Taisho Romanticism In Kawagoe

The Taisho era in Japan was from 1912 to 1926.
The romanticism in Europe inspired the era in various fields like literature, movie, policy and thought.
That is to say that Japanese adapted the Western style in their own way.

You can see that heritage in architecture which is used in various places even now.

In Kawagoe I can find them easily.

This is of a small restaurant into an alley.
This building is registered as a tangible cultural asset
The owner needs to report house’s maintenance to the government but he can receive the subsidy for repair.
You can enjoy eating a full-course meal of French cooking.

This is of a local bank.
This building was built in 1918 and is three-stories tall.
This building remained safely though the massive earthquake happened.

This is of a museum but it was built as an imported bicycle shop in 1915.

On the other hand among the old buildings there are a lot designed from eastern architecture.

Anyway the western and eastern style buildings exist side-by-side in Kawagoe city.


Local Retro Movie Theater In Kawagoe

The movie theater “Sukara-za” was opened a hundred years ago.

Info ‘Sukara-za”

In those days many masterpieces had been shown but the theater had closed three years ago.
Three months ago, this theater came back thanks to a local nonprofit organization.
The staff didn’t know how to run a theater at all.
The operational expenses were gathered by a lot of donations and local sponsors.
The staff held an event which the famous director talked about some movies.

Currently, this theater has been run by the NPO since for three years.

People who live in Kawagoe hope that this nostalgic movie theater remains open.
You can’t watch a latest movie but you can watch good old movie such as “Sound of Music” and Akira Kurosawa’s movies.
Besides you may feel a nostalgic sense in the theater.

Walking in Kawagoe City Part 3 “Passion For Styrofoam”

This topic is about styrofoam figure.
You can find various cute animals when you’re walking around Kawagoe City.

These animals are nearly as tall as human beings and look just like the real animals.
These animals are made out of styrofoam varnished to protect them from the rain.

It is interesting that these animals exist not only in public spaces such as public museums and roads but also in private space such as gardens of a house and shop.

I don’t know whether these figures fit into the cityscape
but I saw many people going close to them and taking a photo.

The man making these figures had worked at Kawagoe City Hall until two years ago.
He retired around fifty to make these figures.
I guess that he can’t live easily just by making these figures.
However, he seems happy that he can do only what he wants to do.
I envy his way of living and I want to plan for early retirement.

Walking in Kawagoe CIty Part 2 “Food”

One of the main reasons people go to Kawagoe City is to eat Kawagoe food.

They vary from snack to Japanese sake.
Adults can buy Japanese pickles and local beer.
Children can buy snacks and ice cream.

Anyway everyone can enjoy eating them at a bench or while walking as soon as you buy them.

For example we bought rice crackers which were divided in bite size pieces.
We bought it because they were sold at toward the road and smelled of good soy sauce.

You can also find some kinds of pickled plums.
You can try a food sample and hear about it in detail.

However the most famous ingredient in Kawagoe City seems to be sweet potato.
They are used in ice cream, doughnuts, soba, distilled spirit(shouchu) and other snacks.

We ate rice dumplings that contained purple sweet potato.
This color and taste is natural.All my family was satisfied with this rice dumplings because it doesn’t contain eggs.

burdock pickles
toasted soybean flour candy

We also bought toasted soybean flour candy and burdock pickles .
We could go on forever buying many foods.
We feel these foods are more delicious than they really are because they are displayed beautifully and smell good.

If you buy these souvenirs, you can really feel like a tourist.

Walking in Kawagoe City Part 1 ”Architecture”

During the Golden Week, tons of people go to various tourist spots.
The road is so congested that we can’t go to far place easily.
So I went to a near tourist spot, Kawagoe City, with my family yesterday.

Of course many people also went to this city to do sightseeing.

I walked around and observed the various styles of traditional architectures again.

This is handmade soba noodles shop.
This architecture, which is registered as a tangible cultural asset, was built in 1930.
Western design old architectures is rare in Kawagoe City.
Even now this shop is popular as you can eat delicious soba noodle.

