The Sanja Matsuri (Sanja Festival) is an annual festival in the Asakusa district that usually takes place on the third weekend in May.
It is held in celebration of the three founders of Sensoji Temple , who are decorated in the Asakusa Shrine next to the shrine. Nearly two million people visit Asakusa during the three days of the festival, making it one of Tokyo's most popular festivals.
Sanja Matsuri has about a hundred portable shrines (mikoshi) in which Shinto deities (kami) are placed and paraded through the streets to bring good luck to local businesses and residents. The smaller area mikoshi can be seen on the streets of Asakusa during the festival, while the festival, the three large mikoshi belonging to Asakusa Shrine, appear on Sundays. The whole festival, Asakusa is packed with food stalls, carnival games and revelers in the vibrant atmosphere of Japanese drums and hammers.
The festival begins on Friday afternoon with the Daigyoretsu Parade, a large parade of priests, city officials, geisha, musicians, and dancers dressed in Edo costumes. They proceed along Yanagi Dori to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Temple. A Shinto ceremony is held immediately after the parade, followed by a traditional dance to pray for a good harvest and prosperity. On the first afternoon the portable shrines (mikoshi) of the Asakusa neighborhood are brought out and through the streets, accompanied by musicians playing Japanese drums and flutes.
Saturday covers the mikoshi neighborhood, where nearly 100 people out of the district's 44 neighborhoods are brought out around noon and taken to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine to be blessed before they are taken back for a parade. around their neighborhood to spread good fortune and prosperity. Many neighborhoods also have mikoshi for younger children as well as women's mikoshi.
Sunday's events, the last day of the festival, begin at 6:00 a.m. when hundreds of revelers, grouping their neighborhoods and wearing matching carnival clothes, gather at Asakusa Shrine and vie to carry one of the three main shrine mikoshi). The groups were very competitive as they jumped to carry the mikoshi. Therefore, spectators are not allowed beyond the entrance of Sensoji during this part of the festival due to space and safety concerns.
After about two hours the mikoshi go in different directions to be paraded through the district. At the end of the evening, they will visit all of Asakusa's streets, shopping districts and neighborhoods before returning to Asakusa Shrine.
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