Kawagoe: Modern Treats in an Old-Time Setting
By Lisa Hong
Kawagoe is a great day trip from Tokyo – far enough to truly feel that you’re getting away, but close enough that you can come back to the comforts of your own home. It is popular chance to step into the Edo period. Being surrounded by the timeless historical architecture, tempted by traditional snacks, and watched over by the iconic bell tower makes this trip worthwhile.
The above drew me to Kawagoe, but I found so much more. Unique, modern treats were scattered around the town, adding another layer of excitement as I made my way around.
Cafe Anti (near the Kitain Temple)
A major stop in Kawagoe is the Kitain Temple, which is the main temple of the area. People can enjoy the scenery and the hundreds of enigmatic Buddhist statues.
While you’re there, it is also worth stopping by Cafe Anti to pick up a wonderful treat or sit down for one of their tasty lunch sets. This cafe is known for their doughnuts, made with soymilk and tofu. My favorite is their “Anko”, which is a plain doughnut with a layer of sweet red bean paste in the middle. Other flavors include Matcha, Sakura, sweet potato, and more classic flavors as well.
Takoyaki Sandwich (street food found in Candy Alley)
Candy Alley represents the outdoor street shopping of the good ol’ days. People can squeeze through the narrow, crowded walking street and sample traditional snacks.
While I was making my way through this popular route, I found a vendor selling something more contemporary – a Takoyaki sandwich. Two wafers hold a Takoyaki ball in between, drizzled with sweet mayo and savory sauce. I was impressed with the flavors with every bite, but to my dismay, it was gone before I knew it. I immediately returned to Candy Alley again for another.
Coedo Beer (sold in several shops around the Bell Tower)
In grocery stores, people have seen this beer, fancy glass bottle and chic labeling. It gets some stares, but is then overlooked for the familiar Suntory or Kirin.
Coedo Beer is actually a brew from Kawagoe. To draw the connection, “Ko” means “little”, so the beer is named after Kawagoe, also known as “Little Edo”. Visiting this town gives you an excellent excuse to buy and drink (lots of) this delicious beer! Bars and restaurants around this area sell Coedo by the bottle or draft. At a few places, you can even enjoy a Bratwurst with your beer. Finding your favorite drinking spot will be a fun adventure, and don’t forget to take your picture saluting the bell tower with your Coedo Beer!
Sweet Potato Soft Cream (found in shops throughout the Warehouse District)
Nothing tops off a Japanese outing like the local-flavored soft cone ice creams. Sweet potato is a popular local dessert, so make sure not to leave Kawagoe until you’ve had the sweet potato soft cream. It isn’t overly sweet and has a slight earthy flavor, but the creaminess brings it all together into a wonderful, chilled treat. Grab one as you walk around the Warehouse District and admire at the old Edo architecture that is cherished in this small town.
There’s no need to hesitate when deciding whether to go to Kawagoe or not. It’s an easy day trip from Tokyo and a great traditional town to explore. Have a good time and let the fun treats enhance your experience!
Kawagoe is accessible by the following lines:
Tobu Tojo Line (Ikebukuro Station to Kawagoe Station, 30-40 min, 470 yen)
Seibu Shinjuku Line (Seibu-Shinjuku Station to Hon-Kawagoe Station, 65 min, 500 yen)
JR Saikyo/Kawagoe Line (Shinjuku Station to Kawagoe Station, 58 min, 760 yen, covered by the JR Pass)