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19 October, 2023

[TRAVEL] 2D1N Kawagoe, Japan feat. Kawagoe Million Lights Summer Festival (川越百万灯夏まつり)

Konnichiwa from Kawagoe, Saitama! ❤  Being one of the nearest towns from Tokyo City, Kawagoe is a great destination for day trip from Tokyo. But I'd strongly recommend an overnight trip to fully experience the city during both day and night time.

Kawagoe Station (via Tobu Railway line) is only 1 hour away from Tokyo City!
Once you arrive, you can get the one-day Kawagoe Discount Pass for unlimited bus rides around the city.

Kawagoe Warehouse District (川越 蔵造りの町並み)

Kawagoe, also known as the "Little Edo", features an ancient main street lined with old clay warehouses and merchant homes which literally transports us back to the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Taking a closer look, the wooden structures are very different from the modern Japanese architecture. These warehouses built from wood with clay walls are so well-preserved until today. And some still sell traditional Meiji-era Japanese confectionery and sweets (Kashiya Yokocho Candy Alley) which lure a lot of tourists every year. 

Toki no Kane (Time Bell)

The iconic landmark in the warehouse district is the bell tower. Since more than 400 years ago, the bell rings 4 times a day - at 6am, 12noon, 3pm and 6pm - creating a nostalgic scene to the town.

Starbucks Coffee Kawagoe Kanetsuki Dori (スターバックスコーヒー 川越鐘つき通り店)

If you are fascinated by the architecture of Starbucks Kyoto in a traditional Japanese house with tatami flooring, I think this Starbucks store in Kawagoe will equally impress you with its lovely exterior and Japanese zen garden inside the outlet.

Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (川越氷川神社)
Date: 1 July 2023 - 3 September 2023 (summer)
Time: 09:00-21:00
Access: 10 minutes bus ride from Kawagoe St.

My favourite part of this Kawagoe summer trip is the Enmusubi Wind Chime Festival (縁むすび風鈴). Only for a limited time period (1 July - 3 September 2023), the shrine extended its visiting hours until 9pm to allow visitors to enjoy the mesmerising wind chimes display in different light. 

The summer display of 2,000 Edo-style wind chimes lining the entrance of the shrine, forming a "Furin Corridor" is just so beautiful! Plus, the calming sound of soft wind colliding with the wind chime perfects the scene.

The night view is equally magical! In fact, every nook and corner of the shrine is very well-decorated.
No doubt it is the most popular shrine among the locals and tourists all-year round.

Lovin' the beautiful traditional lanterns adorning the wooden walkway in the shrine!

There are also several large 'omikuji' fishing ponds during certain seasons of the year (New Year, summer festival, etc) where people enjoy "fortune fishing" which the shrine is known for.

42nd Kawagoe Million Lights Summer Festival (川越百万灯夏まつり) 
Date: 29-30 July 2023 (summer)
Time: 17:00-21:00
Access: 8 minutes walk from Kawagoe St.

The best part of this summer trip in Kawagoe is definitely its summer festival! The town is beautifully adorned with vibrant lanterns which brightly colors the city at night. 

It is my first time attending such a large-scale festival - with a full line up of performances, competitions, and carnivals with endless choices of food and games - amidst the full moonlight. Despite the heat at 30°C in the evening, the once-in-a-lifetime experience here is definitely worth the sweats.

During the festival, I see many people are dressed up in summer yukata - so festive!

Kawagoe Kumano Shrine (川越 熊野神社)
Operating hours: 09:30-17:00
Access: 10 minutes bus ride from Kawagoe St.

While this shrine is not as popular as Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, it is worth dropping by at Kawagoe Kumano Shrine, an ancient shrine blessed with the god’s spirit from the Three Great Shrines of Kumano in 1590. 

One of the most fascinating rituals here is "cleansing your money". Zeniarai Benzaiten (銭洗弁財天) is one of the gods enshrined in Kawagoe Kumano Shrine, and it is said that if you use the purified money, it will attract more money for you!

Coedo Ohana (小江戸オハナ)
Operating hours: 11:00 - 17:00
Access: Along Kawagoe old street

Kawagoe is packed with famous eateries, but the queue can be quite painstaking especially during lunch peak hours and they do not operate till dinner time. My personal favourite goes to Coedo Ohana, an egg specialty restaurant serving two most popular items: Tamagoyaki (900 yen) and Oyakodon (1,350 yen).

The Oyakodon here is the best I've ever tried! Served piping hot, every mouthful is so rich and gooey with delicious whiffs of eggy aroma. Definitely a perfect tummy comforting food! 

Kumotoyuki (Kakigori)
Operating hours: 11:00 - 17:00
Access: Along Kawagoe old street

The best dessert to beat the summer heat is no other than a cup of fluffy ice topped with a dollop of red beans and green tea syrup. The Kakigori (1,000 yen) comes in assorted flavours and it makes a perfect dessert for summer. 

Denbe Unagi skewer (500 yen)

Another popular food in town is the Unaju, grilled eel served on a bed of rice. While there are several unagi specialty restaurants in Kawagoe, each of the garners much popularity and the queue can be hours long. So I opt for a quick grab-and-go Kushiyaki Rinrinya (Eel Skewer) instead - just to have a taste of the slightly charred marinated eel. Worth a try! 

Vanitoy Bagel (バニトイベーグル 川越店)
Operating hours: 10:00 - 18:00 (until 17:00 on Tuesdays)
Instagram: @vanitoybagel
Access: Along Kawagoe old street

Apparently it is a 100% Hokkaido wheat bagel specialty store!
Wish I were here during breakfast hour so that I can try out the salmon cream cheese bagel here.

Soy Sauce Dango (150 yen) and beer by the street!

There are a lot more variety of food and drinks available in Kawagoe old town. One of the more popular options which I want to try is the colorful handmade "Kawagoe Matcha Soba" founded in the 38th year of the Meiji era - but... the queue is just too long and I have to skip this round. Hopefully I will be back to Kawagoe again for the matcha soba! 

Thank you Kawagoe for the beautiful summer memories!

So looking forward to seeing you again in a different season soon...

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