Kawagoe takes taste of Little Edo to the Big Apple



The Japanese consul general recently threw open the doors of his grand European-style home here to showcase Kawagoe, the famous castle town in Saitama Prefecture.

The first-time event cosponsored by Consul General Motoatsu Sakurai offered New Yorkers a taste and feel for the historic city.

Highlights included a lecture by noted food journalist Asako Kishi — well known for her role on TV’s “Iron Chef” — as well as music, dancing, a calligraphy demonstration and fashion show, all before a three-course meal showcasing local ingredients.

Sakurai, whose New York home is over a century old and has been used to host countless events, said none was “quite like this one.”

“Tonight, this town house on the East Side is transformed into the historic, Japanese castle town of Kawagoe,” he said in his opening remarks.

The stage was set even before the official program began as festively dressed drummers and musicians performed in the elegant foyer. Masked artisans also greeted guests who were seemingly transported into another world.

Known as Koedo (Little Edo), Kawagoe is located in western Saitama and has shared strong links with Tokyo, formerly known as Edo. Surrounded by rivers, it once used its waterways to transport supplies to the city and still retains much of its old character.

At the New York event, Kawagoe enthusiasts boasted how their hometown offers visitors a reprieve from modern, metropolitan Tokyo and provides a glimpse of a more traditional Japan. Billed as a place “where time stands still,” the city is well known for its castle, crafts, sweets and an annual festival that draws nearly a million visitors each October.

Referring to Kawagoe as a “secret diamond in the rough,” Masaru Yajima of the Koedo Kawagoe tourist promotion council spoke passionately about efforts to introduce the city to others.

“The spirit of old Japan can be felt less than an hour away,” Yajima said, explaining its accessibility from downtown Tokyo by bus or train. “We would love to welcome the Big Apple to Little Edo.”