Japan’s wildest festival – Sanja Matsuri

Sanja Matsuri is Japan’s largest and wildest festival held in Asakusa district of Tokyo. Every year, thousands of spectators take part in the three day festival with great enthusiasm and this year the Sanja Matsuri is celebrated between May 15- 17.

The festival features more than hundred mikoshi, portable shrines, in which the Shinto Gods (kami) are symbolically placed into it and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local businesses and residents. You can also find smaller neighborhood mikoshi in the streets of Asakusa throughout the festival. The festival has three large mikoshi belonging to Asakusa Shrine, making their appearance on the final day with great revelry.

Japans wildest festival - Sanja Matsuri

Image Courtesy: hitomi used under the Creative Commons Licence

Some of the mikoshi in the festival weigh close to a ton and cost as much as 40 million yen ($400,000 USD).

The festivities begin by noon on the first day with the Daigyoretsu Parade, in which a large procession of priests, city officials, geisha, musicians and dancers are seen donning the Edo Period costumes. They proceed along Yanagi Dori to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine. A Shinto ceremony is held immediately after the parade, followed by a traditional dance called Binzasara Mai, a dance praying for abundant harvest and prosperity of one’s descendants, performed by people dressed in splendid costumes.

The second day features nearly 100 mikoshi from the neighborhood, which are brought around noon and carried to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine to be blessed before they are carried back to be parade to spread luck and prosperity. Many neighborhoods also have smaller children’s mikoshi as well as women’s mikoshi.

Japans Sanja Matsuri Festival

Image Courtesy: jamesjustin used under the Creative Commons Licence

The events on the final day of the festival, commence early in the morning with hundreds of revelers, grouped by their neighborhoods wear matching festival attires and gather at the Asakusa Shrine to carry one of the three large main mikoshi (portable shrines).

At this point the groups from different neighbourhood jostle as they carry the mikoshi. The most exciting moment is when the portable shrines are jolted vehemently, which is believed to intensify the power of the deities mounted on the portable shrines.

Once the festivity subsides, the mikoshi head off in different directions to be paraded through the district. The streets of Asakusa are packed with food stalls, festival games and revelers amid a lively atmosphere of Japanese drums and flutes.

A true reflection of the Japanese cultural heritage the Sanja Matsuri is definitely a vibrant and electrifying experience.

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