The first city that I slept overnight (back in 1999) for the first time in Japan was in the city of Kawaguchi.
Located in Saitama prefecture, in the central Kanto region of Japan, Kawaguchi is the 9th most populated city in Greater Tokyo and the second largest in Saitama Prefecture (Saitama is the capital and largest city in Saitama Prefecture).
Because of its close proximation to Tokyo (Kawaguchi is considered a suburb of the Tokyo Metropolitan area), many people live in the area because of its lower cost of rent and you will see a large population of Chinese, Korean and Filipino residents/overseas workers.
What’s interesting about the history of Kawaguchi is that after the last ice age, during the early and middle Jomon period (prehistoric Japan from 12,000 BC – 300 BC), Kawaguchi was under sea level. So, shell middens, Jomon pottery and pit houses have been discovered by archaeologists.
In the past, it was the center for metal casting and the modern town of Kawaguchi was established in April 1889 and was elevated to city status in 1993.
The city unfortunately suffered from floods, earthquake and war in the past. The Arakawa River has flooded and ruined agriculture and because of that, the area had suffered famine. In 1923, the area was devastated by the Great Kanto earthquake.
In 2001, Kawaguchi was designated a special city (population of 200,000+) and in 2011, the city re-absorbed the city of Hatogaya which separated from Kawaguchi back in 1948.
My memories of staying in the city is quite fond. Remember how quiet the location was, riding bikes to get to stores, but possibly what I will always remember Kawaguchi is its landark lion statue that stands on the roof of the KIK building that houses many bars outside the East Exit of Kawaguchi Station.
According to a few Japanese sites in regards to the lion, the lion statue was added in 1996 during the time the building was occupied by a pachinko parlor. The lion was added to make the building stick out.
The lion is 65 feet wide, 39 feet high and weights about 1.5 ton.
The lion has become symbolic for Kawaguchi and it’s been over 15 years since I last visited Kawaguchi and perhaps it’s time to visit the area later this year.