Japan is a country steeped in tradition and culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in its many festivals. In the month of May, one of the most important festivals takes place in Tokyo – the Kanda Matsuri. This festival is held once every two years and is a celebration of the history, beauty, and significance of the Kanda Myojin Shrine.
The Kanda Myojin Shrine is located in the Chiyoda district of Tokyo and is one of the most important Shinto shrines in the city. The shrine dates back to the 8th century and has a long and fascinating history. It is dedicated to three deities – Daikokuten, the god of agriculture and commerce, Ebisu, the god of fishermen and good fortune, and Taira no Masakado, a warrior who rebelled against the government in the 10th century and was later deified.
The Kanda Matsuri festival is held over a period of three days, with the main events taking place on the second day. The festival begins with a purification ceremony, followed by a procession of mikoshi, or portable shrines, which are carried through the streets by local residents. The mikoshi are decorated with intricate carvings and are considered to be the homes of the gods during the festival. The procession is accompanied by traditional music and dance performances.
One of the highlights of the festival is the parade of dashi, or floats, which are adorned with colorful decorations and pulled through the streets by teams of men. The dashi are incredibly ornate and feature intricate carvings and paintings that depict scenes from Japanese history and mythology. The floats are accompanied by musicians and dancers who perform traditional songs and dances.
The Kanda Matsuri is one of the most important festivals in Tokyo, and it takes place every other year in mid-May. The festival has its origins in the Edo period, when the shogun would hold a procession to the Kanda Shrine in order to pray for peace and prosperity for the city. Today, the festival is a massive celebration that draws over a million visitors to the streets of central Tokyo.
The festival is split into two parts: the Satokagura, which is held in odd-numbered years, and the Honmatsuri, which is held in even-numbered years. The Satokagura is a smaller, more intimate version of the festival that takes place within the shrine grounds, while the Honmatsuri is the larger, more famous version that takes place on the streets of Tokyo.
The main event of the Honmatsuri is the procession of mikoshi, or portable shrines, through the streets. The mikoshi are carried by teams of men who shout and jostle as they move through the crowds. The procession is accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments like taiko drums and flutes, and it is a truly impressive spectacle.
Another highlight of the festival is the Yabusame, a form of horseback archery that takes place at the nearby Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. Riders dressed in traditional samurai costumes gallop down a track while shooting at targets with their bows and arrows. It’s a thrilling display of skill and precision, and it’s not to be missed.
Overall, the Kanda Matsuri is a fascinating glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage. If you’re in Tokyo in May during an even-numbered year, be sure to check it out!