Kawaguchi was raised in Dairen, Manchukuo, at that time a Japanese-occupied territory. He played in his father's ensemble as a teenager, and after World War II moved back to Japan, where he embarked on a career in jazz. He played first with an ensemble called the Azumanians, then joined the Big Four with Hidehiko Matsumoto, Hachidai Nakamura, and Mitsuru Ono; this ensemble played intermittently into the 1980s. He played extensively with Art Blakey on tour in the 1980s. He recorded extensively as a leader; his sidemen included Isao Suzuki, Motohiko Hino, Takeshi Inomata, Donald Harrison, Terence Blanchard, Norio Maeda, Tatsuya Takahashi, and Nobuo Hara.