The Kanda Matsuri festival in Tokyo is one of Japan’s three largest festivals. // © 2011 Renfield Kuroda
Despite the fact that Tokyo’s various monuments, natural attractions and rich culture are enough to beckon travelers year-round, the summer festivals that take place during the months of May and June are truly worth the visit. These festive events encompass unique, visually captivating sights that offer visitors to Tokyo an authentic glimpse into Japanese traditions and beliefs. The chance to momentarily be a part of the action will enthrall clients.Kanda Matsuri
Kanda Matsuri, recognized as one of Japan’s three largest festivals, is scheduled to take place on the Saturday and Sunday closest to May 15. Dating back to the Edo Period, this festival alternates in scale according to the year. It was during that ancient time period that a rule was established to put on the extravagant main festival in odd-numbered years and to reduce the size of its festivities during even-numbered years.
Luckily, for clients traveling to Tokyo during May 2011, Saturday’s main attraction will include some 300 people gathered at Kanda Myojin Shrine and beginning a march through various central Tokyo districts — some of which will include Kanda, Nihombashi, Otembachi, Marunochi, etc. — parading with extravagant portable shrines, multiple floats and accompanying Shinto priests riding on horseback. On Sunday, approximately 100 portable shrines, varying in size and decor, will gather in the streets for another day of festive celebration.Asakusa Sanja Matsuri
Held at Tokyo’s famous Asakusa Shrine, this festival has been popularized as one of the largest celebrations of mikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) held in this traditional Japanese province. This three-day celebration, beginning on the third Sunday and recommencing on the following Friday and Saturday of May, has attracted thousands of eager spectators to view men, women and children carrying mikoshi of varying sizes and jolting them straight into the air in the hopes of intensifying the power of the deities mounted atop the portable shrines.
This all-day event, beginning at 6 a.m. on Sunday and continuing until 8 p.m., marks only the first day of celebrations. Suggest to your clients that they attend the following Friday’s events which includes floats filled with musicians playing traditional Japanese songs, participants adorned in traditional artisan’s garb, dancers performing authentic dance routines, and the eventual culmination of events at the shrine where a dance called Binzasara Mai — a dance praying for a rich harvest and the protection and prosperity of one’s descendents — is performed. Sanno Matsuri
Tokyo’s famous June festival, beginning at 8 a.m. in front of the Hie-jinja Shrine in Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, dates from June 9 to 16 this year. Travelers are welcome to join the large crowd and view the more than 300 people adorned in ancient costumes as they partake in the main procession known as jinkosai. The exciting sights and sounds consist of mikoshi (portable shrines), dashi floats, people carrying drums, procession participants on horseback and much more. During the festival week, clients will also have the chance to experience a variety of Japanese traditions including savoring hot tea in the shrine garden and taking in a formal procession of individuals through a thatch ring which is believed to purify the individual’s sins for the following six months.