Return to the good old days of Japan with just an hour's train trip from Shinjuku. How does a bargain day trip using the SEIBU RAIL PASS sound?

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Written by 編集部

When visiting Japan, you want to shop in the urban centers and get the latest items, but you also want to visit towns that retain old-fashioned Japanese culture. However, though Japan is a small country with a well-developed transportation network, there is a limit to the number of places you can visit during a short trip. I'm sure some of you have in the past given up on being able to visit areas where a lot of historical buildings can be found because they are far from city centers. Actually, there are areas where the good old days of Japan can be visited with a day trip from a city center. Now we would like to show you a sample itinerary centered on Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture.

▼ Use this video to check out Kawagoe City. Until the video finishes downloading, enjoy the following article.

They go back 400 years to the Edo Period, when there were still samurai in Japan. Towns reminiscent of the Edo Period are known by the nickname Koedo, meaning “little Edo.” “Edo” is the former name of Tokyo. Kawagoe City is one of the best-known of the Koedo towns. A collection of castle ruins, Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples and historic remains and buildings, it has the third largest number of cultural assets in the Kanto area and is on equal footing with Kyoto in this regard.

The departure location is Shinjuku, which is a popular hotel area. There you will head for Seibu-Shinjuku Station, which is on the west side of Kabukicho, a famous entertainment and red-light district. Seibu-Shinjuku Station is not the same as JR Shinjuku Station, so please be careful. At that station, you will board the Seibu-Shinjuku Line and head for Hon-Kawagoe Station. It is about 60 minutes by express train and you will arrive in about 45 minutes if you use a limited express train. Actually, there is a ticket known as the SEIBU RAIL PASS that is a bargain for travelers. We will talk more about it in the second half of this article.

【Seibu-Shinjuku Station】
Address:1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Along the route of the Seibu-Shinjuku Line there are many residential areas. You all might get a different image of Japan from the one you have got until now. However, the Seibu-Shinjuku Line is perfect to feel the quiet Japan where normal life takes place.

After you arrive in Hon-Kawagoe Station, taking a walk is a good option, but our editorial department would like to recommend boarding a CO-EDO Loop Bus. This is a fixed route bus encompassing sightseeing spots in the area, and it allows passengers to visit a sightseeing spot by walking less than one minute from any stop. Moreover, it is a classic front-engine bus to match the historical townscape of Kawagoe and increase the historical atmosphere of the tour. After you leave Hon-Kawagoe Station, there is a bus stop right there. Several other buses may be stopped as well, but yours is a distinctive front-engine bus, so you should recognize it immediately.

After you get on the bus, you will first tour temples. You will head for Kita-in temple, a treasury of cultural assets that are the pride of Kawagoe. This temple has deep ties to the House of Tokugawa, the shogun family that ruled during the Edo Period. Visitors can see the room where Iemitsu Tokugawa was born and the makeup room of Kasuga no Tsubone, a wet nurse of Iemitsu Tokugawa. The two rooms were disassembled and relocated from Edo Castle. Senba Toshogu, one of the three great Toshogu shrines of Japan, is also built here. Toshogu shrines are shrines dedicated to Ieyasu Tokugawa, who started the Edo shogunate. There are some 130 in existence throughout Japan, and this is one of the top three. The 500 arhats built in an enclosure at Kita-in put visitors at ease with their humorous facial expressions.

【Kita-in temple】
Address:1-20-1 Kosenbamachi, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama Prefecture

Hikawa Shrine in Kawagoe will be your next destination. This, too, is located right next to the stop where you will get off the bus. Its large torii gate, 15 meters tall, is a distinctive feature. The shrine is said to have been built 1500 years ago. Its god has gained believers as a “god of familial harmony” and a “god of marital harmony and marriage.” From 8 a.m. every morning, 20 “enmusubi tama” are handed out to people waiting. These small bags have a pebble sewn into them from the main shrine said to bring luck for finding a good match. If you can go early in the morning, it may be worth your while to line up and get one. Recently these enmusubi have become famous among travelers and people from various countries can be seen trying to get one.

【Hikawa Shrine】
Address:2-11-3 Miyashita-machi, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama Prefecture

When you have finished visiting temples, go to Kura-no-machi Dori street. Here there are a variety of important cultural assets. Along the road more than 30 distinctive kura (warehouse)-style merchant houses stand in a row, where visitors may buy souvenirs and walk around sampling rice crackers and other foods. The house with the greatest presence is called Toki no Kane, which means “time bell.” Its bell tower, which has informed residents of the time for more than 100 years, has become a symbol of Kawagoe. There are buildings in various architectural styles representing various eras here, including modern Western buildings, and Japanese-style houses, temples and shrines. The area itself could even be called a museum. It is an essential part of Kawagoe sightseeing.

