawagoe station; Approximately 60 minutes by Express.

It is best to take the train going to Hon-Kawagoe station as it is the one nearest to Little Edo.

Commuting by bus coming soon!
For more information on Kawagoe and Little Edo, contact Kawagoe City Tourist Information Center at tel. no.: 049 (222-5556) or visit their website at

Last updated: December 01, 2016