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Sanja Festival 2017 at Asakusa Shrine

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  • Sanja Festival 2017

    19 – 21 May 2017
    Asakusa Shrine

    Sanja Festival of Asakusa Shrine is counted among Tokyo’s big three festivals since the Edo period, together with Sanno Festival (Hie Shrine) and Kanda Festival (Kanda Shrine). The annual festival, held in Asakusa on the third weekend of May, is known for its powerful procession of mikoshi (divine vehicle or “portable shrine”).

    Sanja Festival 2017 Asakusa Shrine (amuzen article)
    Photo courtesy: City of Taito

    Each mikoshi carries the divine spirit, transferred from its abode (“jinja” or Shinto sanctuary) during the festival. It makes a tour in the neighborhood, carried on the shoulders of devotees and volunteers, to give blessings to the community. Tradition holds that the vigorous shaking of mikoshi, to the rhythm of cries, is apt for awakening the spirit on board. It must be quite a rough ride for the divinity…

    Today Sanja Festival is held by Asakusa Shrine, the Shinto sanctuary. In premodern times, however, the festival was organized jointly with Senso-ji Temple, the Buddhist institution next door, with which Asakusa Shrine constituted a religious complex.

    Sanja Festival 2017 Asakusa Shrine (amuzen article)
    Photo courtesy: City of Taito

    Dances and Festival Procession

    On 19 May, a grand procession (“daigyoretsu”) will take place (to be cancelled in case of rain). The procession is composed of music and dance units with people clad in kimono costumes: Float of festive music (“o-hayashi yatai”), Dance of “binzasara” (sound-producing instrument made of wooden sheets), Dance of White Herons (“shirasagi-no-mai”) and “kiyari” songs (chorus sung by men of certain professions), for instance.

    Also during the three-day event, special dances will be performed every day in dedication to the deity, such as “Binzasara-mai” (Dance of “binzasara”) and “Miko-mai” (dance of miko or maidens engaged in shrine services). In the main hall and on the stage of Asakusa Shrine.

    Mikoshi

    The festival culminates in mikoshi processions. On Saturday, 20 May, about 100 mikoshi belonging to neighbourhood communities come together. They go through a purification ceremony conducted by Asakusa Shrine one by one, and set out on a tour of respective neighbourhood. On Sunday, 21 May, three mikoshi belonging to Asakusa Shrine will make a tour in their turn.

    Festival plaza and stalls

    During the festival, the entire town of Asakusa will be in a festive mood. Many stalls will be set up around the temple precincts and Nakamise-dori Street. On 21 May, “Festival Plaza” will also be opened along a stretch of street between Kaminari-mon-dori Street and Umamichi-dori Street, reserved for pedestrians during the event (11 am – 6 pm).

    Sanja Festival 2017 Asakusa Shrine (amuzen article)
    Photo courtesy: City of Taito

* The above is the information known at the time of publication and subject to change without prior notice.

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