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Kanda Festival 2023: See One of Tokyo's Greatest Festivals

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Kanda Matsuri, held every year in mid-May, is the main festival of Kanda Myojin Shrine, which celebrates the guardian deities of Tokyo. Learn about the festival highlights, parades, and how to access the venue.

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What is the Kanda Matsuri?

kanda festival

© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Kanda Matsuri is a festival held at Kanda Myojin Shrine located near Akihabara in 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 (1543-1616) 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 (794-1185). 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-period attire and parading through Tokyo is very exciting. On the day after the Shinkosai, you will be able to see portable shrines (mikoshi) from the district 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.

Kanda Festival 2023 Dates

Shinkosai: May 13
Mikoshi Miyairi: May 14

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 shrine maidens is offered to the Gods. The atmosphere can be solemn or festive depending on the day you attend.

Highlights of Kanda Matsuri Festival


kanda festival

© 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 and a large catfish that 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

kanda festival

© 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 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.

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

Written by

Previous experience as an editor at a women's media company in Japan. I lived in Australia for a while and joined MATCHA after returning to Japan. In charge of editing, promoting sponsored content, and creative direction. I love watching Western TV series.
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