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Kanda Matsuri, One Of Tokyo's Greatest Festivals - 2019 Guide

Kanda Matsuri, One Of Tokyo's Greatest Festivals - 2019 Guide

Tokyo 2019.03.24 Bookmark

Kanda Matsuri is a festival held at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward every May. It is one of the largest three traditional festivals in Japan, along with Gion Matsuri and Tenjin Matsuri. Find out the highlights and how to access the venue.

Translated by Jasmine Nishino

Written by Mayu

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What is the Kanda Matsuri?

日本三大祭の1つ神田祭〜概要・アクセス・見どころなど〜

© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Kanda Matsuri is a festival held at Kanda Myojin Shrine located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. It is one of the three largest festivals of Japan along with Kyoto's Gion Matsuri and Osaka's Tenjin Matsuri.

There are two types of festivals at Kanda Matsuri. One is the Hon Matsuri, which occurs on odd-numbered years, and the other is the Kage Matsuri, which happens on even-numbered years. When people refer to Kanda Matsuri, they usually are talking about the lively Hon Matsuri.

Kanda Matsuri is also called the Tenka Matsuri (Unification Festival). The name derives from Ieyasu Tokugawa who founded the Edo shogunate (*1). Before battling other warlords, he made his servants pray for his victory at Kanda Myojin Shrine.

After that, Ieyasu Tokugawa managed to unify Japan and showed his appreciation toward Kanda Myojin Shine by building many large and small shrines around it. Thanks to Ieyasu, the festivities held at the shrine managed to grow big like it is today.

At Kanda Matsuri, make sure not to miss the procession of nearly five hundred people dressed in outfits from the Heian period. This procession is known as Shinkosai. The Shinkosai departs from Kanda Myojin Shrine and passes Akihabara's electric town area and the office districts of Marunouchi and Otemachi before returning to Kanda Myojin Shrine.

Seeing people adorned in Heian shozoku (*2) costumes and parading through Tokyo is very exciting. On the day after the Shinkosai, you will be able to see portable mikoshi shrines from towns around Kanda Myojin Shrine on display.

For more highlights and information on access to the Kanda Matsuri, continue reading below.

*1 Edo Shogunate: A period ruled by Ieyasu Tokugawa from 1603-1867. It is also called the Edo period. The first shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa founded it and continued fifteen generations down until Yoshinobu Tokugawa passed the authority to the Meiji emperor.
*2 Heian Shozoku: Outfits own by the royal family of the Heian period.

2019 Dates for Kanda Matsuri

2019 is the year of the Honsai. The main event will be held on May 11 and 12.

Shinkosai: May 11 (Saturday) all day.
Mikoshi Miyairi: May 12 (Sunday) all day.

Kanda Matsuri as a whole is held between May 9 and May 15.

There are many ceremonies, such as the Houren Mikoshi Senzasai where the God of Kanda Myojin is transferred to the portable mikoshi shrine, and the Reitaisai where the Mikomai dance by miko priestess is offered to the Gods. The atmosphere can be solemn or festive depending on the day you attend.

Highlights of Kanda Matsuri Festival

Shinkosai

江戸っ子の熱気が秋葉原にも参入!「神田祭」の見どころポイントと楽しみ方

© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Shinkosai is a ceremony where regional gods go on three mikoshi shrines called "Ichinomiya Houren", "Ninomiya Mikoshi" and "Sannomiya Mikoshi" and are thought to go around purifying the towns. The people dressed in outfits from the Heian period are assistants of the gods.

One of the highlights of the Shinkosai is a massive hikimono (*3). The hikimono of Kanda Matsuri has heads of ogres or large catfish and is said to bring large earthquakes.

The group of people who draw the hikimono is called tsukematsuri. The hikimono and tsukematsuri vary each year.

*3 hikimono: A large cart carried or drawn by men during Japanese festivals. It is also called hikiyama, yatai or danjiri.

Mikoshi Miyairi

江戸っ子の熱気が秋葉原にも参入!「神田祭」の見どころポイントと楽しみ方

© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

On the day after the Shinkosai, around one hundred mikoshi shrines are brought from nearby towns and make their way to Kanda Myojin. This ceremony is called Mikoshi Miyairi. Seeing men wearing happi (*4) coats and carrying the mikoshi shrines is an iconic view of Japanese festivals.

You may spot some men carrying the mikoshi shrines wearing the traditional Japanese underwear, fundoshi. If you're lucky, you may also find geisha dressed as men called Tekomai that lead the mikoshi shrine elegantly.

*4 Happi: A traditional clothing worn during festivals. It is a coat up to the hips length and is worn like a kimono.

Watch Kanda Matsuri from Mitsukoshi!

The Shinkosai with people wearing Heian outfits departs from various places, including Kanda Myojin Shrine and other places. The Tsukematsuri group departs from Arima Elementary School.

Both groups come together in front of Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Branch, the department store, around 16:30. If you are coming out to see the festivities, we highly recommend going to this spot to capture the excitement. However, it can get very crowded so it is advised to come in advance.

Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Branch

Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-4-1 Google Map
Directions: Right outside exit A5 of Mitsukoshimae Station on the Ginza Line.

Kanda Myoujin Shrine

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*The transfer times and fees are based on the information provided by the official website. This information is from February of 2019. Please understand that the information is subject to change.

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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