Monday, October 09, 2006


On the recommendation of "Weekend Adventures Outside Tokyo" by Tae Moriyama, we visited the town of Kawagoe, not far outside of Tokyo, on the edge of Saitama prefecture. Mr. Moriyama waxes philosophic about the kurazukuri, or old black two-story earthen storehouses, that abound in this old trading town.

After a drive of about an hour and a half from Machida, we entered Kawagoe and found free parking next to the Hikawa shrine, from there a quick walk to the main kurazukuri row. This street was really active, full of people looking at the old-time shops selling things like tea, liquor, and dried beans. Small alleys lead to little temples and shrines, one of which was holding a flea market. People thronged the sidewalks and an old market feeling was in the lovely crisp autumn air.

Most notable was the candy street, a few short blocks from the main row. This is a street filled with vendors selling traditional handmade candies, as well as other sweets and snacks like entire pickled cucumbers on a stick and sweet potato senbei. I bought hakka (peppermint), nikki (cinnamon), and candies with tiny flowers and faces molded inside. I also tried the delicious sweet potato soft cream - fantastic.

After visiting the candy street, we took a shortcut through the grounds of a museum, which happened to be the Kawagoe matsuri museum, and happened to be about to start a performance of matsuri dance. We quickly bought tickets and wound our way through the halls to the performance space, a lovely area with 2-story ceilings and huge displays of beautiful colorful floats.

After leaving the museum, we walked to the Toshogu shrine, which is a mini version of the grander Toshogu shrine in Nikko - but is supposed to have the same design, layout, except on a smaller scale. It dates from the 1600s, and is at the same location as the Kita-in Temple, where the 540 statues live. Unfortunately, we arrived just at closing time, so couldn't enter the statue park. We had to be content with peering through the bars at the numerous statues that are supposed to run the gamut of human emotion.

We wanted to try the local noodles made from potato, imo-udon or imo-soba, but couldn't find a place open at the strange hour of 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon. Instead, we opted to eat cha-soba at Kotobukian right outside of the Kitain temple grounds. Decent food, mediocre service.

All in all, a pleasant day with beautiful weather. Kawagoe is certainly a good place to check out to get a feeling for old Japan.

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