Kawagoe and the Float Festival

Who doesn’t love fiesta? I remember when I was a kid growing up in Tondo, fiesta is that specific days where the streets will undergo a temporary transformation- festival banner decorations, kids on their costumes for a parade, stage are set for the local talent competition, households cooking something special for a feast, and few shirtless drunks who can’t wait to be merry and later on will have hapless fight among each other, right after someone sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. (Not sure why, but in Philippines somehow this song is a cue for a fight among drunks).

The Kawagoe Festival, held every 3rd weekend of October is somehow similar to the one we have backhome but minus the drunks and the Sinatra song.

With the origin of the festival dating back in 1648, the annual Kawagoe Hikawa Festival Float Event is a two-days affair mainly highlighting several competing festival floats with height reach up to the electrical cables, with finely crafted dolls at the top. At the bottom of the  towering floats are performers wearing a somehow funny traditional mask dancing and entertaining spectators, while several individuals are pulling a rope to move the float and  parade around town. Best angle to view these floats is when they pass each other.

It seems to me that these floats are a family affair. Here you can see mother and father pulling the ropes and their kids either dress in traditional clothes marching in front or the performer themselves. I am not sure about the price for the winning float, but I know it will be a tough one to judge as each of these floats are designed to bring home the bacon and a definite testament of this town’s pride and glory.

If you get tired following the floats and the crowd, feast yourself with the variety of street food that is hard to ignore. I can’t find a less crowded restaurant for lunch, so I ended up munching any street food that I can see.

The town of Kawagoe is a charming town with other things to offer aside from the festival. I recommend anyone looking for another side trip away from the city to visit this town for a two reason – Kitain Temple & Kurazukuri Street.

Known as the Little Edo, visiting the famous Kurazukuri Street will take you back in time. The old warehouse architectures is well-preserved and holds the history of how prosperous this town once when most houses can afford massive fireproof walls (kura-zukuri style)  instead of the traditional wooden frames. It is fairly easy to spot if you are on the right street, just look up and if you see the Bell tower, then you are on the right area.

With 540 statues of Buddha’s disciples each with distinct facial expression, the Gohyaku Rakan at Kitain Temple is the main reason why you should visit this town. How awesome it is to see preserve stones of varying expression, as if they once lived and now frozen in time.

Before I enter the statue grounds, I was asked by the man attending the gates if I knew Chinese Zodiac and the year of which I was born. Then he advised me to look for that statue symbolizing my birth zodiac, tap its head and say a little prayer- by doing this I will be granted eternal happiness.

So, I went and search the 540 statues and look for that one carrying a monkey and I can’t find it. I pass by the one with a dog, snake, rooster, pig and I even try to cheat by asking another visitor if he find the one with the monkey. After few minutes, I loose hope. Crap! no eternal happiness for me.


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