This is an eel(unagi) shop.
You can find various eel shops in this city and some shops have been opened since 1800.
I love eel set menu but I can’t eat it often because it’s expensive.

This is Kashiya(snack) street. Kasi means snack.
In the past craftsman had made traditional candy in this street.
You can buy various nostalgic snacks, such as candy, rice crackers and dried potatoes.
I guess that this street is the most crowded because of its narrow alley(roji).
People seem to be attracted by this crowded place.

This black building is used as post office.
This black color is like an “Kura” which is a storehouses made of roof tile and clay.

If you’ll build a building in this district, you need to think about the building design
to match the city scape.

It’s interesting that everyone uses an old architectures to repair or reuse for their own purposes.
Or they seem to talk about other architects.

It’s a good vision they have in common that they should preserve this townscape better.
These mindest gives this city the power to compete with other tourist spot.
This city can improve more due to a lot of people visiting there.
This tourist traffic is supported by citizens, merchants and public officers.

I’ll write about Kawagoe food next post. See you next post.

Kawagoe City 01
Kawagoe City 02

Kawagoe-city 02 the history of a traditional area

Today I continue to write the history of a traditional area in Kawagoe-city.

Kawagoe-city had many big fires since Edo era.(※1)
Especially the big fire in 1893, more than one third houses were destroyed by fire.
So merchants built many “Kura”(※2) in Meiji Era(※3) which were resistant to fire.
“Kura” were usually used as storage but the merchants in Kawagoe-city used “Kura” as their shops.

In the 1960s, some merchants tore down their “Kura” because they thought that
“Kura” were darkish inside and inconvenience to use.
Besides the center of the commercial zone moved
from this traditional area to a place near the new railway station.

In the 1970s, it reached a turning point. Some “Kura” were designated as national cultural assets.But at first the merchants couldn’t believe that “Kura” were valuable and many people came to see the “Kura” .
Later both the city government and citizens began to protest
when high-rise apartments were proposed by developers.

In the 1980s, a citizen’s organization was established to boost local development.
Merchants thought that activated commercial area was more important than they saved “Kura” .At long last the merchants in association with specialists drew up a ” development standard”.

This standard was inspired by pattern language wrriten by Christopher Alexander(※4)
which contained city and architectural design guidelines.
For example city design guidelines was written on “feeling a familiar green” and “living and
working at same location. “And architecture design guidelines was written on “height”, “natural and local material”and “shape”.

Later visual design guidelines wew introduced and Kawagoe-city was subsequently designated a protected district with traditional architectural value.
Citizenz could see more blue sky as aresult of the electric cables were built underground,

The movement thrived around this area.
For example “Taisho Roman”(※5) avenue where some Eropean architecture with
nostalgic atmosphere were preserved.

Now more than four million people come to see Kawagoe-city every year.

I hope that you can understand clearly what I mean.

(※1) Edo era:a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of
the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868.

(※2) Kura: storehouses made of roof tile and clay.
(※3) Meiji Era:Japanese era which extended from september 1868 through July 1912.
(※4) Christopher Alexander:architect
(※5) Taisho Roman:nearly Taisyo era

Kawagoe-city 01

If I tell about Kawagoe-city in a few words, I say that this city is composite of the traditional area and the commercial area.

This city has been a typical castle town since 1457.
A castle town contains a castle, a residential area for samurai, a housing area for merchants, a temple and a highway.
Their structure is still under the influence of using lands.
・The samurai residential area is a large area which is used for the city hall, the museum, and the baseball ground.
・The merchant houses which have narrow sides are still have been used for traditional shops.(This area is a traditional area.)
・The railroad station was built outside the castle town.
・The commercial area were made between the castle and the station.

The mayor of Kawagoe said

“The history and traditions of Kawagoe are alive and to this day remain important to the residents as well as visitingtourists, and they are seen in the impressive “Kura-zukuri”★, traditional architecture, and the Kawagoe Festival. A greatnumber of tourists visit Kawagoe each year.””

★A “Kura” is a storehouses made of roof tile and clay.

But Kawagoe-city wasn’t famous thirty years ago.
Later I will write the history of the town development in the traditional area.

Kawagoe map