The Kawagoe Festival is one of the largest and best Autumn Festivals in all of Japan. Moreover, the festival is an Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan. In addition, the Yama, Hoko, Yatai float festivals are an UNESCO cultural heritage. The festival started at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine in 1648 after Lord Nobutsuna gifted the shrine mikoshi (portable shrines) and lion’s face masks. The Kawagoe Festival is held annually on the third Sunday of October and the preceding Saturday. In 2023, that is October 14th and 15th.
Kawagoe Festival in 2023
Last year the festival was on, but it was a festival lite with many changes. The previous two years – 2021 and 2020 – the festival was cancelled because of the pandemic. And in 2019 a large typhoon, the infamous typhoon Hagibis or typhoon #19, effected attendance. In 2023, it is almost back to normal, but not quite. But the Hikkawase is back for the first time in four years. More on Hikkawase in the schedule section.
During the two day festival, portable shrines and festival floats parade the streets. The portable shrines are paraded on the Sunday. The festival floats can be seen both days, piping traditional Japanese festival music often with dancers performing as they parade through the streets. At night fall the festival floats come together and perform something like a face-off, known as Hikkawase, at dark! More on the Jinkosai and Hikkawase in the schedule section.
However, before the pandemic you could see the festival floats at city hall in the early afternoon on both the Saturday and Sunday, but in 2023 they will just be there on the Sunday. Another example is the hashigo-nori, traditional Edo period ladder acrobats by fire fighters. In 2023, there will only be one hashigo-nori display on Saturday. Although there maybe private displays also, as was the case in 2022. There are several other examples of changes, but regardless, it is still be a really large festival worth making the journey for.
Another change that was made in 2022, and seems to be here to stay in 2023, is the situation with the festival stalls. Before the pandemic there was normally more than 1100 festival stalls lining the streets of the historic town. In 2022, instead of festival stalls on the streets, they made “festival stall villages” and that seems to be the case in 2023 too:
Festival Stall information 2023
In order to ease the flow of movement with the pandemic still in our midst, Kawagoe City decided that there will be no festival stalls on the main route the festival floats take. That includes Ichibangai, the main strip of the ware / storehouse district. However, the shops on that street are allowed set up stalls outside their premises, so long as they are compact and don’t have tarp. There are several shops planning to have a small stall outside their premises, including, for example, Vanitoy Bagel.
Festival Stall Villages
There are four ‘yatai mura’ stall villages planned again for 2023. The 2023 hours are not yet available, bun in 2022 they opened from 10 am to 9.30 pm on the Saturday and from 10 am to 9 pm on the Sunday.
- Maruhiro Department Store East Car park
- Times Saiwaicho Number 2 Car Park
- MS Tourist Bus car park
Zoom in ~ Maruhiro: Maruhiro which is on Crea Mall Shopping street, has always been a festival hot spot. Now that is is also an official ‘yatai mura’ it will dozens of food stalls (150 in 2022). They are located in the car park at back of the department store. You can get festival food such as Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Takoyaki and candied apples in this festival stall village. They usually have a great kujibiki for kids (pre pandemic) at the front of the store. I hope that is available in 2023.
Other festival stall areas
In addition, a number of stores that are planning to use their large premises for festival stalls, as they did before the pandemic too. For example, in 2022 Kawagoe Prince Hotel by Hon-Kawagoe Station and Matsumoto Soy Sauce, home to the trendy “Kingyotei” goldfish themed cafe, on the back street of Ichibangai, had stalls in 2022. A highlight of the Matsumoto Soy Sauce stall village is gyoza!
Kawagoe Festival Schedule 2023
|Saturday the 14th of October||Yoiyama||6 to 7 pm|
|Saturday the 14th of October||Hashigo-nori||6.20 to 6.40 pm|
|Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th||Hikkawase||from evening|
|Sunday the 15th||Jinko-sai||10.15 to 11.45 am|
|Sunday the 15th||Festival floats at City Hall||1.30 to 3.30 pm|
The Jinkosai is the main part of the entire festival as the festival started at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. In the first two years, from 1648, the festival was just on the shrine’s grounds. But from 1651 the custom of parading the mikoshi through the town started. In 2023, the Jinkosai (Jinkousai – Jin-kosai) will be on Sunday the 15th. It is an elaborate procession. It starts at 10.15 am at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, returning to the shrine at 11.45 am. The yellow on the map above shows the route of the Jinkosai in 2023.
In 2023 there will be 29 festival floats from 27 districts of Kawagoe City. The Yoiyama, when the festival floats are illuminated with lanterns, is on Saturday the 14th between 6 and 7 pm. On Sunday the 15th you can see the festival floats from 1.30 to 3.30 pm at Kawagoe City Hall. There will be Hikkawase on both Saturday and Sunday night:
The Hikkawase is arguably the highlight of the entire festival. Hikkawase is when the festival floats meet and compete with each other, the bearers moving the floats while the performers play traditional music, dancing and swinging festival lanterns. It was sorely missed in 2022, when the performers just played music in a stationary position. But I am delighted to announce they are bringing back the proper Hikkawase in 2023. It will be on both Saturday and Sunday night this year.
On Saturday the 14th from 6.20 pm to 6.40 pm at the crossroads of Nakacho. The performers also perform annually at the Kawagoe Dezome Shiki in January.
The festival bunting goes up all over the tourist area about three to four days before the festival.
Here is a 7 page pamphlet about the festival, from 2018, with lots of information, unfortunately it is in the Japanese language only. There is some information about the history of the festival in English on the Kawagoe Matsuri Website.
While you were gone!
If you haven’t been in Kawagoe during the pandemic, there are quite a few new places for you to try out! Such as:
- Cafe with wind chimes
- A cafe with hundreds of colorful mosaic lamps
- The Miffy Storehouse and Bakery
- Mrs Hamburger
- Craft Cafe and Kakigori at Hatago Coedoya Lovers’ Alley
Event: Kawagoe Festival 川越祭り
Dates: Saturday October 14th and Sunday the 15th 2023
Hours: the hours for the 2023 festival are practically back to normal. In a normal year the festival is on from early morning to around 8 pm at night. However, in 2023, the festival starts from 1 pm to around 7 pm on both days. However, as above, the festival stall villages will be open from 10 am to 9 pm on both days. Check the official website for more updates.
Cost: there is no admission fee
Venue: The festival is spread over a very large area, as you can see in the map shared in the “Jinkosai” paragraph. Basically, north of Kawagoe Station all the way up to the Shingashi River!
Access from Seibu Shinjuku line’s Hon-Kawagoe and Tobu Tojo Line’s Kawagoe-shi stations. You can also walk from Tobu Tojo Line’s Kawagoe station, it takes about 12 minutes.
I have personally been at this festival dozens of times, I’ve even worked at it in the past! Here are some photos from over the years.
The Kawagoe Festival post appeared in the main section of Saitama With / Without Kids and was moved to the Event Pages in 2016. The Event pages were removed from the blog in 2021 and this post was moved back to the main pages in September 2022.
20131020. Republished annually. Last republish September 6th 2023 (220915)