Experience The Kawagoe Matsuri
If you’ve been in Japan long enough many of the festivals can start to look the same, though are certainly still fun to go to. However, just a short distance from Tokyo, the Kawagoe Matsuri is one of the few that not only stands out, but is well-worth the trip out to spend a full day.
Kawagoe, also known as “Koedo” (little Edo, Tokyo’s former name), is just 30 minutes from Ikebukuro in Tokyo, and known for its local speciality of sweet potatoes and strong history of trading, having been situated on a river connecting directly to old Edo and becoming a hub for merchants.
Kawagoe is also known for hosting one of the more unique festivals in Japan every year on the third Saturday and Sunday of October, featuring nearly thirty massive hand-crafted and hand-pulled floats on top of which stand different figures representing historical figures.
The festival itself dates back to the mid-1600s when the area’s clan lord began making offerings to the local shrine. Soon there were larger and larger processions going through different neighbourhoods from other local shrines, which then united together in 1844 to to form one massive festival together. Since then, the festival makes Kawagoe a centre of day and nighttime celebrations as local people move the floats through town, with some of them even rotating 360 degrees on their base, dancers on top, and musical battles between one another as they compete to pass one another on the street after sunset. Truly a site to behold.
You don’t just have to spend time watching floats at the festival though, as there’s plenty to do in town during the event. We recommend spending the afternoon around town, trying different foods, washing it down with a Coedo beer, and getting into the spirit of things. The Edo-period architecture of local buildings and food stalls will keep you plenty busy, though it can get rather crowded.
While the sun is out you can better appreciate the details on the floats themselves, which are exquisitely crafted, but once the sun goes down the lanterns are lit, the atmosphere changes, and the “Hikkawase” battles begin.
Because it’s so close to Tokyo, you’ll easily be able to get on a train back into town, and still have time to go out for the evening if you aren’t completely exhausted.
- Saitama Pref. Kawagoeshi Shintomichou 1-chome