Tourists Love Koedo Kawagoe — and The City Doesn’t Know Why

Unseen Japan
4 min readFeb 16, 2024

Koedo Kawagoe’s Edo-era charm is attracting more tourists than ever better — but the city is at a loss to explain its sudden popularity.

Picture: 二匹の魚 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

A location outside of Tokyo that lets tourists soak up a piece of Edo-era Japan is even more popular than ever. That’s a surprise to the city, which can’t tell you why it’s become such a hotspot.

A piece of Edo Japan?

Picture: denkei / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

If you’re an Unseen Japan regular reader, it’s no surprise to you that tourism to Japan is booming. Tourists are spending more here than ever — and more are visiting than since even the pre-health crisis heyday of 2019. Sadly, that also means many popular tourist spots are dealing with congestion and bad manners.

As tourists flock in, many are looking for “authentic” Japan experiences that give them a taste of the country’s history and culture. So it’s little surprise that many find their way to one of Japan’s Old Edo, or “Little Edo” (小江戸; koedo) towns. These towns usually are one or more streets within a city that retain an Edo Era (1603–1868) feel in their architecture and shop facades.

The Edo Era was Japan’s longest period of peace after shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu united its warring fiefdoms into something resembling a country. Tokugawa’s carrot/stick approach to keeping his daimyo, or feudal rulers, close at hand prevented outright rebellion for over 250 years. During this time, the country saw an explosion of creativity that included the birth of art forms such as ukiyo-e woodblock printing and kabuki. Sushi in its (more or less) modern form also dates back to Edo.

In other words, a lot of what people imagine when they think of “Japan” dates back to this prosperous and productive area. Koedo towns are ideally situated to cater to that perception.

How Koedo became a tourist hotspot without even trying