Every summer the largest samba carnival in Japan brings an energy to Asakusa that is quite unlike traditional Japanese festivities like the Sanja Matsuri. On Saturday, August 26 the streets were lined with people waiting to see samba dancers and parade floats. Nearly half a million people came to Asakusa for this special summer event.
Since there is no Sambodromo in Tokyo, the samba parade here takes place around Senso-ji Temple. On Friday night, the biggest teams assembled their parade floats behind the temple’s main hall. Then on Saturday morning the several thousand members of the teams taking part in the Asakusa Samba Carnival arrived. And they brought a lot of fun colors, noise, and enthusiasm with them.
The teams gathered in their costumes between Senso-ji Temple and Sumida River. Then one team after the other they went down Umamichi-dori Street singing and dancing. Then they turned right onto Kaminarimon-dori Street. In front of the temple's iconic Kaminarimon Gate with its huge lantern they competed against each other to win this year’s Carnival Parade Contest.
G.R.E.S. Nakamise BARBAROS won the 36th Asakusa Samba Carnival Parade Contest in the league of the biggest teams and also took home the prize for best “Alegoria” float. The local team from Asakusa chose “Cabaret” as the theme for their parade. The team’s costumes and floats were all scenes from a cabaret come to life, including entertainers, dancers, singers, cocktails, and even chandeliers. The rich costumes sparkled and with a lot of red, black, and gold created the atmosphere of a cabaret theater.
Other teams had their samba dancers, percussionists, singers, and floats bring to life very different themes. G.R.E.S. Uniao dos Amadores danced through Asakusa dressed as hunters and wild flowers and animals in a display of “Prehistoric times” with one float featuring a woolly mammoth. And G.R.E.S. Liberdade sent their team “Into the sky” with wings, balloons, magic broomsticks, and rainbows and turned their percussion group into pilots.
After the parade, the energy of samba music stayed in Asakusa until late at night. Visitors and samba team members filled local bars and restaurants. All the shops on Hoppi-dori Street were full and some small groups formed and played more samba music.
This year’s samba carnival was again a special day in Asakusa.