Kawasaki: A guide to Japan’s art-filled industrial city

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By Hilary Keyes

Less than thirty minutes away from Shibuya by train is Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture. Kawasaki has had a bad reputation in the past for being a rough, blue-collar area, but it is an incredible sightseeing area filled with history, culture, and some of the most unique art spots in the Kanto area.

History and background

Historically speaking, Kawasaki has long been a suburb and lodging town for Tokyo, as it’s located on the Tokaido, the historical highway that connected Tokyo and Kyoto. During the 17th century, it was one of the main rest areas for weary travelers and, according to some historians, a “must-see travel spot” of the time. If you want to learn more about the history of the area and get to dress up like an Edo-era citizen, head to Tokaido Kawasaki Shuku Koryukan (東海道かわさき宿交流館), a multi-story museum and learning center that tells the history of the area, what life was like then, and so much more.

Incorporated as its own city in 1924, and with a present-day population of just over 1.5 million people, Kawasaki is a popular suburb for those commuting to the Tokyo area. During World War II it was heavily bombed because of its port and industrial sites, but in the post-war period a lot of the port land was reclaimed and industry soon returned and exceeded pre-war levels there. Major international corporations such as Fuji Electric, Hitachi, Nippon Steel, and Ajinomoto still have their main factories and offices here to this day. From the post-war period into the Bubble, these factories and Kawasaki’s blue-collar image (like the yanki ヤンキー or the blonde ruffians from anime and manga of the era) lead many to think the era was too rough and tumble for Tokyoites, but nowadays, these same features have made Kawasaki an exciting, alternative tourist destination.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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I've still never actually been to Kawasaki.

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