Kawagoe is often referred to as Little Edo and was the next destination of Boccellari-sensei’s excursions. The city’s Toki no Kane (Bell of Time) and love for traditional Japanese sweets and confectionery sets it apart from the Tokyo everyone thinks of.
At first glance, Kawagoe seemed like any regular city in Tokyo. It had strip malls , but upon arriving at the temples, we started to see a change in scenery. Now after going to temple after temple throughout the year it’s easy to say that every temple is the same and to fall asleep at each explanation. For most of us, however, the most exciting parts of the trip was going to all of these temples and listening to the stories behind them.
Our walk brought us to the Buddhist Temple Kita-in. Rows and rows of statues representing the disciples of the Buddha are found in one corner of the temple. All together, there are 540 statues and they are called the 500 rakan (Japanese term for those who have reached nirvana). No two statues look the same and facial expressions range from uncontrollable laughter to crouching in loneliness. In recognition of the Chinese Zodiac system, there are statues representing each animal and if one finds his statue, it is said he gets good luck for the year.
Different from most temples, Kita-in boasts a lot of rooms and walking space. It gives off the feeling that not much has changed since the Edo Period. Moving outside to the main street, we ran into lines of traditional Japanese confectionery shops all offering different types of Japanese snacks.
Traveling to new places means new flavors and potato was clearly the theme most shops stuck to in Kawagoe. After a long walk around the city, most of us headed towards the ice cream shops. Murasaki Imo, purple potato, is one of the area’s most popular flavors. All the shops specialized in different sweets and some of the more adventurous AIKOM bought cotton candy bread larger than french bread one would find in the States. Most of us questioned the taste of the bread but it was a good way to satisfy our sweet tooth before heading off to another izakaya with Sensei and his students.