Kawagoe Kitain (Kita-in / Kita Temple) Kawagoe – One of my favorite local places to bring visitors in Autumn is Kita-in Temple in Kawagoe. On the grounds of Kitain there is a very special building, which is home to some important national treasures. The Kyaku-den (guest hall) is the only remains of the Edo Castle living quarters. When they were rebuilding Kitain after a fire completely destroyed it, the Shogun Iemitsu ordered the transport of some of the rooms from his Edo Castle. They were transported by boat along the Arakawa and Shingashi Rivers, presumably through Sembagashi. The current building were completed in 1640 and is a Nationally Important Cultural Building.
Furthermore, apart from the Edo castle remains, which you need to pay into, there are several other areas of interest. And where you can appreciate Autumn’s beauty for free. And they all bloom at different times between early November and mid December. Meaning a visit to Kitain in Autumn is definitely worth it. Moreover, just a few minutes walk away there are even more autumn viewing spots.
Autumn Leaves at the Kyaku-den
The entrance to the Kyaku-den is in the building to the right of Kitain (main hall). You enter through the Kuri, where the reception is. The Shoin, a drawing room, is to the side. It also has a garden, but with stone features. The building is both beautiful and fascinating, but the gardens are truly breathtaking. Particularly in Autumn. Throughout the year there are some truly beautiful scenes to be captured around the temple and the Edo Castle remains, but it is like the gardens were designed especially to awe in Autumn. Quite possibly they were! Unfortunately, most of my photos were only taken with a camera phone, but they will give you a taste of what is on offer.
The building is a museum of sorts, and you have to pay to enter. You can’t actually enter the gardens, just enjoy the view from the terrace of the historic house. The ticket also grants you access to the 500 statues of Rakan (400 yen in 2023) . There, children can take part in a treasure hunt of sorts.
With just a smart phone as a camera, you can’t quite see the beautiful red bridge, but in person the view is truly breathtaking. Red bridges have always been synonymous with Japan for me, but it is actually quite rare to see one. If you are in Kawagoe in Autumn, I would recommend paying in to see the gardens and the imperial rooms of the Edo castle at Kitain. Visitors from home always enjoy a trip to Kitain, particularly when the leaves have changed color. Prime viewing is from the latter half of November to early December. However, the leaves start to change color as early as the first or second week of November. Also, during the first three weeks of November there is also a chrysanthemum festival on the grounds of the temple:
The Koedo Kawagoe Chrysanthemum festival at Kita-in 2023
Added December 1st 2021. Having visited Kitain regularly in Autumn over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about the leaves in the area. For one, generally the first place you can see some colors of Autumn is at the Jigendo Hall. (The “Hitachi” building on the hill, which is a burial mound). There are some maple on the east stairs up to the top of the hill that change color in early November. Meanwhile the maple behind the temple, turn about two weeks later.
Around that time, in mid November, you can see the beautiful contrast of a gingko with green pine against the red gate of Senba Tosho-gu. Meanwhile the gingko at the playground on the grounds, doesn’t turn yellow until about a week after Senba Tosho-gu. At that time, the gingko at Senba Toshogu is generally still yellow, but the pine will have turned a fuzzy brown.
But my personal favorite autumn leaf spot on the grounds of Kawagoe Kitain (apart from the garden), is the maple by Dorobo Bridge at the west of the temple grounds. They are probably the last to turn that beautiful red color, generally from early to mid December. I personally find them really hard to photograph, above is the best photo I’ve managed to get…so far! Hopefully, this year I’ll get an even better one!
Kitain with kids
For those with children, there is a small playground on the temple grounds and lots of places for the children to explore. Moreover, there is a beautiful gingko tree in the playground, that turns golden yellow at the end of November.
There is also rest areas, a toilet, vending machines, a little restaurant and a small shop. To the best of my knowledge none of the toilets have nappy changing facilities.
Kawagoe Kita-in Temple Information
Address : 1-20-1 Kosemba-machi, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture. 350-0036
Hours : 9:00 – 16:00
Kitain Kawagoe is less than an hour from Tokyo. It is about a twenty minute walk from Kawagoe Station on the Tobu Tojo Line or 15 minutes from the Seibu Shinjuku Line HonKawagoe Station. You can also get a local bus from either of these stations. By car it is 20 minutes from either the Kawagoe Interchange of the Kanetsu Expressway or from the Kawajima Interchange of the Metropolitan Intercity (Ken-O) Expressway. Parking is available at 500 yen for three hours on a weekend and 200 yen for thefirst hour on a weekday and 100 yen per hour thereafter. The car park closes at 16.00.
Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information. Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease.
More information here:
Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya
- 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
- 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
- 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line. You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
- 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
- 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
- The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.
Access by Car
About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.
About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.
For more information about Kitain Temple and all it has to offer:
In English: https://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/english/
In Japanese: https://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/
There are some spectacular Autumn Leave photos on their website; https://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/information/annual-events/1201.html
More on Kitain on this blog:
- Kitain Temple Daruma Festival | KAWAGOE
- Setsubun: catching beans for good luck at Kitain Temple | KAWAGOE
- Cherry blossom festival at Kitain Temple