Sanja Matsuri


Sanja Matsuri, the biggest (and apparently wildest!) festival in Tokyo returns this May.

Literally meaning “Three Shrines Festival”, the Sanja Matsuri will indeed be parading three portable shrines, also known as mikoshi. Don’t expect your local, mid-sized portable shrine: those three mikoshi are colossal, and city dwellers will take turns carrying them – most likely with the help of copious amounts of nihonshu.

The first Sanja matsuri dates back to the year 1312, and was held in celebration of the three founders of Senso-ji temple, who are inshrined as Shinto gods (kami) in the nearby Asakusa shrine. Each year the event draws nearly two million people over the course of the weekend. It’s worth arriving early afternoon on the Friday, to catch the parade that kickstarts the festival. Floats carrying musicians armed with flutes and drums, people dressed as traditional artisans and dancers all make their way to Asakusa shrine.

Sanja matsuri features around 100 portables shrines, of all sizes and carried by different groups of people: some by children, some by women, and some by er, inebriated men. Asakusa will be packed with the usual festival fare: food stalls, game booths, souvenir shops, and countless people milling about. Let the Shinto gods bring good weather, and go find out if it’s really as wild as it’s supposed to be…

Sanja Matsuri

When: May 17-19 (May 17 from 1pm, May 18 from 10am, May 19 from 6am)

Where: Asakusa Shrine (see map)

How much: Free

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Main image: yeowatzup on Flickr



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