I was lucky to visit Kawagoe on the best weekend of the year: during the Kawagoe Matsuri, a festival that takes place on the third Saturday and Sunday of October. Kawagoe is a castle town known for its Edo-styled architecture. It makes for a great day trip since it’s just an hour outside of Tokyo by subway.
Upon leaving Kawagoe East Station, you’ll quickly find yourself overlooking a bustling pedestrian street known as Crea Mall. Shouting sales people and numerous shops—brand name and otherwise—lure in passerbys.
It’s impossible not to work up an appetite as savory aromas waft from hibachi grills beneath the food tents lining the pedestrian street. At this festival, you’re sure to get your fix of Japanese street food and sweet treats.
Kawagoe Matsuri is a family-friendly festival. Just ask these cute kids who were busy scoring souvenirs to take home!
Some of Kawagoe’s attractions include the traditional warehouses built during the Edo period, the Kitain Temple, the Tower of Time bell tower, Confectionary Row, and other historical sites. Shops were generous with tastings of sweet treats!
Ann, Kelsey and I decided to follow the example of the other Japanese families who were walking barefoot on small rocks. It was painful, but our feet felt awesome afterward! Kelsey showed me how to practice a cleansing ceremony where you wash your left hand, right hand and then sip water before entering a temple or shrine.
Ten large wooden floats decorated with paper lanterns—the main attraction of the festival—are singly displayed around the city all day long. On each float, a flutist, drummer and masked dancer perform for the crowds below from a second-story platform. After dark, lone floats parade around the city on separate streets. In keeping with the traditions of this event which was first held in 1648, dozens of Japanese men and women forcefully pull these two-story structures up and down the city’s streets using long tricolored ropes.
The most surprising part of the event was watching the floats “battle”! Anytime two floats cross paths, they are positioned vis-à-vis so the dancers and musicians can outperform each other. Quite a spectacle!