Kawagoe

If you have an interest in traditional Japanese architecture and can’t get out of the Tokyo area, Kawagoe city in Saitama Prefecture is definitely worth a visit. It’s an old castle town and has quite a few old kura (stone buildings) and an interesting temple called Kita-in. Kura were originally small stone storehouses that were built beside a person’s house to store valuables in. Most Japanese buildings were made of wood, but the kura’s stone construction helped to prevent fire and theft. In Kawagoe, however, the kura have evolved into regular shops and houses. Kura were very expensive to build, and they were only common in wealthy commercial centers, such as Kawagoe, which provided rice and timber to nearby Edo (modern-day Tokyo). There used to be about 200 kura in Kawagoe, but, now, just a few dozen remain. Most of them are in the “Kura-zukuri” zone north of the station. Kawagoe doesn’t compare with Shirakawa-go, Takayama, or the old post towns of the Naka-sendo, because most of the houses are on crowded streets with heavy traffic, but some of the buildings are gorgeous. Kawagoe’s symbol is the Toki no Kane, the Bell of Time. Built between 1624 and 1643, it was destroyed three times in the numerous fires that swept through the city. The latest incarnation was rebuilt in 1893. You can’t actually go in it, but everyone stops...

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