Asia,  Destinations,  Japan,  Travel Diary

Kawagoe, the Little Edo | Tokyo Day Trip

If you’re spending a significant amount of time in Tokyo, you might be interested in going outside the major city areas and visiting a few smaller towns on day trips.

I did just that on my first trip to Japan. After a few days in Tokyo I wanted to see something different and especially old buildings. I lucked upon a discount train ticket on Klook called the Seibu Kawagoe Pass, which includes a round-trip ticket between Tokyo and Kawagoe for only $5 USD (or less if you find a discount code).

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Seibu Kawagoe Pass

The pass runs on the Seibu railway line (NOT the JR railway) which complicates things a bit as they use different train stations and time tables from everyone else. I also needed to go in person to pick up the pass, because I had to show my passport. (The Seibu Kawagoe Pass is only for foreign tourists, see.)

I ended up going to the Ikebukuro station to get my pass as it was closer to my hostel, but then had to transfer to a second train line to actually go to Kawagoe. If you’d like to go in one straight shot, pick up your pass from the Seibu-Shinjuku station instead.

Pass + map + Kawagoe info brochure

There’s a local and an express train and of course I accidentally went on the slower one first. The pass lets you use the express train (but NOT a reserved seat), so be sure to get on the faster one if you’d like to actually get to Kawagoe in under an hour.

Kawagoe: Little Edo

Kawagoe is nicknamed Little Edo because it has a lot of Edo-era buildings, way more than in most other cities in this part of Japan. It’s a popular tourist destination for locals as well, and they regularly have events to further draw in the crowds. In fact, the weekend I went there was a sweet potato festival!

While walking to the main center of town I stumbled across a rubber stamp set-up at a stationary store. These free souvenir stamps can be anywhere, not just at train stations, so I always keep an eye out for them.

Kawagoe Highlights

Studio Ghibli store

Turns out that there’s Studio Ghibli stores in EVERY tourist street– along with Snoopy Cafes, Rilakkuma shops, and Miffy bakeries. They all sell the same things, so if you miss out on something you can always find it again later in a different store.

Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine

Free entry. One of the tallest wooden torii gates in Japan at 15 meters high. A very popular visit for couples as it enshrines the God of Marriage. If you want to bless your union, grab an omamori here.

Kawagoe Castle

Hallway inside Kawagoe Castle

Entry: 100 yen. Originally built in 1457. Fairly basic but as it’s a bit out the way, it wasn’t crowded at all which meant I could take my time walking around. Plus it has a stamp to collect!

Toki no Kane

Free to view. Reconstructed bell tower from 1600s which was named one of the ”100 Soundscapes of Japan” in 1996. The chimes change slightly depending on the time of day.

The bell tower is located in the Warehouse District, which has traditional candy shops and lots of cool buildings.

Visiting train stations for stamps

There’s several located around Kawagoe and they’re all within walking distance, so I picked up a few for my eki stamp collection. They mostly feature the bell tower or the castle.

Kawagoe Tours

It’s easy enough to just wander around Kawagoe on your own if that’s what you want, but there’s also some good half-day tour options available from different providers. For instance, here’s a small group (under 10 people) 4 hour walking tour with a local, which stops by all the major Kawagoe sights.

If you’re nervous about navigating to Kawagoe by yourself, this 6 hour tour starts with meeting your guide in Tokyo, taking the train with them and then doing a walking tour in Kawagoe.

Want to dress up in a kimono and wander around Little Edo? Take this tour with a certified kimono dresser and get a kimono rental included!

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my day trip to Kawagoe, with the caveat that it’s VERY tourist-y. Try to go during a weekday so it’s slightly less crowded. I loved seeing the old buildings and the shrines were great!

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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