Tokyo's Major Historic Festival Attracts Many People
Held on the third weekend in May, the Sanja Festival of Asakusa Shrine is one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo, along with the Kanda Festival and Sanno Festival. It became very popular during the Edo period (1603-1868), and today it features the parading of more than a hundred mikoshi (portable shrines) by residents around the crowded streets near Asakusa Shrine.
According to legend, the shrine was built to honor two fishermen and a village elder who in the seventh century held a memorial service for a statue of the goddess Kannon that the fishermen found floating in a nearby river. The statue later become the principle image of the temple Sensoji, a renowned center of Kannon worship.
Mikoshi transport local deities, who are believed to leave their shrines once a year during festivals to visit the local community and extend their protection to parishioners for the coming year.
The Sanja Festival features an ancient dance called binzasara no mai and offers visitors a peek into how the townspeople of Edo (now Tokyo) celebrated festive occasions in the past.
Photos: (top) It takes plenty of people to carry a heavy mikoshi (Atsuko Nonogaki)
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