【Toki no Kane】
Address:15-2 Saiwai-cho, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama Prefecture

When you have fully enjoyed the Kura-no-machi district, take a little rest. I suppose you should also eat lunch. Actually, in this area, the eel is delicious. It is a famous Kawagoe product and there are many eel restaurants here. They are all set up in buildings with an historical ambiance and offer high-grade eel cuisine. It doesn't matter which restaurant you try. The most famous is the longstanding Fukaiya. You can enjoy authentic eel dishes vouched for by the more than 110 years of history of this restaurant built in a machiya (traditional merchant's house). Light and tender, eel has an indescribably impressive texture and melts in the mouth.

Address:2-8 Nakacho, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama Prefecture

This is not an eel restaurant, of course. Kanmi Sabo Kasuga, the first restaurant opened on the street of kura-style houses about 120 years ago, offers meals of fine sweet potato noodles and sweets. The cooking is always homestyle and original and gives you a chance to taste one-of-a-kind Kawagoe gourmet offerings. Among these is Imo Somen, noodles made with sweet potatoes that are mild, springy and have a great texture going down. Among the distinctive and delicious Japanese sweets are the soy sauce-basted grilled dumplings, made with 100 percent non-glutinous rice powder, and Japanese-Western parfaits of sweet potato paste and agar.

【Kanmi Sabo Kasuga】
Address:6-1 Saiwai-cho, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama Prefecture (The north side of the Kawagoe Branch of Saitama Resona Bank)

There is also a spot famous for sweets in Kawagoe. It is none other than Kashiyayokocho, a stone-paved street inlaid with multicolored glass, that is home to 22 confectionery shops and dagashiya (small shops selling inexpensive treats to children). Filled with various sweets and dagashi, it carries forth the simple, old-fashioned flavors of Japan, including savory grilled soy sauce, cinnamon, peppermint candy, dumpling, hard candy and karume-yaki. The people who keep it going are also appealing. With their warm smiles and vigorous barker cries, they warmly and energetically welcome visitors. Anyone who walks this street will become fascinated and get excited like a child.

Finally, you will return to Hon-Kawagoe Station by bus. Then you will get on the Seibu Railway and return to Shinjuku. You may find yourself drifting off to sleep on the train on the way home. But the destination is the terminal station of Shinjuku. So you don't have to worry about passing it.

Well, it's finally time to talk about the SEIBU RAIL PASS, a bargain ticket just for all of you travelers. It is good for one round trip from Seibu-Shinjuku Station to Hon-Kawagoe Station. With this ticket, a round-trip that normally costs 1,000 yen is just 700 yen, so there is no sense in not using it. And the design of the ticket itself is good to boot. It is in the shape of the kind of amulet one gets at Shinto shrines, and the characters on the front are in gold leaf. Unlike regular passenger tickets, you can take this one home with you after using it, so it is perfect as a keepsake.

The itinerary we presented in this article is just one example. We could not talk here about all the fascinating sights Kawagoe has to see. If you go it is certain to meet your expectations. If you think your travel plans are getting too busy or you want to visit an authentic historical town, by all means consider Kawagoe.

▼CO-EDO Loop Bus

There is a fixed-route bus that departs from and arrives at the west entrance-exit of Kawagoe Station and links the famous tourist destinations of Kawagoe, including Kita-in temple, Kura-no-machi and Kashiyayokocho. It covers two routes, the Kita-in Route and the Kura-no-Machi Route. Whichever you choose, it will be useful for visiting the tourist destinations showcased in this article. If you display your one-day unlimited ride passenger ticket at participating shops in the Koedo area, you will receive food, souvenirs or discounts. The announcements inside the bus are offered in English and Chinese in addition to Japanese, so visitors to Japan can use the bus without worry.

▼About sales of the SEIBU RAIL PASS

Check the following Seibu Railway website for sales outlets:

【Price】 700 yen (adult-use only)
【Validity period】 the day it is stamped for use only
【Coverage area】 One round trip from Seibu-Shinjuku or Takadanobaba station to Hon-Kawagoe Station and back.
【Usage method】 Get the date stamped in the stamp box at the bottom of your SEIBU RAIL PASS at Seibu-Shinjuku Station or Takadanobaba Station on the day you will use the pass, and when you use it pass through the manned open counter gate at the station.

The following information is for Taiwanese people:
The SEIBU RAIL PASS will be on sale at the booths of Lion Travel and Cola Tours at the 2015 Taipei Tourism Expo to be held in Taipei from May 22 to 25, 2015.
As a special benefit only available at the TTE, a free “CO-EDO Loop Bus” ticket will be given to those who purchase a SEIBU RAIL PASS.

Have a fun time touring Koedo at a good price!