- Views Matsuri Days (1): A Guide to Asakusa and the Sanja Matsuri
- Asakusa Samba Carnival’s Dance Extravaganza (Video)
- [2015.08.21] Read in: 日本語 | 简体字 | 繁體字 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | العربية | Русский |
The Asakusa Samba Carnival has grown from modest beginnings in 1981 to become one of Asia’s largest summer festivals, attracting 500,000 spectators each year. With about 4,000 participants in 18 teams, the competition is fierce and passionate.
The Asakusa Samba Carnival, one of Asia’s largest summer festivals, will take place this year on August 29.
The video presents scenes from last year’s event. Rain and cloudy skies cleared up just in time to leave bright, sunny weather perfect for samba. As dancers in gorgeous costumes shimmied through the streets, 500,000 spectators cheered them on.
Asakusa Embraces the New
The carnival was first held in 1981 after local comedian Ban Junzaburō suggested it would be a way of revitalizing the area. Although now seen as a more traditional part of Tokyo, Asakusa has had a reputation over the years for embracing the new.
Japan’s first movie theater the Denkikan was built in Asakusa, as was the first private aquarium and the first modern skyscraper Ryōunkaku, with 12 floors and an electric elevator. As Tokyo’s top entertainment district for much of the twentieth century, it was a place to encounter novel diversions.
This was true for the carnival too. When it was first introduced, Brazilian culture was much less well known in Japan than it is today. In line with the increasing number of Brazilians living in Japan, however, the samba on show has become more sophisticated, taking strong influence from the Rio de Janeiro model of the dance.
The carnival is a contest as well as a spectacle with teams preparing music, costumes, floats, dancing, and other performances to match a chosen theme. From Asakusa locals to international tourists, thousands of fans line the streets to view the dance extravaganza.
(Originally written in Japanese and published on August 17, 2015. Photographs by Yamada Shinji.)
- Other articles in this report
- The Sanja Matsuri: Tokyo’s Most Raucous Festival (Video)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!
- 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.