Tokyo Diaries – Sanja Matsuri

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And a little Todai, too.
If it’s May there must be a matsuri somewhere today – especially if it’s a Saturday.  Today’s happens to be the biggest in Tokyo, the Sanja Matsuri, which draws about 2 million people to Asakusa over three days.

I actually visited this matsuri back in 2010 (pics are on my Picasa page) but that was on a Friday, and quite a different experience.  Today was the day for the neighborhood associations to parade their mikoshi around the Shitamachi neighborhoods (much like last Sunday at Kanda Matsuri) where tomorrow is the main event, where the Asakusa Jinja’s three huge mikoshi will traverse the area.  That gets pretty intense, apparently – violent even – as locals fight over the right to bear the portable shrines.

Anyway, the diaries are on matsuri overload at this point, so you know the drill.  After Sanja I met my friend Mark, who’s lived in Tokyo for about 15 years and is in the doctoral program at Tokyo University (Todai).  This weekend is their May Festival – kind of like a giant high school culture festival blown up to brainiac college size.  Good fun, and a very nice campus with several Josiah Conder buildings.  Nothing there looks remotely Japanese apart from most of the students and the temple-style gate, but a lovely place nevertheless.

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  1. M

    >the diaries are on matsuri overload at this point

    Yeah, really. lol.

    And your friend must be smart to enter Tokyo-u. What's he studying?

  2. He's getting his Doctorate in linguistics, specializing in Okinawan language. He's been working FT for the last decade as well.

  3. R

    I really like it that there is always something going on every weekend, and 2 million people joining the celebration is hugh…we don't even have 2 million people living in the two largest cities of our province.

    I noticed in one of your videos that there was a portable shrine carried by kids and — looks like — kids only. I think it's good that the Japanese are educating the next generation about its history and festivities, and getting them involved is really awesome.

    Todai…I so wanted to pay a visit. It does look very non-Japanese, as if you had left the country and entered into another world. How was the school festival? Did it look like what we saw from anime (although most of them were high school ones)?

  4. College festival was quite different from any of the HS culture festivals I've seen. Todai is like the Harvard of Japan, so the students are all geek-smart and it's a huge campus, with booths and activities spread out all over the place.

    They have kids mikoshi in every major matsuri, I think – I believe there's one in the Kanda Matsuri pics, too. I suspect that's been a tradition pretty much since these festivals started up. Hearing those high-pitched "Wasshoi Wasshoi!" chants was pretty cute.

  5. e

    I must say I'm lookign forward to the next installment of the Lost in Matsuri series.

    The kids mikoshi. Awww <3.
    By the last video you managed to get pretty close to the mikoshi. So pro ;p.
    Enticing Todai glimpse too. Did you buy anything or tried any activity at the festival? 😀
    I zeroed both on the buildings arches but also on the mauve cardigan of random tall elite geek student in one of the Todai photos. It's the rococo-pastels-meet-Kenshin effect. Gets me every time X,D.
    Also, parasol in the Asakusa street pic! Or rather an umbrella used as parasol. I approve of this custom. Frankly I've been so tempted of doing that in the summer heat outdoors here when even hats feel oppressive. I've seen a few foregneir turists doing that but it's a regrettably forgotten habit otherwise unless you're a cosplayer, a loony, a street performer or an eccentric granny.

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