Not much remains of ‘old’ Japan. The country has been ravaged by natural disasters and brought back to life with a penchant for retro-futuristic box architecture, with very little left that looks like the Japan you might have seen in old samurai movies or history books.
There are a few pockets of history left, though. One of them is Kawagoe.
Kawagoe seems worlds removed from the never-ending hustle of a big city, but it’s actually just a 30 minute train ride from central Tokyo, and you can easily get there using the cheap local trains – making it a perfect destination for a day trip!
The town’s main street is lined with Kurazukuri style houses, popular in the Edo Period way back in the 1600s. That’s probably how Kawagoe got the nickname “Little Edo”. Most of the traditional buildings are home to small shops selling the most Japanese things, from beautiful stationery to artisan chopsticks and lovely hand-painted bowls.
The streets are filled with old ladies in traditional kimonos, with children happily playing in the side streets. Walking these streets, it’s easy to imagine how life must have been here centuries ago.
There were several things that I loved about Kawagoe, but my best experience in the town came about by accident. I was walking in a small alley off the main street when I saw a lady with a stroller stopping to talk to a street artist. As I got closer, I noticed it was actually a French Bulldog sitting in the stroller. He was smiling happily as the artist began painting a portrait of him.
One of the other highlights in Kawagoe is the street food. You can get freshly baked goods in every street corner, including some incredibly delicate donuts. The restaurants are also worth a try, with some of the best unagi in all of Japan.