Kawagoe is an atmospheric, laidback former castle town known for its surprisingly well preserved traditional architecture. Nicknamed Koedo or Co-Edo (Little Edo), Kawagoe evokes Edo, the old name for Tokyo, and the Edo period (1603–1867) when samurai ruled Japan. Like a time traveler, you can immerse yourself in Kawagoe’s charming mix of festivals, heritage buildings, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.
Initially built as a fortified town by the Ota clan in the 15th century, Kawagoe prospered as a trading center and supply depot for Edo, the teeming capital of the Tokugawa shogunate. That’s why one of the main highlights is its old clay-walled warehouse buildings called kurazukuri. Some are now shops and restaurants along Kurazukuri Street in the Kuranomachi district. The oldest surviving kurazukuri is the imposing Osawa Residence, constructed in 1792 and designated as an Important Cultural Property.
Look out for the iconic Toki no Kane, a 16-meter-tall Edo-style bell tower rebuilt in 1894 that marks the hour four times a day. Other attractions include Hikawa Shrine, a Shinto sanctuary with a history of 1,500 years that is popular with those seeking romantic partners, Kitain temple and its 500 statues of rakan (Buddha’s disciples), and the Kawagoe Festival Museum, which commemorates the lively Kawagoe Matsuri parade of 8-meter-tall floats held every October.
Traveling from Tokyo to Kawagoe by Train
Kawagoe is located in Saitama Prefecture to the northwest of Tokyo. Only about 30 minutes by train from central Tokyo, Kawagoe can make a delightful day trip, especially for those interested in Japanese history and traditional architecture. Kurazukuri Street lies to the north of Tobu Kawagoe-shi, Seibu Hon-Kawagoe and JR Kawagoe stations.
While the closest station is Hon-Kawagoe on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, all three are within walking distance of the sights. For instance, it takes about 13 minutes to walk from Hon-Kawagoe Station to the Toki no Kane bell tower.
Seibu Railway from Seibu-Shinjuku Station
Seibu operates the Koedo Limited Express to Seibu Hon-Kawagoe Station from Seibu-Shinjuku Station, located a few minutes’ walk north of JR Shinjuku Station. The Koedo Limited Express links Seibu-Shinjuku and Hon-Kawagoe in about 45 minutes and the fare including limited express surcharge is 1,013 yen.
Slower express trains run along the Seibu Shinjuku Line and reach Hon-Kawagoe Station in 57 minutes; the fare is 520 yen.
JR East and Tokyo Metro from Shinjuku Station or Ikebukuro
For those with a Japan Rail Pass for Japan Railways (JR) lines, JR East runs Commuter Rapid trains from Shinjuku Station to Kawagoe Station along the JR Saikyo and JR Kawagoe lines. The trip takes about one hour. If you don’t have a pass, the fee is 770 yen.
If you can’t catch a Commuter Rapid service, you can take a JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line train to JR Omiya, then a JR Kawagoe Line train to JR Kawagoe. The trip takes about 54 minutes. Another option is to take a JR Saikyo Line or JR Yamanote Line train to Ikebukuro and then switch to the Tobu Line, a trip that takes about 45 minutes and costs 660 yen.
You can also get to Kawagoe from Shinjuku via Tokyo Metro’s Marunouchi Line subway. You have to change at Shinjuku-Sanchome Station for the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line’s F Liner train. It has through service to the Tobu Tojo Line F Liner, which also stops at Ikebukuro. The trip from Shinjuku to Tobu Kawagoe Station takes about 51 minutes and costs 591 yen.
Note that the Japan Rail Pass is not accepted on Tokyo Metro, Seibu or Tobu railways.
Tobu Railway from Ikebukuro Station
The fastest way to get to Kawagoe is from Ikebukuro, but it’s in the northern part of central Tokyo, about 5 minutes from Shinjuku on the JR Saikyo Line. The JR and Tobu Ikebukuro stations are next to each other in the large rail hub of Ikebukuro.
Tobu Tojo Line Rapid Express trains bound for Ogawamachi connect Ikebukuro and Kawagoe in only 27 minutes; the fare is 490 yen.
Kawagoe Discount Pass
Tobu Railway offers the Kawagoe Discount Pass with significant savings for travelers and shoppers. Shaped like a traditional happi festival coat, the pass offers round-trip fare on the Tobu Tojo Line from Ikebukuro to Kawagoe or Kawagoe-shi stations—it also gives you special offers, such as discounts or small complimentary gifts, at participating shops in Kawagoe and Tobu Department Store in Ikebukuro. The price is 710 yen for adults and 370 yen for children.
The Kawagoe Discount Pass Premium adds Tobu bus rides in Kawagoe, including the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus, to the above offer. The price is 1,050 yen for adults and 540 yen for children. Tobu Koedo Loop buses look like retro school buses painted black and red. The route starts and ends at the East Exit of Kawagoe Station, serving the Hikawa Shrine, Kuranomachi area, Kashiya Yokocho candy shop lane and Kitain temple.
You can purchase Tobu’s Kawagoe Discount Pass at Tobu ticket counters and Tobu tourist information centers inside Ikebukuro Station. Look for the blue signage saying “Tobu” or “Tobu Top Tours.” For more information, see https://www.tobu.co.jp/en/ticket/kawagoe/basic.html
Tokyu Line Tobu Tojo Line Koedo-Kawagoe Coupon
Tokyu Railways offers a discount ticket giving users one day of unlimited use of the Fukutoshin and Tobu Tojo lines between Shibuya and Kawagoe stations. It’s only sold at Tokyu ticket machines but note that this does not include those at Shibuya Station, on the Setagaya Line or the Kodomonokuni Line. Ticket prices depend on where they are purchased. For instance, tickets from Daikanyama Station near Shibuya cost 1,650 yen for adults and 860 yen for children.
Traveling to Kawagoe by Bus
While there are no direct buses to Tokyo from Kawagoe, there are Tobu buses that run from Kawagoe Station’s west exit to Narita Airport and Tokyo Disneyland. Seibu buses also serve Haneda Airport from Kawagoe and Hon-Kawagoe stations. For a list of other destinations in Japan connected to Kawagoe by bus, check the Kawagoe City website.
Article by Tim Hornyak. Photos by Tim Hornyak, matya1234/pixta (1), yama1221/pixta (2), hirotomo.Isobe/pixta (3), sae/pixta (4,5). All rights reserved.