Kawagoe & a Japanese Matsuri (Festival)


Kawagoe is a town on the outskirts of Tokyo, with an area of old Edo-style buildings called kurazukuri. These black buildings in the warehouse district are characteristic of the architectural style of the area. We were lucky to be there on the day of their annual matsuri, when the town really comes to life!

Kurazukuri in Kawagoe

Kawagoe Matsuri (Japanese Festival)

The main feature of the festival were the floats, which people were pulling along the streets. Each float has two storeys, a turntable so it can rotate, dancers and musicians in costume and some of them have a doll. The floats look similar at first, but when you look more closely they’re decorated in different ways.

When you’re there, there’s nothing to explain what’s going on, so it’s difficult to know the meaning of what was happening, but it was interesting to experience nonetheless! The festival’s been taking place for over 300 years, and the floats started as a portable shrine that was transported through the streets.

Kawagoe Day Trip

When it got dark and the light started coming on, the atmosphere was so much more magical so I’m glad we stayed after dusk.

We were lucky to be there at the time of the festival, but I’d recommend visiting the area at any time of year; I just loved the look of the historical warehouse buildings. In terms of things to do, it was similar to our trip to Shibamata, but the style of the architecture is very different.

Kawagoe Matsuri

Japanese Street Food

There were an unbelievable number of food stalls at the matsuri. The main street was lined with them, and down the side streets there were also marketplaces full of stalls. The variety was really interesting, so I’m making a separate video just focusing on the food – subscribe and hit the notification bell to catch it!

How to Get to Kawagoe

The fastest train to Kawagoe is the Tobu Tojo line from Ikebukuro Station, which takes 30 minutes. The Kawagoe Discount Pass is the best value ticket to get. It’s 700 yen for a round trip, and you can purchase it from the Tobu desk at Ikebukuro Station. Central 1 ticket gate is multilingual, and is open from 10am – 5pm.

As we were staying in Shinjuku, we took the JR line from Shinjuku Station to Kawagoe Station via Omiya. This slower (55 minutes) and slightly more expensive so the Tobu line would have been a better option. The train also looked more comfortable!

It’s an easy day trip from Tokyo, and a complete contrast to the rest of the city. We spent an afternoon in Kawagoe – without the festival you could look around in a couple of hours or spend longer with a more relaxed pace, particularly if you want to visit all the shrines and temples.

More Videos about Japan

Subscribe to Cakes with Faces on YouTube for more videos about Japan. I’ll be making some trip planning guides and next year I’m planning a visit to Kyushu, to show you some areas less well known to foreigners.

YouTube channel about Japan