Kitain is the only major temple/shrine to visit in Kawagoe. There are always a lot of little temples and shrines all over the town but Kitain is the most important and the largest. Finding it was not too difficult but the signage is not great and if you are like me, you will most likely end up entering from the back entrance. If you have been to several other temples or shrines, there really isn’t a lot that is new in this one, unless you pay the admission fee, but it is still nice to get away from the crowds.
Kitain is about 15 minutes away from the main areas of Kawagoe. It is 15 minutes from the station and 15 minutes from the warehouse district. When I visited, I came from the warehouse district a little to the north of Kitain. I headed to what I thought would be the entrance, the west side, but I was mistaken. The main entrance is actually on the east side, the opposite side to the main street connecting Kawagoe Station and the warehouse district.
When I arrived at the edge of the temple, there was a big fence with razor wire as well as signs talking about the area being a nature sanctuary. I had a hard time believing it as it was also a temple ground area. I could only assume they were protecting the small habitat for rare or endangered birds. I heeded the warnings and walked south to the back entrance. The back entrance has no signs telling you that you are going to Kitain. I thought it was a small access to trails for the nature preserve but it was actually the entrance to Kitain. When I saw the temple, I had to double check that I was actually at the temple.
The temple itself is not very special to me. The main building is grand and interesting enough if you have never seen a Japanese temple before. I did enjoy the fact that it was pretty empty compared to the warehouse district. Kitain was full of school kids and a few other tourists. I was able to just enjoy the peace a little but I had things I wanted to see and do.
After visiting the main temple, I walked around and took photos of the adjacent buildings and the small 2 story pagoda. To the right of the main building is the entrance to the main attraction of Kitain. When Kitain burned down in the 1600s, they transported some of the old palace buildings of Edo Castle, in Tokyo, in order to help rebuild Kitain quickly. You have to pay 400 yen to walk around inside and no photos are allowed. I didn’t bother as I just wanted my Goshuin (stamp book) to be stamped. The admission also allows you entry into the Gohyaku Rakan area.
Gohyaku Rakan stands for 500 statues, I believe. They are located next to the pagoda, adjacent to a small gift shop. I couldn’t read the signs perfectly but I believe it said that you must have purchased a ticket to the old palace buildings before you can enter. I decided to stay outside and took a simple photo from the outer gate.
If you are visiting Kitain, you are better off heading south towards Senba Toshogu Shrine. It is right next door, and if you are coming from the entrance, there is a small wooded path to the left. There was a really small inari shrine on a small pond that was fun to visit for a few minutes as well as the main shrine. Unfortunately the shrine was closed to the public when I went but it was really quiet compared to Kitain and worth a quick break from the sun.
Kitain is a nice place to visit and a good way to get away from the crowds in the main areas of Kawagoe. I really liked it but it didn’t impress me that much. This isn’t to say that Kitain isn’t impressive, but rather I have visited so many temples and shrines that it really takes a lot to impress me now. I still go to temples and shrines to see what they are like and to try to fill my Goshuin with stamps. I was happy to get it and I recommend you to enjoy Kitain for what it is; a great place to relax in peace if the school kids leave. 😉