Thursday, September 6, 2012

Christmas Shopping In Kawagoe.

It's so hot that just the thought of roaring fires and wooly sweaters makes me itch. I can't believe I actually just typed the words "Christmas shopping"! Usually, I wait till the last minute to buy and mailed our families' Christmas gifts.  This is a bad habit.  It's stressful. It's expensive. This year, I want to take advantage of that cheap, Parcel Post shipping deal!  I've got to have my gifts ready to be sent back to the States by November in order to do that, so the shopping has already started.

 Last year's holiday season was an incredibly stressful time.  Mr. TF came home right before Thanksgiving, his parents came to visit the first week of December, the squadron celebrated various shenanigans, and in between all that we had to buy and wrap gifts, and ship them off in time to make it to the States.  I am NOT doing that again.  I am a wiser Fox this time around!  I am buying presents now.

After this past weekend's delightful time of boating down the river, our tour bus drove us to Kawagoe.  I love Kawagoe.  We've visited this historical town for festivals and to visit the old, imperial residence; this time, the tour was specifically for shopping.  Without the crazy festival crowds, it was a different- but still charming- experience!

Kawagoe is famous for its historial district.  So much of Japan feels like one big slab of concrete.  Old shrines and temples are tucked here and there, but it can come as a shock at how little of "Old Japan" seems to still exist.  Earthquakes, war, and over-eager developers have all done too much meddling.  The buildings in Kawagoe, however, are exact replicas of 17th century Edo architecture, many of which date back to the 1800s. It's fun to walk down the streets and appreciate the buildings, but it's even more fun to go inside them!  The streets are packed with fun, traditional shops...the perfect places to get Christmas shopping done!

My favorite shop in Kawagoe is this cute, little textiles store. Not textiles as in bolts of fabric. Everything in this uber-kawaii shop is made out of beautiful, Japanese fabrics!  Bonus: it's all so cute I can hardly stand it.  Most of the stuff is totally this squishy sweet potato wearing a kimono...

Apparently, Kawagoe is in an area famous for sweet potatoes.

...but seriously, how cute would one of these little froggies look, sitting on a window ledge?

So cute, I was momentarily forgot that I wasn't buying Christmas presents for myself.  A little froggie, hiding under a clover leaf, is now beaming at me from my kitchen window sill.  

If only I had teenage nieces!  These shoes would have been a perfect gift!

This little bunny prince and princess set is for Hina Matsuri, or Girls' Day.  These would be a perfect gift for Little TF's cousin.  Too bad I already got her gift!  To visit this shop, head to the same side of the street as the old bell tower (you can't miss it), and keeping the tower behind you, go down the street to the right.

Maybe your friends and family would prefer something more tasty?  Just a few storefronts down from the too-adorable textile shop was this gourmet honey store.  All the flavors were available to taste, so it was quite awhile before I stopped licking the sampler spoons and picked one out.  The Kyohou Grape and Honey was delicious, as was the Mango and Honey.  Being a sucker for yuzu (A type of Asian citrus), however, I had to go with the Yuzu Mitsu.  Once again, I forgot that I wasn't shopping for myself.  Dang it!

I didn't have time for this shop, but the last time we visited Kawagoe, we bought a small painting for our house.  On the opposite side of the street from the honey store, this is a great place to come for prints and hanging scrolls!

Japanese knives scare me.  The only thing I know about Japanese blades is that hundreds of years ago, the Spanish attempt to introduce Toledo swords to Japan was a miserable failure.  Japanese metalworkers' swords were that superior.  If this country can produce swords that good, I have no business fumbling around with one of their knives.  But if you want to buy one, Kawagoe has a shop!

Lots of ceramics and traditional footwear...

...and umbrellas.  My mom bought one here when she visited.  She gets many compliments back home!

Getting tired and thirsty? There are plenty of cute restaurants and cafes!

Kawagoe's bell tower is a replica of the original.  That painting and scroll shop mentioned above sells several beautiful woodblock prints that illustrate this famous landmark!

I don't know what this sign says.  I just thought it was beautiful with all those morning glory vines.

Can anyone translate?

The shop sure to delight everyone on your Christmas shopping list lies on opposite side of the street as the bell tower.  This store not only sells gorgeous chopsticks, but it can also engrave them in English or Japanese.  

Of course, fabulous chopsticks demand fabulous chopstick rests.

Beautiful chopstick sets take the stress out of choosing from so many options!

Want to take your chopsticks on a picnic?  This store sells absolutely beautiful bento boxes.  I love that these big ones come with spiffy handles!

And for kids (and adults) who haven't quite gotten the hang of chopstick eating? These genius chopsticks will save beginners from throwing down their utensils in frustration!

Kawagoe's not just famous for shopping. It is also one of Japan's famous festival destinations.  We went to this festival two years ago, and it was amazing.  Enormous floats, many of which have been designated Important Cultural Properties, are danced through the streets.  Expect huge crowds, swinging lanterns, festival food, and lots of noise!  The festival is celebrated on the third weekend of every October, so get it on your calendar, now!

Other fun places near Kawagoe's main street include Confectionary Row and the Festival Museum.  A short bus ride away is the famous Kitain temple and an old residence of one of the Shoguns.  Click here for excellent instructions on how to get to Kawagoe from Tokyo, and how to get around the city once you're there.

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!

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