Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Japanland: Little Edo

Last weekend we spent a Sunday afternoon in Little Edo, in downtown Kawagoe. 

I used to work around there and around Tokorozawa at the sick joke of a job I left a couple of months ago, happened upon an article about this area, and decided I wanted to go so I could think of Saitama as something other than a place full of nightmarish kindergartens I hated working at.

I didn't take a picture of it, but I stopped in a little handmade craft, accessory, and baked good shop called The Walnut Tree (くるみの木) that not only had very inexpensive little things that would make great souvenirs to bring or send back home, but all of their proceeds go toward assisting and caring for disabled people. We're talking wallets, pouches, and plush brooches made out of what I'm pretty sure is recycled kimono fabric, teensy baggies of shortbread cookies the size of water bottle caps, and so on.  

This cute and informative blog post about it has lots of photos and details, and you should be able to find it if you walk into Little Edo on the left side of the street.

"Oh, am I in the shot?"

Can anyone explain this childrens' shrine to me? Mostly it just comes off as creepy.

Most of the buildings, I'm pretty sure, date from the 18th and 19th centuries. 
There was also the Great Fire of Kawagoe in 1893, though, so I suspect the current incarnations of many of the structures are pretty recent.

Caught a rickshaw and a group of traditional archers passing each other

There were quite a lot of these large, cartoonish animal statues around...

... and I'm not entirely sure why lol (no, it was just bright out)

One of the main attractions of this little slice of historically relevant nostalgia is "Confectionary Row" or "Penny Candy Lane", an alley full of vendors selling traditional snacks, and often for less than 50 cents. It was so crammed full of very slow-moving Japanese tourists, though, that we hurried through it and wouldn't have been able to look at anything anyway.
I felt bad for taking a picture of this vendor without asking, but, well, giant sweaty writing mass of humanity pushing me along, you know.. Plus it's still way too hot for chestnuts!


The only giant animal statues that make sense, these are from the Choju-giga, a well-known picture scroll done by monks back in the 12th and 13th centuries that looks surprisingly like a modern comic strip. There are monkeys as monks, frolicking frogs and rabbits in court attire, and all kinds of silly things going on.

Terror bird and chameleon, though, are as much your guess as mine lol.

A rusty Bridgestone sign with a penny-farthing on it is about as vintage nostalgia as you can get, right?

Hannes' stomach is unfortunately pretty unhappy pretty often, so we stopped in the nearest cafe to sit down for a few, and it turned out to be a really intense, grandma's house-looking one.

Then we walked to the castle, the Kawagoe branch of the Tokugawa Shogunate 

"Buildings like this weren't made for people as tall as you!"

"You know what this bitch needs? More identical empty rooms. Boom!"

"Man, people back then were really small. I mean, I know they were smaller, but it's always surprising to see stuff like this."
"Yeah, it kind of takes the epicness and grandeur out of the classic image of a samurai battle when you imagine someone the size of a baby running at you full-speed."

We went across the street to the small but respectable city art museum, and instantly took a couple of pictures upon finding out we weren't allowed

And we caught this bad boy back to the main part of Koedo, which I'd seen online and was hoping to ride. It looks like a life-size die-cast toy and not the other way around.

And there.. There was a Ghibli store. There was also a Hello Kitty store I'd skipped earlier, but the gravitational pull was too strong with this one.

-heavy breathing-

After also grabbing a sweet potato cake and some super light fried tofu as snacks, we took a gander at the bell tower, which doesn't really have a whole lot going on in or around it. It was originally built between 1624 and 1644, but the current one dates from after the Great Fire.

Boom, girls in yukata plus bell tower plus couple posing for photo in rickshaw.
I reached my daily allotment of kitsch with this one.

Here's my swag, for some reason consisting almost entirely of pins. There are two little fabric owls on branches and a little dancing doll in a hat from The Walnut Tree, and I got a mystery Ghibli pin (soot sprites, yay!) as well. 
Hannes surprised me with the Totoro hair tie after we got home! He wanted to get me something bigger, but couldn't sneak it while we were both in the store! Aww.

As we were leaving, we noticed two young women talking to an older man sitting in a small park area with a colourful parrot. They were laughing and seemed really amused and impressed, and when the older man noticed us, he motioned for us to come over.

He didn't tell us the Amazon Bullhead (he thinks it is in English?) parrot's name, but he's had her for over 25 years!


She does such cute tricks, and is obviously very intelligent. He's been letting her fly around freely (though not all the time) for about 15 of those 25 years, and interestingly, she's largely forgotten how to talk since then, or doesn't want to anymore. Maybe she doesn't feel the need to communicate as much because she's fairly independent, or maybe flying around is just as interesting and enriching as practicing a trick like talking. 

It's crazy to think that this bird is the same age we are, and I hope that whatever almost certainly illegal and morally reprehensible stream of wildlife trade brought her into Japan dried up long ago.

Either way, it was all extremely charming, and she did say "Bye bye" to us when we left! 

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