Tokyo's hottest festival of portable shrines taking place in a quarter retaining traditional culture
The Sanja Matsuri, a symbolic festival of Tokyo, is one of the largest festivals of mikoshi (portable shrines) held in Asakusa, which is a quarter where you can still find traditional houses and streets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of spectators visit Asakusa during the three festival days. With amazing vigor, men carry several dozens of portable shrines on their shoulders. There are also portable shrines carried by women only, and by children only. The most exciting moments are when the portable shrines are jolted vehemently, for this jolting is believed to intensify the power of the deities mounted on the portable shrines. On the Saturday around noon, small and large portable shrines gather at Asakusa Shrine, and then set off to parade through the town streets. On the Sunday, three especially large-sized portable shrines join the parade. These huge portable shrines depart from Asakusa Shrine early in the morning at 6 o’clock, and return around 8 o’clock at night.
Other than the portable shrines, the parade which starts at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on the Friday is really worth seeing. Floats which carry musicians playing flutes and beating drums, people dressed as traditional artisans and dancers performing traditional dance all parade down Yanagi-dori to Asakusa Shrine.
When the troupe arrives at the shrine, you can see the performance of a dance called Binzasara Mai. This is a dance praying for abundant harvest and prosperity of one’s descendants performed by people dressed in splendid costumes while holding binzasara, which are musical instruments made of bamboo strips strung together. This instrument is very interesting for it is played by opening and closing it like an accordion, and produces rich melodies.
- [Walk]2 minutes'walk from Asakusa Station. Asakusa Station can be reached from JR Ueno Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.
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