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Visiting Japan In May? Enjoy The Kanda Festival In Tokyo!

Visiting Japan In May? Enjoy The Kanda Festival In Tokyo!

Tokyo 2017.04.14

This is the Kanda festival, a festival centered around Kanda Myojin, a shrine in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. This happens to be one of the three biggest festivals in Japan alongside the Gion festival in Kyoto and the Tenjin festival in Osaka.

Translated by Richard Perkins

Written by Mayu

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What Is the Kanda Festival?


© The Tokyo Sightseeing Foundation

The Kanda Festival is held at Kanda Shrine, which is located in the Chiyoda ward of Tokyo. Along with the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Tenjin Festival in Osaka, this is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. There are two different types of Kanda Festivals held: the Honmatsuri, which is held in odd numbered years, and the Kagematsuri, which is held in even years. However, when someone mentions the Kanda Festival, they’re usually referring to the lively Honmatsuri.

The Kanda Festival is also referred to as the Tenka Festival, or the Unification Festival. The connection to this name comes from Tokugawa Ieyasu who initiated the Tokugawa shogunate (*1). It is said that before going into battle with other warlords, Tokugawa would without fail make his servants go to the Kanda Shrine and pray for victory in the upcoming battle. By doing this, Tokugawa Ieyasu was able to wonderfully unify Japan. In gratitude to the shrine, he donated a gorgeous-looking shaden (the main building of the shrine) and an omikoshi (a portable shrine) to Kanda Shrine. Thanks to the support of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the festival held at this shrine reached impressive proportions.

The highlight of this festival is getting to see the shinkosai, which is a line of roughly 500 people who all wear clothing from the Heian period (794-1185). The shinkosai parade starts off at the Kanda Shrine, goes through Akihabara, an area which is well-known for its many electronic stores, goes through the office districts of Marunouchi and Otemachi, then makes its way back to Kanda Shrine. The sight of a line of people wearing clothing from the Heian period walking through the modern streets is very striking. The next day after the shinkosai is when the omikoshi comes out from the town neighboring Kanda Shrine.

We will introduce here some more information on the highlights of the Kanda Festival.

*1: Tokugawa shogunate: the Tokugawa family ruled Japan from 1603-1867. This is often referred to as theEdo period (1603-1868). This was a period that started off with the first shogun - Ieyasu Tokugawa, continuing until Tokugawa Yoshinobu gave over political power to Emperor Meiji.

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