Golden Week is over and summer is almost upon us, and soon we’ll be enjoying warm weather delights like natsu matsuri (summer festivals). But many of Tokyo’s major festivals actually fall in late spring, so to help you get an early start on matsuri season here’s a guide to the best celebrations.
Kanda Matsuri (properly known as Kanda Myojin Omikoshi Togyo) is, along with Sanja Matsuri and Sanno Matsuri, one of the historic Three Great Festivals of Tokyo. The full festival is only celebrated in odd-numbered years, so those who visit in 2009 will be treated to a large number of events throughout the week, including taiko drumming and a torchlight noh performance. The highlights fall on the weekend, with a day-long Shinkosai procession on the 9th in which traditionally dressed participants parade through the neighborhood; mikoshi (portable shrines) will be carried around the area from 9:00am to 6:00pm on the 10th.
The Tokyo Port Festival brings the majestic Kaio Maru, one of the largest sailboats in the world, to Harumi Futo (Harumi Pier) where it can be inspected by visitors both inside and out. Both days also feature a flea market and fish, produce and flower markets, and on the 17th there will be a fireboat parade, a fire-fighting drill, and a “water pageant” featuring colored water hosed from a fireboat.
The Asakusa Sanja Matsuri is the liveliest of Tokyo’s Three Great Festivals and the only one that is fully celebrated each year, attracting up to 1.5 million spectators over three days. The festival begins at 1:00pm on the 15th with Meibutsu Daigyoretsu, a musical parade of traditionally dressed musicians and dancers. On the 16th over 100 mikoshi will be carried through the neighborhood from 12:30 pm, and on the 17th three great mikoshi will be paraded around the neighborhood throughout the day.
Over 100 yatai (festival stalls) will be set up over three days, creating a lively atmosphere, with mikoshi carried around the streets of Shinjuku on the 24th.
More information (Japanese only):
Members of the Edo Civilian Fire Fighters' Association will hold a ladder acrobatics demonstration around noon after a solemn memorial ceremony.
One of the biggest ofujisan no ueki ichi (potted plant fairs) in Tokyo, featuring a wide variety of bonsai, live flowers and other potted plants from noon to around 10:00 pm each day.
The highlight of this three-day matsuri is the night festival on June 6th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. The largest mikoshi in Tokyo, weighing nearly four metric tons, is lit with paper lanterns carried through the streets.
One of the Three Great Festivals of Tokyo, this matsuri’s main event, the Jinkosai procession, won’t be held this year as it occurs only during even-numbered years. A number of smaller processions and ceremonies will be held, along with traditional music and dance performances and open-air tea ceremonies.