Every year on January 3rd, Kitain temple in Kawagoe have a Daruma market as part of their New Year celebrations. January 3rd marks the final day (of three) of the official New Year period at Kitain. Approximately 440,000 people visit Kitain over those three days for the first prayers of the year, a tradition known as hatsumode in Japan. In 2021, the daruma market was cancelled on account of the Coronavirus, but it went ahead in 2022. It is currently scheduled for 2023 also.
Takasaki is famous for Daruma and for the largest and most popular Daruma market in Japan. The Kitain Temple Daruma Market / Festival has also become well known over the years. It is held on the same day as a purification ceremony, January 3rd. Between the two they attract thousands of people to the temple from all over the Greater Tokyo Area. Moreover, this event is the second biggest event annually in Kawagoe. The biggest is the Kawagoe Festival.
Daruma is a quintessentially Japanese New Year tradition. The Daruma doll has become a popular symbol of New Year’s. Daruma are made from papier-mâché, are round, usually red with a face of a bearded man. They are actually modeled after Bodhidarma the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.
When you buy the doll the eyes are not painted in. The idea is to paint in one eye, usually the left one, as you start a quest and paint the other one on completion of your resolution or task. As such, they have become a symbol of perseverance and good luck. The latter is attributed to the Daruma Temple which played a big part in increasing the popularity of Daruma as a good luck charm and as a New Year’s tradition. People who are firm believers in the Daruma tend to buy one every New Year and burn the old one as per tradition.
Kawagoe Daruma Market
On the 3rd of January every year you can see people walking around Kawagoe holding Daruma that were too large to conceal in packaging. You can also be sure there are plenty more people holding Daruma in their bags of shopping. Moreover, the queues quite literally go out of the temple grounds and that is saying something as the grounds are quite grand as it is.
On this day people also discard old Daruma which are traditionally burned for good luck at the end of the year. You can see piles and piles of Daruma waiting for the burning ritual.
Kitain Temple is generally very busy all over New Year’s as it is a popular place to conduct New Year rituals and traditions. Moreover, there is quite a bit to see at Kitain Temple, including the 500 statues of Rakan and visiting the only remains of the Edo Castle, Shogun Iemitsu’s birthplace:
Featured image from:
“Daruma dolls”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daruma_dolls.jpg#/media/File:Daruma_dolls.jpg
Map “details” (the grey box) below.
Access from Kawagoe Station
This information is specifically for January 3rd annually. On January 3rd Tobu buses increase the number of buses from Kawagoe Station, bound for the temple to accommodate the thousands who come to the Daruma market. The Seibu bus from Honkawagoe to Minami Furuya station, ususally does the same, but in 2023 they won’T be operating on the day at all. Also, on January 3rd only, the tourist buses (as in the photo) will not stop at Kitain (or Koedo Kurari).
Access by Car
Please note that the main car park at Kitain will not be open on January 3rd. Moreover, the roads around Kitain will not be open to the public from 9 am to 5.30 pm. They have set up a detour for the period. Thus, they advise you to come by public transport.
For more information about Kitain Temple and all it has to offer:
In English: https://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/english/
In Japanese: https://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/
On this blog in English:
Originally written and published on December 21st 2016. Rewritten and republished on December 23rd 2021.