Just half an hour from Ikebukuro is Kawagoe, a town in Saitama that is affectionately nicknamed “Coedo” or “Little Edo” for its resemblance to the Edo era. Many old buildings and landmarks untouched by war and fire still stand, and it’s a lovely place to visit for a day trip.
Unlike other hotspots like Senso-ji Temple and Kyoto, Kawagoe didn’t have many foreign tourists at all. Saitama, the prefecture just north of Tokyo, is often overlooked by visitors, but I recommend Kawagoe for its peaceful atmosphere.
Though a bit of a trek from the station, the attractive part of town is worth the walk. The cute buildings and the shouts of stall staff hard at work gave the streets a nostalgic atmosphere.
The Time Bell is a must-see; its chime is one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.
On every street, there was something to do or see, whether it was coffee, ice cream, or traditional toys to take home.
Walking around was thirsty work, so we stopped for a Coedo beer. Right opposite is a unique-looking Starbucks if you prefer coffee.
After exploring, we stopped for some food. My husband managed to bypass all the expensive touristy places and found a charming hole-in-the-wall ramen shop run by a little old lady. She had money all over the wall from visitors from various countries, and she only served one dish: shoyu (soy sauce)-based ramen, a signature type of noodles for this region.
This delicious and hearty bowl of ramen, plus a small bowl of rice with a little umeboshi plum, came to just 500 yen!
We also went to visit some temples, though I didn’t take any pictures aside from the enormous torii gate.
If you ever get the chance to visit Kawagoe, please do! It involves some walking, but it’s a really beautiful and peaceful area without the crowds you get at some other places.