Shake your Spirit at the Sanja Matsuri



2023.04.20 (Thu)

By Dan Lewis, inbound tourism adviser and consultant, long-term Japan resident & outdoor activity enthusiast.

The Sanja Matsuri, a vibrant three-day festival held annually in May in Taito City’s Asakusa, is a popular event that draws around 1.8 million visitors. The festival kicks off with a grand procession on the first day, featuring musical floats, dances, and geiko dance troupes. On the second day, a joint procession of about 100 portable shrines from 44 Asakusa Ujiko towns takes place after the Rei-taisai ceremony.

On the final day, three portable shrines, Ichinomiya, Ninomiya, and Sannomiya, are carried out from the shrine grounds in the early morning, and during the day, the procession is divided into three sections through each town, returning to the shrine grounds at sunset for the "miyairi" to conclude the festival.

One of the highlights of the Sanja Matsuri is the practice of "tamafuri" or "shaking the spirit." Devoted worshippers vigorously shake the portable shrines during the procession, believed to awaken and invigorate the god within, and bestow blessings upon the community. With deep reverence and unwavering belief, participants seek favor and protection for their livelihood and well-being. The spectacle of the shrine being shaken with fervor is a captivating sight, brimming with spiritual meaning and cultural significance.

In addition to the procession and "tamafuri," the Sanja Matsuri features various Shinto rituals, dances, and performances at the shrine grounds and Kaguraden. It's worth noting that in the past, the festival was held on different dates and integrated with Sensoji Temple during the Edo period, showcasing its rich historical background.

Overall, the Sanja Matsuri is a lively and cherished festival that brings together millions of people to celebrate with reverence, joy, and cultural pride. Its unique traditions, including the awe-inspiring "tamafuri" ritual, make it a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience for locals and visitors alike.

This year's Sanja Matsuri is set to take place on May 19, 20, and 21, so mark your calendars and get ready to shake things up and revel in the blessings of the gods at this thrilling festival!

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