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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

#carmenxjapan Day 3: Koedo Kawagoe

If you've read my travelogs, I like to visit heritage sites, or heritage towns in particular. Not because I have any interest in history, but I am always fascinated by buildings that survived through times. The idea that there's a past where I didn't exist but was lived by other people is sometimes surreal. But these ancient buildings feels like a bridge that connects the modern to the past, a monument to convince me that history is real. Before we decided on going to Tokyo, I was trying to convince my friends to visit Kyoto instead because Tokyo seems too very modern. As much as I love shopping and eating, I really hope to visit somewhere old, somewhere ancient. But thanks to Mr. Google again, Kawagoe, a city located an hour away from Tokyo was my answer to heritage sightseeing. Got a glimpse of Japan at 200 to 400 years back.

Shinjuku to Kawagoe
Kawagoe is a city located in Saitama Prefecture and is accessible via JR trains from Shinjuku Station. The almost one hour train journey brought us to Kawagoe Station. From the station, there's many bus services that brings you to the different sightseeing attractions in Kawagoe. See the sightseeing map here. Due to the limited time we had, we decided to only visit the Kurazukuri zone which is an area of ancient shophouses from Edo-period. Had a great time strolling the old street, checking out the shops and clicking the shutter. Instagrammers, I'm sure you will love this place! Even if you are not into taking photos, Kawagoe is a great place to spend a quiet and blissful afternoon. 

1. Rinkeiji Temple 莲馨寺

A shophouse next to Rinkei-ji, dont you think it looks like something that belongs to the world of Doraemon? 

Turns out it's an eatery that sells Kushi-dango (200yen) which is rice dumpling coated with sweet soy sauce. Honestly it was the aroma that attracted us but the taste is not something I'm used to. Can you imagine salty soy sauce with sweet rice dumpling? 



2. Nakacho (Kurazukuri Zone)
This is the main street with the old kura houses lining on both sides. You'll find cafes, teahouses, souvenir stores housed in all these beautiful ancient buildings. Kawagoe is also known for sweets and snacks, especially those made from sweet potatoes. Be sure to bring some home, but do note that most of the shops closes by 5pm so do your shopping before that. 

In Edo period, shophouses are built in this architecture style known as Kurazukuri. Black exterior with the signature black tiled roof which is said to prevent fires. 


3. Tsubaki Kura 椿の蔵
A beautifully restored shophouse which sells all things Japan. Nostalgic toys, crystals, perfume etc But the stuff they sell is not the main point, the interior of the shop is really pretty and you could really see the structure and style of Kura houses. 



at the back of the shophouse is a courtyard for foot spa which is great for photos as well haha 


4. Unagi Daikoku 
Apparently Unagi Rice is a popular delicacy in Kawagoe. I have always been a big fan, love the soft, greasy and fragrant fish with chewy rice. Found Unagi Daikoku, a restaurant that specializes in this delicacy at the Kashiya Yokocho. The Unagi Rice is probably the most expensive meal I had in Japan but the dining experience in a beautifully restored ancient shoplot with great service (and we had the whole dining area to ourselves!) was certainly worth it. 

We were told that the unagi rice will take 20 minutes to prepare and so we did what we love most. 

The Japanese style interior was great for photos

I have no idea why we did this haha


Unagi Don (1933yen)
You have to try this. The Unagi rice that I used to have in MY or SG is usually coated in sweet and thick teriyaki sauce. But this, the grilled eel had minimal soy sauce as seasoning but it doesn't taste any less in fact it has a very rich and satisfying flavor. What a great companion with the soft and chewy rice. Dining is such a joy when you have food like this. 

Yakitori Skewers (297yen)
Grilled chicken skewers, tender chicken with a slightly charred flavor. It's good as well. 

Not very sure about Japanese dining culture but they served green tea before our meal and subsequently served hojicha and that's why you see that amount of teacups LOL

All that happiness written on our faces 

5. Kashiya Yokocho 菓子屋横丁
Also known as the Penny Candy Lane, this alley got its name for having many traditional candy shops that sells sweets, rice crackers and even ice cream. 



Sweet Potato Soft Serve (300yen)
Our dessert after lunch. A combo of purple sweet potato and yellow sweet potato flavored soft serve. Mildly sweet and super syok. 

More instagrammable sights along: 


6. Toki no kane (Time Bell Tower) 
This is a symbolic heritage from Edo-period. From what I've learnt in Osaka's Museum of Living, a typical Edo-period neighborhood will have its bell tower which tells its citizens the time of the day. Even in 200 years ago, reporting time has been done in an efficient way to benefit everyone. Glad to be seeing something that used to be so important. 

At the base of the bell tower

7. Taisho-roman Street 
Away from the Edo-period and one step into the future. The buildings at Taisho-roman street tend to have more western influence, giving you a glimpse into another era.  

The Kawagoe Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Feels like one of those retro movie sets.

At dusk, the pretty street lights added more charm to the Kura shophouses. Sorry my camera didn't do justice to how mesmerizing the ancient houses looked like. Too bad most of the shops were closed :( I wouldn't mind staying there, find myself a coffee shop and admire these pretty buildings. 

Reluctantly left Kawagoe and head back to Tokyo to visit the tech and entertainment hub. Odaiba is a district on a man-made island, with plenty of shopping malls and technology-related establishments. Apart from fancy shopping malls, the reason why I really wanted to visit Odaiba is because of the mega Gundam statue! Not like I followed any Gundam stories but I really love putting up Gundam models, thought I could buy some in Odaiba haha. But turns out we were at the exactly wrong time to visit. We arrived at Odaiba at 9pm, expecting that a shopping district is usually opened till late. But we were dead wrong, at 9pm, the whole area looks, quiet. Totally nothing like what we saw in Shinjuku. DiverCity, the mall that hosts the Gundam statue was already closed. To add on to my disappointment, the Gundam statue was removed just recently T T and will only return in autumn. Why????!!! Why out of all time you have to remove the statue this year???? Should have double checked on this so don't repeat our mistakes ya! Anyways I suppose the Odaiba area is still a great place to hang out in daylight. Remember to visit early and do check on the updates on the Gundam statues at various travel sites.  I didn't take many photos because there really wasn't much to see, hope to visit again in the day. 

Japan is truly land of ferris wheel, won't take you too much effort to find these colorfully spinning wheels. 

At the Odaiba Seaside Park, observed the Rainbow Bridge which connects Odaiba to Tokyo Mainland

Fuji TV's futuristic headquarters! I remember seeing this in the Jap dramas opening and closing credits. 

Dinner of the night: Mcdonald's Ginger Pork Burger meal (500yen)
In Japan, you can have nuggets as your sides instead of fries, and you can have latte as your drink without any extra charge. Why so niceeeeee???!!

Strolling along old streets and enjoying the nostalgic atmosphere was Day 3. Next, rain cannot stop us from a hipster day out.  

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