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Here are must-see things at Kanda Matsuri Festival!


UpdateJuly 21, 2022
ReleaseMay 9, 2019

Kanda Matsuri in the 1st year of Reiwa

Along with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka, Kanda Matsuri is considered to be one of the three major Shinto festivals of Japan. The festival is held in the Kanda area centering on Kanda Myojin (Kanda-jinja Shrine) in Kanda, Chiyoda City. In 2019, the 1st year of Reiwa, it will be held on May 9 to 15. Kanda Matsuri has two different versions, including a full-fledged version, called “hon-matsuri,” a boisterous festival which is held in odd-numbered years, and a simplified version, called “kage-matsuri,” which is held in even-numbered years. This year is the hon-matsuri version.

kandamatsuriA depiction of Kanda Matsuri
Copyright: Tokyo Convention&Visitors Bureau

Kanda Myojin, where Tokugawa Ieyasu offered prayers

Kanda Myojin is also known for the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu had his chief commanders offer prayers at the shrine before his battles and also for the fact that he donated shrine buildings and mikoshi (portable shrines) after achieving unification of the country (late 16th century to early 17th century). The shrine is said to bring good luck in romance, business, and gambling as well as to keep away evil spirits. Since Kanda Matsuri was an official festival for the Tokugawa Shogunate, it was also called a “tenka matsuri.” With the elegant parade and powerful “mikoshi miyairi” event, where many mikoshi of various sizes are carried through the street by many people, this festival has many things to see.

kandamatsuriKandadaimyojin omatsuri no zu, painted by Utagawa Sadashige
Photos courtesy of National Diet Library Digital Collections

Various events are held during Kanda Matsuri. The following section introduces some of the main events.

Shinko-sai ritual

8:00-19:00 on May 11 (Sat), 2019
With three special mikoshi called “horen mikoshi,” which were dedicated to Kanda Myojin, a parade goes through the shrine’s parishioner communities to expel evils and purify the area. The mikoshi go through the Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi and Marunouchi, and Akihabara areas. The parade leaves the shrine at 8 a.m. and takes a break around 1 p.m. at Nihonbashi Ryogoku kyu-okariya (a resting site for the mikoshi parade around Higashi-Nihombashi Station) to perform a ritual. Until 2:20 p.m., when the afternoon part of the event starts, you can see the three horen mikoshi at the same time. The parade then resumes and arrives at Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store around 4 p.m. After that, more mikoshi, dashi floats, and a group of musha (armed samurai) join the parade, and the scale of the parade reaches thousands of people. The central Tokyo area is in full festival mode with the excitement of the festival. The parade comes back to Kanda Myojin around 7 p.m.

kandamatsuriA depiction of Kanda Matsuri
Copyright: Tokyo Convention&Visitors Bureau

There are 108 parishioner communities for Kanda Shrine. Ujigami guardian gods protect particular areas and ujiko parishioners are people who live in the areas and worship the gods.

Mikoshi miyairi

9:00 a.m. to evening on May 12 (Sun), 2019
While the Shinko-sai ritual is for mikoshi to walk through the parishioner communities, Mikoshi miyairi is an event where mikoshi from each parishioner community sets out for Kanda Myojin. Mikoshi from respective communities arrive at the shrine and offer prayers. During this event, mikoshi from respective communities go through their own communities. Called “chiiki togyo,” the purpose is to purify various places in the town.
*Some communities have mikoshi miyairi on May 11.

kandamatsuriA depiction of Kanda Matsuri
Copyright: Tokyo Convention&Visitors Bureau

There are other things that shouldn’t be missed!

Mikoshi mitamaire

Evening on May 10 (Fri), 2019
During this ritual, goshinrei (gods’ spirits) are put into each mikoshi for the 108 parishioner communities of Kanda Myojin. This is performed by a shinshoku (a person responsible for performing rituals and clerical works for a shrine) of Kanda Myojin at a mikisho (a resting place for mikoshi) of each community.

Wadaiko Festival and Local Specialties Fair

May 11 (Sat) and 12 (Sun), 2019
Wadaiko (Japanese drums) teams gather from all over Japan to do their drums performance on the grounds of Kanda Myojin as well as on a special stage in Miyamoto Park. A local specialties fair will also be held at Miyamoto Park, where local items and specialties are available for purchase.

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