Vegetarian's Japan Guide

A Guide to Kawagoe Castle and the Historical Spots Nearby

To fully understand the history of Kawagoe, a visit to Kawagoe Castle is a must. Whilst only the castle’s Honmaru remains today, a few museums were built where the castle’s outer citadel used to be. Together, these facilities paint a picture of the history behind the gorgeous old warehouse district. And the great news is there are set ticket deals for you to save on admission fees!

Below is a list of Kawagoe’s traditional township’s four major historical and cultural attractions.

Click HERE for more information about the set ticket deals for the above four attractions.

Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace (川越城 本丸御殿)

Kawagoe Castle, built in 1457, is the only original Honmaru Palace in eastern Japan. The castle was constructed to oppose the Ashikaga clan (足利氏) under the order of Uesugi Mochitomo (上杉持朝), the lord of the Sagami Province (today’s Kanagawa Prefecture) at the time.

Ironically, after the castle was taken by the Hōjō clan (北条家) in 1537, the Uesugi clan joined hands with the Ashikaga clan in an attempt to get the castle back in 1546.

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

In the Sengoku period (1467 – 1590), Kawagoe Castle was first under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s force, then under Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the Edo period (1603 – 1867), it was treated as the important defence line of northern Edo. So, the lords of Kawagoe Castle were all senior vassals of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace wasn’t just the residence of the lord of Kawagoe Castle and where he performed political affairs. It was also where Kawagoe Domain’s senior vassals were stationed. Because of this, the palace used to be a large complex of 16 buildings of more than 3,300 square meters in the Edo Period. Among the 12 Castles With the Original Castle Tower, Tenshu (天守), remaining standing, Kawagoe Castle is one of the only two castles that still has the castle palace (the other one is the Kochi Castle (高知城)).

While only a small part of the palace remains after most were dismantled in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the castle was still chosen as one of Japan’s Top 100 Castles. It is just amazing to walk through the rooms and halls to admire the architecture, paintings, and interior decorations. All current buildings were constructed in 1848, after the lord’s living quarter, Ninomaru (the outer citadel), was burned down in a fire hazard.

When You Are at Kawagoe Castle, Honmaru Palace

If you have stayed in a Japanese ryokan, it can be fun to compare the facilities in the palace with a ryokan room. The toilet, for example, will probably be the place in the residence to make you scratch your head and still not know how the samurais back then finish their private businesses (´▽`*).

Also, don’t be surprised if you see three guys dressed in the samurai outfit in one of the rooms. As much as they look like real humans, they are just dioramas. The room is where important meetings used to take place.

English information is available, and the staff there usually speak good English. They might even be able to give you a simple English tour around the palace!

Kawagoe Castle was built in 1457 under the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the guy who established the Tokugawa shogunate and started the Edo period. The palace is adjacent to the Kawagoe City Museum. Although small, it is an informative place to discover the history and many interesting facts about Kawagoe. The two attractions complement each other, and the facilities offer package pricing.

Kawagoe Castle is also known as Kirikakure-Jō (霧隠城), a castle hidden in the mist. The name came from an escape tactic. There are many ruins of the well at the outer citadel. While the castle didn’t need so many wells, they were dug so that the samurais could hide in the wells and blow out mist to hide the castle when it was under siege.

Kawagoe Castle Homaru Palace’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except for Mondays and the 4th Friday of each month, unless it is a public holiday.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
    • If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next business day.
    • The palace is also closed from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.
  • The admission fee is
    • 100 yen for adults
    • 50 yen for senior high school and university students
  • To get to Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace, take Tobu Bus West (東武バスウエスト) from Kawagoe Station (川越駅) or Honkawagoe Station (本川越駅), and get off at Fuda no Tsuji (札の辻). It is then a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.
  • If you take the CO-EDO Loop Bus (小江戸巡回バス), get off at Honmaru Goten-mae (本丸御殿).
  • If you take the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus (小江戸名所めぐりバス), get off at Hakubutsukan-mae (博物館前).

Kawagoe City Museum (川越市立博物館)

Kawagoe City Museum and Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace are the two attractions that go hand in hand. After you are amazed by the palace’s intricate decorations, head into the museum opposite the castle for the city’s history, including more details about the castle. Dioramas are used to recreate how the castle town used to look. Items from the castle, such as folding screens, can also be found in the museum.

The museum is constructed on Kawagoe Castle’s outer citadel ruins. The exhibition gives visitors a comprehensive understanding of the long history of Kawagoe, from primitive times to modern periods, focusing on the Edo and Meiji periods when Kawagoe prospered the most. From the model of the entire castle town, it won’t be hard to gather how prosperous Kawagoe was a few hundred years ago. The construction process of the Kura-zukuri (traditional warehouse) architectural style can also be easily understood by examining the full-scale models on display.

In addition, you can discover how the town’s traditional storage and warehouses were constructed with large-scale models. Special exhibits and workshops may also be held during your visit.

