Tokyo Diaries – Kanda Matsuri

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In May just about every day has a major festival somewhere in Japan, if you’re willing to look.  But this is one of the big ones.

Perfect weather all week, rain on the one day I had something planned – that’s the way it’s been lately in Tokyo.  This week sees the Kanda Matsuri, one of the three great festivals of Edo.  It’s held only every-other year – an old Shogunate decree that resulted from the intense rivalry with the Sanno Matsuri (now held in even-numbered years) which often led to violence.  Because the 2011 Kanda Matsuri was cancelled due to the 3/11 earthquake, this is the first full-fledged matsuri in 4 years.

The biggest event of the festival is the huge parade that starts and finishes at Kanda Myojin (the shrine where I spent New Years and Setsubun), at 8:00 AM and 7:00 PM.  It traverses the old Edokko neighborhoods like Kanda, Nihonbashi and Awajicho.  I chose to look in from the flagship Mitsukoshi department store in Nihinbashi, largely because of the weather.  It was pretty nasty, but a big crowd still turned up, and we still got our full share of mikoshi, drums and even the mounted Shinto Priests, who were quite an impressive sight.

Among the highlights is the Sgt. Frog float – why it exists, I have no idea – and the final mikoshi, the one in the last video.  It looked much older than the others and had a larger group of chanting bearers, so I suspect it’s of utmost importance to the shrine.  The giant Oni from Setsubun also made an appearance, as well as the miniature horses which are the Shrine’s symbol.  The odd thing is that despite the hour-long procession, Chuo-dori remained open to bus traffic – which meant that everyone would press in close to snap photos, and periodically the police would blow their whistles and shout “Basu!  Basu!” and everyone would scamper back to let the bus lumber through.

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6 comments

  1. S

    Ahhhh, I just came back from Japan. The teaching job didn't suit me (I was asked to go another year but declined). These posts definitely bring me back to my town in Japan.

    I will return and work as something BUT a teacher. Time for studying for the JLPT's (can already pass level 4 by the looks of it).

    Keep up the posts, they give me motivation!

  2. R

    Too bad that the weather didn't cooperate, but it looked like lots of people showed up for the festival despite the weather — that's quite the spirit. I am enjoying this and your last posts of the Tokyo Diaries…they made me think of RDG. I watched some videos on the chanting and dancing before. I thought that they were boring with everything went so slow — clearly I didn't understand and therefore couldn't make the connection. Now I know a tiny bit — mostly from your posts here and on RDG — the purpose for the dances, I have come to appreciate more. I guess when given meaning, anything can become beautiful.

  3. e

    Enzo: Matsuri;Notes. Blessed your dedication truly.

    I must say as much as I enjoy all the pics and eeeh horses 8D I'm loving the giant grinning fish the most :,). I'm finding myself grinning back at him.

    @Ronbb: that last sentence is worth framing on the wall *claps*

  4. R

    Thanks elianthos80.

  5. K

    Oh Japan and everyone being prepared with an umbrella, I love it

  6. i

    Wonder if I'll get an Invader Zim float over here. Keroro Gunso must be as popular as Lucky Star suggests

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