You won't find Kawagoe city on a list of must see places in Japan nor on any travel company's itinerary. That is a shame because it is a wonderful place to visit and is only 30 minutes away from Tokyo by train.
Kawagoe was an important commercial town during the Edo period. It flourished as both a center for goods and a trading center on the road to Tokyo. Today the town is mostly noted for its kurazukuri style buildings.
Japan was continuously ravaged by fire throughout its history. Wealthy Japanese often built massive storage buildings of fireproof walls and roofs known as kura or kurazukuri as a way to protect their belongings and food during these fires. You often see kura in towns, villages and farms. In Kawagoe, the properous merchants could afford such structures and built them to store the goods bound for Edo and also built their own stores in this manner as well. Kawagoe boasts many of these structures and many line the main street which is referred to as Kurazukuri Street. Today these kura house many art and crafts shops, coffee and tea houses, restaurants and museums. There is also an important temple in the town.
Kitain Temple in Kawagoe was an important temple during the Edo period and was also important to the commercial history of the town. In the 1600's the temple was destroyed by a fire and the Shogun helped in the rebuilding of the temple. He donated structures from the Edo Castle to help rebuild and a canal was built to move these sbuildings from Edo to Kawagoe. This canal became an important commercial route and contributed to the wealth of the town.
At the temple is a collection of Gohyaku Rakan Statues. There are over 500 stone statues of the disciples of Buddha, each with its own facial expression and pose representing the life of that disciple. It is said that at night you will find a statue that is warm among the others and it is the one that most resembles you.
© Travels with Charlie