A short history of dagashi, the Japanese childhood snack in Kawagoe
A short explanation of dagashi.
Long story short, dagashi is a type of cheap Japanese confectionery that children bought back in the days. Because of the surge in convenience stores and supermarkets, dagashi stores have quietly retired from the city scenes. Even though dagashi are considered as “the taste of the Japanese childhood”, I’ve never seen any dagashi stores myself because convenience stores were everywhere by the time I was a child. This Kawagoe Candy Alley is a rare find when looking for confectionery streets, especially in the Kanto region.
Little children with coins gripped in their sweaty nervous palms while they carefully select their favorite dagashi are usually associated with dagashi stores. Another common association made with dagashi are stores with friendly mother/fatherly figures who look over the children, much like they do with their own children.
So why Kawagoe Candy Alley?
It is said that at the beginning of the Meiji period, Suzuki Tozaemon of Kawagoe started to create affordable candy for the commoners, and the history of dagashi started here in Kawagoe. Kawagoe City withstood the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (7.9 quake that hit Tokyo and killed hundreds of thousands). The Kawagoe Candy Alley became the main producer of dagashi for the Kanto region. The city also managed to avoid bombings by the US, allowing them to recover quickly from the war. The fortunate survival of Kawagoe City over the past century has allowed Candy Alley to exist and be maintained up to today.
Taste some dagashi!
Too much candy to choose from?
Are your eyes sore from the neon colored boxes?
Let us help you.
The traditional dagashi, unlike the famous wagashi, is differentiated by the customers who ate them back in the day. Wagashi is associated with Japanese tea ceremony, a common aristocratic hobby among the upper class. Dagashi was an affordable choice for the common people and has developed over the years.
Kawagoe City is known for its sweet potatoes, “Japan’s longest fugashi”, and various candy.
Fugashi is a popular dried confectionery made of flour and salt, smothered in brown sugar. It tastes like a cross between sugary toast and a croissant that melts in your mouth.
Not too keen on trying funky-looking fugashi or kinako sticks? Try imokoi, a rich and smooth treat made of sweet potatos and red beans, wrapped in mochi. Another sweet potato snack is daigaku-imo, literally meaning “university potatoes”. These are candied sweet potatoes, and make a great snack while walking around. You can’t go wrong with these potato sweets!
Burn off those calories by walking over to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine!
Now that you’ve stuffed yourself silly with cheap snacks, time to walk it off!
Head over to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine and the Kawagoe Castle, both about ten minutes from Candy Alley. The entire city is rich with history and there aren’t many places left around the Kanto region with traditional Japanese housing. Walk around and immerse yourself in this historic landscape.
2-7-10 Motomachi, Kawagoe City, Saitama