Views Matsuri Days (1): A Guide to Asakusa and the Sanja Matsuri
The Sanja Matsuri: Tokyo’s Most Raucous Festival (Video)

[2013.05.17] Read in: 日本語 |

Of all Tokyo’s many festivals, none is bigger, brasher, or more raucous than the Sanja Matsuri, which draws more than a million people onto the streets of Asakusa in mid-May every year. More than 100 brightly decorated mikoshi are carried through the narrow streets in a flurry of noise, excitement, and local pride. Let these video clips introduce you to the magic of Tokyo’s wildest street party!

Organized Chaos

The highlight of the Sanja Matsuri comes when the three mighty mikoshi belonging to the Asakusa Shrine are paraded through the streets on Sunday. Leaving the shrine at dawn, the three colossal mikoshi are carried through the 44 neighborhoods of Asakusa in a riotous explosion of excitement and noise that lasts through the day. Crowds of people throng the area as the people of Asakusa celebrate the biggest street party on the Tokyo calendar. At the handover from one district to the next, crowds of pumped-up people compete for pole position. The frenzy that ensues has earned the festival the nickname ara-matsuri, or “the wild festival.” Each neighborhood association takes charge of the mikoshi for just 40 minutes: a brief moment packed with a year’s worth of excitement and energy.

A Living Tradition

In late May 2012, the Sanja Matsuri took place for the first time in two years. The local people had been planning and practicing for months. We joined the Komagata neighborhood association for the three days of the festival. Here we report on the local traditions proudly passed on from generation to generation.

Other articles in this report
  • The Sanja Matsuri in Six Key Words The crowds, the clothes, the colors, the communities . . . We take a look at six of the key elements that make the Sanja Matsuri one of Japan’s biggest and most exciting festivals.
  • Strolling Around Old TokyoThe spirit of Edo lives on in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, more than any other part of the city. Asakusa also plays host to many of the latest developments in fashion, cuisine, and culture. This article looks at some of the shops and restaurants that capture the essence of the neighborhood.
  • Experiencing the Sanja MatsuriInvolving some 100 mikoshi and attracting crowds of well over a million people, the Sanja Matsuri is one of the biggest of the thousands of festivals that bring color and exhilaration to people around Japan each year. But at its heart it remains a local celebration, with its roots in the heart of the community.
  • Japanese Festivals and the Annual Cycle of LifeThere are said to be anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 festivals in Japan. Almost every community has its own unique festival, or matsuri, with its unique origins and special features. Matsuri enthusiast Yamamoto Tetsuya provides some background.
  • Unlocking the Secrets of the Sanja MatsuriAn investigation into the origins of the Sanja Matsuri reveals deep connections with the Buddhist temple of Sensōji and the Shintō Asakusa Shrine. We talk to representatives from each to find out more about the background to the festival and the character of Asakusa and its people.
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