The Sanja Matsuri, a symbolic festival of
Tokyo, is one of the largest festivals of
mikoshi (portable shrines) held in
Asakusa, which is a quarter where you can
still find traditional houses and streets.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of
spectators visit Asakusa during the three
festival days. With amazing vigor, men
carry several dozens of portable shrines
on their shoulders. There are also
portable shrines carried by women only,
and by children only. The most exciting
moments are when the portable shrines are
jolted vehemently, for this jolting is
believed to intensify the power of the
deities mounted on the portable shrines.
On the Saturday around noon, small and
large portable shrines gather at Asakusa
Shrine, and then set off to parade through
the town streets. On the Sunday, three
especially large-sized portable shrines
join the parade. These huge portable
shrines depart from Asakusa Shrine early
in the morning at 6 o'clock, and return
around 8 o'clock at night.
Other than the portable shrines, the parade which starts at 1 o'clock in the afternoon on the Friday is really worth seeing. Floats which carry musicians playing flutes and beating drums, people dressed as traditional artisans and dancers performing traditional dance all parade down Yanagi-dori to Asakusa Shrine.
When the troupe arrives at the shrine, you can see the performance of a dance called Binzasara Mai. This is a dance praying for abundant harvest and prosperity of one's descendants performed by people dressed in splendid costumes while holding binzasara, which are musical instruments made of bamboo strips strung together. This instrument is very interesting for it is played by opening and closing it like an accordion, and produces rich melodies.