Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri

Last weekend from friday until sunday was the yearly Sanja Matsuri festival in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. If you want to kno, you’ll have to read Wikipedia’s articles on Sanja Matsuri and the Senjo-ji shrine. In short the legend goes something like this: on May 17 of the year 628 two fishermen found a bronze statue of a godess in the Sumida river. Together with some rich tradesman, they founded a temple to thank the gods for this gift, and this temple was the first temple of Senjo-ji in what is now Asakusa, Tokyo. As it often happens in the Japanese history, the temple burned down and was rebuilt one size larger than the original. This happened a couple of times and now it is a large temple complex.
The statue is still kept inside the main shrine. But – humtidum – the statue has never been and will never be dispayed to the public. Secrets are good for a religion, ain’t they? So, in order to let the surrounding areas enjoy the hapiness and luck the statue causes, there are three large models made of the shrine: big, wooden constructions, all made pretty with a lot of gold and stuff. These models are the Mikoshi. Inside each Mikoshi is a representation of the original statue. Each year these three Mikoshis are carried through the surrounding areas, in orde to beam some of the luck and hapiness onto the area and its people. The whole Mikoshi weighs about 1 – 1,5 tonnes, so it has to be carried by a whole team: each team consists of some 150 ppl (men and women), and some 40-50 are carrying it. When somebody gets tired, they are repaced by one of the remaining carriers.
The statue inside the Mikoshi is not directly visible, so to maximise the “amount” of hapiness, that beams out to the neighbourhood, the whole Mikoshi is sbeing shaken and turned around the whole 3-5 km it is carried around! You can guess how exhausted the carriers get after a while! The rest of the team is continuously shouting cries to encourage the carriers, supported by a group of musicians (percussion + one flute) on a separate, second car, pushed by some teammembers.

Now, how does this look in real life?

First of all, you should know that the festival is held in the third weekend of May. The temperatur can get as high as 25-30 degrees easily in Tokyo around that time. So, all carriers are not only tired and exited, they are also thirsty! Ofcorse the whole neighbourhood is celebrating along, so there are stand selling food and drinks along the route. So, what would you do as tired, thirsty carrier? I’d get myself a regular supply of cool, fresh beer! That’s what most of the carriers do too. And then they have to carry again


The last 500 metres or so it really looks like a drunk elephant is being pushed along the street, with a percussion behind it! And the percussion would fit perfectly in Rio's carnival too!!

I haven't had so much fun watching this scene in a looong time! When you get the chance, you should goand watch it! Prepare for the crowds and prepare to (maybe) get some beer over you, but it's fun!

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Sanja Matsuri 2012


From 18 – 20 May this years Sanja Matsuri-festival is held in Tokyo. The Sanja Matsuri (Sanja Festival) is an annual festival in the Asakusa district that takes place over the third full weekend in May. It is held in celebration of the three founders of Sensoji Temple, who are enshrined as Shinto gods (kami) in Asakusa Shrine next door to the temple. Nearly two million people visit Asakusa over the three days of the festival, making it one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo, together with the Kanda Matsuri and the Sanno Matsuri. Continue reading