(more photos below and even more photos here)
Sannō Matsuri is one of the “big three” festivals in Tokyo (the other two are the Sanja Matsuri and the Kanda Matsuri. Technically, the Sannō Matsuri runs over the course of a week, but the highlight is definitely the 神幸祭 (しんこうさい) (or shinkōsai, which translates roughly to “divine procession”) that takes place only during even-numbered years. Funnily enough, despite being here for a number of years, I had never actually managed to see the procession through the streets until this past Friday.
I’ll let the Japan Times fill in the details:
Although the Sanno Festival occurs annually, the Shinkosai procession happens only on even-numbered years. Dating back to the times of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Shinkosai was to welcome three sacred mikoshi (sacred shrines) into the Edo Castle, each believed to be carrying a god. The Sanno Matsuri itself is considered one of Edo’s three major festivals.
Overpasses put an end to the towering floats in 1885, but the pageantry has not faded. Blessed by fine weather, the large procession of people dressed in period costume began its journey at 8 a.m. at Hie Shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda Ward. Accompanied by gagaku (imperial court music) throughout, the parade snaked its way through central Tokyo, passing by the Imperial Palace and through famous districts of Ginza and Marunouchi, before returning to its starting place at 5 p.m.
I was on the corner at Ginza 4-chome as the procession passed, so it was somewhat crowded and movement was limited by the changing traffic lights and the police and security guards doing a bit of traffic and crowd control. Because traffic is not stopped for this procession, it gets segmented by the traffic lights, so Ginza 4-chome is probably not the best viewing spot. I’ve put a map here, so you can see the number of possible viewing spots.
Despite Ginza 4-chome not being ideal for viewing the Sannō Matsuri Shinkōsai, it’s definitely worth catching if you happen to be in central Tokyo when it’s happening.
I took quite a few shots. Here are a few:
As everyone passed by, I was quite struck by how grumpy almost all of the participants looked. To be fair, by that point, they’d basically been walking through the streets for about 6 hours, so I’d probably be grumpy too at that point. However, the quote of the day definitely goes to the tourist standing behind me who asked the person she was with (in a rather twangy American accent): “Is is at happy occasion…?” It was really almost impossible to tell, so I understood why she asked. What’s funnier though is that she had arrived a bit later, so I don’t think she’d even seen the guys at the front who looked like they were ready to lay a beating on someone: