Each year on the third weekend of May Asakusa Tokyo becomes one of the largest and craziest festivals in all of Japan. For 3 days the streets of Asakusa prefecture of Tokyo become flooded with people. The sounds of chanting, whistles and taiko drums can be heard throughout the city. Each year sees 1.5 to 2 million locals and tourists alike come participate in the festivities. I was lucky enough to be one of those 2 million.
The Sanja Matsuri features about one hundred portable shrines or (mikoshi) in which Shinto deities (kami) are symbolically placed into and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local businesses and residents. There are 44 Mikoshi for each neighborhood in Asakusa and they can be seen throughout the streets of Asakusa throughout the festival. While the focus of the festival belongs to the three large mikoshi belonging to Asakusa Shrine, they dont make their appearance until the final day on Sunday. For the entirety of the festival, Asakusa is packed with food stalls, festival games and revelers amid a lively atmosphere of Japanese drums and flutes its truly an incredible experience.
Like many Japanese festivals, Sanja Matsuri is a religious celebration. It is a weekend-long Shinto festival that is dedicated to the kami (spirits) of three men. It is believed that two fishermen brothers named Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari found a statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon caught in a fishing net in the Sumida River on the early morning of 628 AD. The third man, a wealthy landlord named Hajino Nakatomo, heard about the discovery, approached the brothers and converted them to Buddhism. The three men then devoted their lives to the Buddhist faith and consecrated the statue in a small temple. This temple, now known as the Sensō-ji, currently houses the Kannon statue and is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Each year the festival brings out the three large Mikoshi to remember this event.
Make sure to check out the video below to check out a small sample of the craziness that is Sanja Matsuri.