The Sanja Matsuri Festival, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
I love Tokyo. I love the city, the very friendly people, the art, the fashion, the nightlife, the electronics.. I could go on. I would go back to Tokyo over and over again if I could. I just bonded so well with the city :).
Last year while in Tokyo, I had the amazing pleasure of witnessing one of the three great Shinto festivals (spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan) in Tokyo, the annual Sanja Matsuri Festival in Asakusa.
The Sanja Matsuri (literally “Three Shrine Festival”), or Sanja Festival, is by far the largest of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. The festival is held in honor of Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Hajino Nakatomo, the three men who established and founded Sensō-ji. Sanja Matsuri is held on the third weekend of every May at Asakusa Shrine. Its prominent parades revolve around three mikoshi (three portable shrines), as well as traditional music and dancing. Over the course of three days, the festival attracts 1.5 to 2 million locals and tourists every year.
To be honest, I did not plan my trip to Tokyo around this festival as being in Tokyo was my first time hearing about it. But what a discovery I made!
My sister and I’s visit to Tokyo last year was actually both of our first time in Japan and a trip that I had been planning and excitedly looking forward to for quite some time. So before arriving in Tokyo, I made a short (or long) list of places I just had to visit… Ginza, Harajuku, Ebisu, Asakusa and more. Asakusa was definitely on my list so I may visit the Sensō-ji temple and Nakamise shopping street.
It was just by pure luck that the day I opted for us to visit Asakusa/Nakamise was the main day of the Sanja Matsuri festival! How did that happen? 😀
While on our ferry ride, we met a Kim, a new friend from Taipei, who happened to be heading to see the festival. We shared with her we were also going to the Sensō-ji and that’s when I found out about the festival, and from that moment, boy was I bursting with excitement!
When we got there, I felt like I had won the jackpot! It was everything I desired in a travel excursion, unexpected but wonderful. Culture, food, people, festivities, what more could one ask for? I was so excited to be right there, right in the midst of all of it, soaking it all in!
The Sanja Matsuri festival is a religious celebration, though it is primarily a festival of celebration. It is energetic, lively and overflowing with excitement everywhere.
This experience captured the essence of what I love about travel. I could have read about this festival in a book or online, but those could never bring it to life like being there can. There’s just nothing like being there! With each passing float, I felt like I was a student, learning something new each minute and each float that passed.
The parades went on for quite some time though there were some short breaks scattered here and there. On the 3rd day which is the main festival day, the 3 main mikoshi depart from Asakusa shrine to start their tour of the districts of Asakusa at 6am and the tour concludes at 8pm. So this is a full day affair.
There were street vendors everywhere just by the parade route.
Even when we stepped out of the parade route for a bit, it was still quite packed with singing and dancing all around.
Experiencing the Sanja Matsuri festival is something I will never forget!
If you would like to experience the Sanja Matsuri festival as well, the next festival date is May 17th, 2014.
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