Tips:
☛ Check with the museum to see if any English-speaking staff are stationed on the day for you to get more out of the interactive exhibits.
☛ Free coin-operated lockers are available in the museum. You will need a 100 yen coin to use it, but this will be returned to you. If your bag doesn’t fit into the lockers, ask the staff for an alternative option.

Kawagoe City Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kawagoe City Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except for Mondays and the last Friday of the month, unless it is a public holiday.
    • Refer to the museum’s calendar HERE. The museum won’t open on the circled days.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
  • The admission fee is
    • 200 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for senior high school and university students
  • The museum is just opposite Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace.
  • If you take the CO-EDO Loop Bus (小江戸巡回バス), get off at Hakubutsukan Bijutsukan-mae (博物館美術館前).

Kawagoe City Art Museum (川越市立美術館)

Kawagoe City Art Museum next to Kawagoe City Museum is a facility that exhibits artworks of artists related to Kawagoe. While it isn’t a big museum, it is filled with different kinds of artworks, including landscape paintings and sculptures.

There is also a touch art corner, so even the visually impaired can enjoy the small museum!

Kawagoe City Art Museum’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kawagoe City Art Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
    • Refer to the museum’s calendar HERE for the highlighted days it won’t open.
  • The admission fee is
    • 200 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for senior high school and university students
  • If you take the CO-EDO Loop Bus (小江戸巡回バス), get off at Hakubutsukan Bijutsukan-mae (博物館美術館前).

Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan (川越まつり会館)

Ⓒ photo-ac.com

If you can’t visit Kawagoe on the 3rd weekend for the Kawagoe Festival (川越氷川祭), visit Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan for a taste of the energy of this traditional festival. The museum is the best place to get a good understanding of this UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ユネスコ無形文化遺産) and Kawagoe’s history.

The Matsuri Kaikan has two of the 6-meter tall festival floats used in the actual festival on display at all times. It is where you can examine the intricate works of the craftsmen up close. There are also photos and videos of past festivals exhibited in the museum. So in a sense, you get back a lot more than attending the actual festival by visiting Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan!

On Sundays and public holidays, you can also enjoy the live performance of the traditional musical accompaniment performed during the festival. On other days, you can still listen to and compare different traditional musical accompaniments in the museum.

Important: The live performance is terminated until further notice due to COVID-19.

The History of the Kawagoe Festival

Kawagoe Festival’s history is relatively short compared to other big festivals in Japan. The first Kawagoe Festival was only held in 1651 for the sake of having a festival in Kawagoe.

The lord of the Kawagoe Domain wasn’t happy that his prosperous domain had no festivals, so he ordered one to be held. Originally, Kawagoe Festival was an annual event of the Hikawa Shrine, but it soon developed into a massive event involving splendid festival floats due to the influence of Edo (today’s Tokyo).

Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan is open from
    • 9:30 am to 6:30 pm from April to September
    • 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from October to March
    • The last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
  • The museum closes on the 2nd and the 4th Wednesday and from the 29th of December to the 1st of January.
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students
  • Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan is around a 15-minute walk from Saibu Railway’s Honkawagoe Station (本川越駅) and a 20-minute walk from Tobu Railway’s Kawagoeshi Station (川越市駅).

There are several set tickets that you can consider purchasing. The set tickets are valid for six months for one entry to each facility.

  • Kawagoe City Museum + Kawagoe City Art Museum: 300 yen (150 yen for students)
  • Kawagoe City Museum + Kawagoe City Art Museum + Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace: 370 yen (180 yen for students)
  • Kawagoe City Museum + Kawagoe City Art Museum + Kawagoe Castle Honmaru Palace + Kawagoe Matsuri Kaikan: 600 yen (400 yen for students)

Exploring Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street

On the way to Kawagoe Castle, you might walk past Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street. The street is a great spot in Kawagoe to visit first for a vibe of the different periods in Japan, from the present to the Taishō period, then to the Edo period. So how about visiting a few shops and cafés on the street that are filled with the Taishō era vibe?

If that sounds like a good idea, refer to our Guide to the Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street!

Taisho-Roman-Yume-dori-Kawagoe-Saitama-Japan
Click the photo to find out more about the recommended spots on Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street!

The Must-Visit Spots on Kura no Machi Ichibangai Street

Kashou-Umon-Toki-no-Kane-Shop-Kawagoe-Saitama-Japan
Click the photo for more information about the shops and cafes on Kura no Machi Ichibangai Street!

After visiting Kawagoe Castle, how about enjoying some delicious desserts on the old township’s main street Kura no Machi Ichibangai?

While sweet potato might not sound too exciting for some, the locals have their way of turning the ordinary ingredient into something extremely yummy!

For more information, refer to our Kura no Machi Ichibangai Street article!

Other Attractions in Kawagoe

Besides the historical attractions, shops, and restaurants, Kawagoe also has temples and shrines, workshops, and museums that might interest you.

So refer to our Guide to the Little Edo, Kawagoe, for more travel ideas!

Toki-no-Kane-Kawagoe-Saitama-Japan

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