Kanda Matsuri – Ancient Traditional Festival in the Middle of Tokyo

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  • One of the largest festivals in Japan and three biggest festivals in Tokyo is held in Kanda, a district in the city of Tokyo. It is only held in years ending in odd numbers and always in the middle of May. The festival highlights a daylong parade involving over 200 portable Shinto shrines (mikoshi).

    History of the Festival

    Kanda Matsuri is also known as “Tenka Matsuri.” Tenka means “shogun.” The festival started during the Edo Period where it was protected by the Tokugawa shogun together with the Sanno Matsuri. Both were allowed to enter the grounds of the Edo castle. Kanda Matsuri festival was a way of demonstrating prosperity under a new leadership in the past. Nowadays, it is also held in honor of the kami (spirits of phenomena) of Kanda Shrine. There are particularly 3 deities enshrined: Daikokuten (the god of good harvest and matrimony), Ebisu (the god of fishermen and businessmen) and Taira Masakado (the feudal lord of the 10th century).

    In the recent years, the rule of conducting the festival in even-numbered years is also practiced though on a smaller scale. The changing of the rule was determined by the shogun due to the festival’s extravagant preparations.

    How the Festival is Conducted

    The main event happens on a Saturday when 300 people march through central Tokyo providing a spectacular sight. Apart from the portable shrines being paraded, various kinds of floats and Shinto priests mounted on the horses’ back can also be seen. It is accompanied by thousands of people with some dressed in colorful traditional costumes. On Sunday evening, about 100 portable shrines gather together and later various participants take turns entering Kanda Myojin Shrine.

    If you want to join the event, be sure to check the latest information in advance as the event occurs only on the Saturday and Sunday closest to May 15. It is also best to check out Kanda Myojin Museum to learn even more about the event.

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