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Sanja Matsuri - Asakusa's Greatest Festival! 2019 Schedule And Tips

Sanja Matsuri - Asakusa's Greatest Festival! 2019 Schedule And Tips

Tokyo 2019.03.25 Bookmark

Sanja Matsuri is an annual festival held at Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo every year in May. The parade of people carrying traditional mikoshi shrines is a must-see. Find out things to see and how to access the Sanja Matsuri in 2019!

Translated by Greg

Written by MATCHA

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What is Sanja Matsuri?

三社祭

© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Sanja Matsuri is an annual festival held during a weekend in mid-May at Asakusa Shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo.

The major event of Sanja Matsuri is the procession of portable mikoshi shrines on the second and third day. On the second day, you can see nearly one hundred mikoshi shrines gathering from surrounding towns, making their way toward Asakusa Shrine. On the third day, three massive mikoshi shrines depart from Asakusa Shrine and are paraded through nearby areas.

You can see the power and excitement coming from the mikoshi shrine carriers dressed in festival wear during this time.

The Origin of Sanja Matsuri

Asakusa Shrine is said to have been built nearly 1,400 years ago. Shrines in Japan usually enshrine Japanese gods, but Asakusa Shrine enshrines Hamanari and Takenari Hinokuma, two brothers who helped construct Sensoji Temple and Nakatomo Hajinoatai, an associate of the brothers (please note there are other theories on this story).

Therefore, Asakusa Shrine is also referred to as Sanja (three shrines) and the festivities held here are called Sanja Matsuri.

2019 Schedule for Sanja Matsuri

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© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

The dates for the Sanja Matsuri festival for 2019 are listed below.

Dates: May 17-19, 2019

The ceremonies held vary each day. The main highlights are the second and third day.

Location and Directions to Sanja Matsuri

Sanja Matsuri is held at Asakusa Shrine and its surrounding area. Asakusa Shrine is right next to Sensoji Temple. The closest station is Asakusa Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and the Toei Subway Asakusa Line. It is advised to go early to avoid crowds around the stations and on the trains on the day of the festival.

Highlights of Sanja Matsuri

The following is an introduction to the grand parade on the first day and the chonai mikoshi rengou togyo (Mikoshi Shrine Town Association Parade) on the second day.

Grand Parade: Day 1 (May 17 starting at 13:00)

On the first day, you can see a procession of people wearing historical outfits walking throughout the town called the "daigyoretsu" (grand parade. Asakusa becomes filled with festivity as geisha, members of the ohayashi yatai (*1) and dancers adorned in ceremonial Binzasara dancewear fill the streets.

The parade starts near Sensoji Temple at the Tokyo Asakusa Association (an association of geisha and ryotei restaurants). It makes way through the Kaminarimon Gates, Nakamise-dori shopping street, and Rokku entertainment district before reaching Asakusa Shrine.

In addition, the traditional Binzasara Dance passed down for generations at Asakusa Shrine is performed on the shrine grounds.

*1 Ohayashi yatai: a group of festival musicians (ohayashi) and people who draw the decorative carts.

Tokyo Asakusa Association
Location: Tokyo, Taito, Asakusa 3-33-5 Google Map

Mikoshi Shrine Town Association Parade: Day 2 (May 18 starting at 12:00)

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© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

On the second day, nearly one hundred portable mikoshi shrines from 44 neighboring towns around Asakusa Shrine are brought out. You will hear people shouting "wasshoi wasshoi" "oisa oisa" as they carry the shrine energetically. This procession is called the Chonai Mikoshi Rengou Togyo in Japanese.

During the procession, check out the movement called the tamafuri, where the participants carrying the portable shrines shake them up, down, left, and right. Historically, during Japanese festivals, the tamafuri movement was believed to bring a good harvest, have a good catch at sea, and ward away illnesses. The tamafuri at the Sanja Festival is thought to be quite powerful.

Honsha Mikoshi Kakuchou Togyo: Day 3 (May 19)

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© Public interest foundation, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

The festival's main event occurs on the third day (May 19), where three mikoshi shrines are transported from Asakusa Shrine and are paraded around the nearby towns. This event is called the Honsha Mikoshi Kakuchou Togyo.

The mikoshi shrine on this day is significantly larger than the mikoshi shrines on the second day. The three mikoshi shrine depart Asakusa Shrine at 6:00 and take three different routes. After walking around the three areas, it returns to Asakusa Shrine. The mikoshi shrine is expected to return to Asakusa Shrine around 18:00-19:00.

On this day, the path from Kaminarimon gates to Umamichi-dori street is called the "omatsuri hiroba" (festival square). Several mikoshi shrines from the second day are displayed here. If you are in Asakusa on this day, you will be able to see the mikoshi from both day two and three.

How to Enjoy the Sanja Matsuri Festival

The second and third day are the highlights of the festival. It is predicted that it will become very crowded around Kaminarimon Gates. Please be careful of the people and the mikoshi shrines to enjoy your time at the festival.

Asakusa 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 provided 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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