Sanja Matsuri/Festival in Asakusa - Summary and report

ABC of Sanja Matsuri Festival - what's it about?

Of all the festivals in Asakusa year around, Sanja Matsuri Festival should be the most famous and the biggest one. If you have a chance, I encourage you to make a plan to see it once, referring to this and other sempai posts listed below.

1-2-3 basics;

Sanja matsuri festival is held every year, the next weekend after Mother's day.

Day 1 (Fri) ; Marching and dancing of egrets / Binzasara dance offering, only 1-3pm.
Day 2 (Sat) ; Portable shrines (Mikoshi) get together at a place, blessed and off they go into the town, from early in the morning till night
Day 3 (Sun) ; Portable shrines (Mikoshi) parade, the peak of the festival. The same time above.

There are some articles already posted by some other Deep Japan Senpai writers, related to Sanja Matsuri Festival;

Sanja Matsuri Omikoshi - Matsuri in Asakusa
Sensoji Lantern
How to enjoy Matsuri in Shitamachi

Day 1 - white crane and Binzasara dances

I was born, grew up, went to schools, work and all my life spent in Tokyo so far but still for the very first time to see this festival this year. Maybe because there are too many festivals all over Tokyo, and everyone has his/her own favorite one in his/her neighborhood. Likewise I've never seen Asakusa one myself.

Basically the portable shrines (Omikoshi) are more or less the same everywhere but I noticed that these dance offerings are unique from here, from Day 1.

Maybe not that elaborate or exciting because they are offerings to the deity of Asakusa shrine, more religious meaning is there. Rather solemn, music is also played with traditional Japanese instruments.

Also since it's on Friday only between noon and 3pm, no wonder less people are there compared to following two days on the weekend.

Yet still there ARE lots of people there in Asakusa Temple / Shrine.....
So allow yourself extra time to walk around.

Day 3 - many portable shrines parades but be ready for scrums!

Certainly not recommended for children. Too crowded to see anything or even breathe.
Lots of people drinking, taking photos, excited, shouting, laughing, total chaos.

You'll get to see lots of portable shrines (omikoshi) from all over Asakusa districts, from early in the morning until early night.

There are agenda, map of parade routes, but nothing really helps ....really crowded and often the time changes. Again chaos.

Back story of this festival --- 70% of the omikoshi carriers are Japanese mafia(Yakuza). Some clear evidence can be seen on their skin......heavy tatoo all over from their shoulders, arms, hips until legs.....this is THE reason why you can't have tatoo to get into public baths or hot spring baths in Japan!

I didn't feel that scary seeing them......it's a fabulous artwork. To be honest, it simply make you say 'Wow'. Note that you should pay an extra attention when you shoot photos though. Some may not feel good about it!

You'll also get to see men without pants even look like if they didn't wear any underwear even --- only Fundoshi, (like thong or Mawashi of Sumo wrestlers) Even I felt awkward to see their bare legs stretching down directly from underneath short Happi coats.

Including all that, it's Tokyo culture over generations and years.
I was really glad to see it finally since I really loved the air, exciting, make me clap hands and beat the rhythm together with them -- ’Essah Hoi Sah'

by Zara

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