While there is only one month left till the end of summer, and there were tons of festivals I have not been able to go, I was able to catch see a wonderful representative of Japan’s summer at Kawagoe. In fact, not one, but thousands of it. Wind chimes, or furin, are traditionally used to ward of evil in Japan, and are usually hung in shrines and temples during summer. Furin is one of Japan’s most characteristic symbols of summer, you can hear the enchanting tone of the bells in many temples, shops and houses during summer. Back in the ancient days, when aircons and electric fans are not yet invented, furin was a way for people to feel cool in the humid heat of summer, as the bells only ring when there is a breeze.
Though I am not particularly religious, I have always felt a calm, soothing presence whenever I visit the temples and shrines in Japan, and this tranquil aura is further enhanced by the gentle, healing sound of the furin in summer. The glass wind chimes are also extremely lovely against a brilliant blue summer sky, and I do feel my spirits lifted whenever I catch a glimpse of these vividly coloured beauties.
Kawagoe, the little Edo of Tokyo
So when I found out about the “Enmusubi Furin” event in Hikawa shrine, I was determined to be visit the shrine. Just as well, the shrine is located in Kawagoe, known as the little Edo of Tokyo for its traditional charm, and I have never been to Kawagoe.
All the ancient buildings and streets in Kawagoe are extremely well-preserved from the Edo period, a rarity in earthquake-prone Japan. You can get to Kawagoe in just over 30 minutes from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo, making it an ideal location for a day trip from Tokyo.
On the day we went, the streets were bustling with people. While I attributed it to the summer festival that happened to be held on the day we were there, DH stated that Kawagoe is very popular with tourists these days, so all weekends are likely to be crowded. Bummer, for I do highly prefer places not so inundated with people. That said, Kawagoe is still a very pretty, quaint little town full of antiquated charm. The ongoing summer festival also created a fun festive atmosphere with colourful lanterns dripping from every lamppost along the streets.
The Starbucks in Kawagoe deserves a special mention for its beautiful outdoor area. Emanating with Japanese zen aesthetic, the benches and tables are simple and sophisticated, yet not overly refined. Beyond the dining area is a Japanese garden with a pretty bonsai standing amidst tiny white rocks. Wind chimes also hang from the low bamboo fences, ringing in the summer breeze.
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, the Shrine of Love and Marriage
Now to the star attraction, Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (川越氷川神社). Hikawa shrine is known as for its blessing of love and marriage, and Enmusubi Furin event, is a match-making (縁結び・enmusubi) wind chime (風鈴・furin) event started in 2014. I was greeted with rows of jingling wind chimes right at the very entrance even before reaching the main highlight.
Wind Chime Corridor of Love
The main highlight, “Furin kairo”, is a corridor lined with 888 furin in 11 different colours. Worshippers are supposed to walk through the corridor with a wish and write their wish on to the wooden strips called “tanzaku” and then tie them to the furin. It is highly popular with many couples, and of course, singles praying for a good match, and took us almost an hour’s wait to reach the corridor.
Another object of interest is the ball-shaped bamboo decorations found around the shrine grounds. The furin hang from within the balls, and glow as lanterns when the night falls.
Milky Way Illumination at Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine’s Sacred River
When night falls, the shrine is lit up in several places, such as the wind chime corridor. But the most enchanting would be the Milky Way illumination at the shrine’s sacred river. The river is lit up each night between 7 to 9 pm, and projection mapping and dry ice is used to create the illusion of Milky Way. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long enough to see the river in its full illuminated glory.
Sweet Potato Soft Serve is a Must-Try Local Delicacy in Kawagoe
Lastly, no summer outing is complete without some icy cold creamy soft serve. Kawagoe is known for its sweet potatoes, called kawagoe-imo, the best way to enjoy this local specialty is in ice-cream form, especially in the sweltering summer heat.
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine (川越氷川神社)
- Address: 2-11, Miyashitamachi, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama, 350-0052, Japan
- Getting There: From Kawagoe Station on the JR line or Tobu Tojo Line, take the Tobu Bus bound for “Shinmeicho Shako”, 5 minutes on foot from “Kita-cho”. 20 minutes on foot from Hon-Kawagoe Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line.
- Admission fee: Free