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Sanno Festival

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A procession of people in the dress of the imperial court. (Hie Jinja, Tokyo)

The Facts


The Sanno Festival is organized by Hie Jinja in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The shrine has a long history, dating back to 1478, when it was built to ensure good fortune during the construction of the castle in Edo (now Tokyo).


The highlight of the festival is the procession of portable shrines, which meandered through Edo Castle during the Edo period (1603-1867) and was viewed by the shogun. For this reason, it was also called the Tenka, or "crowning," festival along with the Kanda Festival, another major festival in Tokyo.


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Kids in costume also participate in the festival. (Hie Jinja, Tokyo)

Today, the festival features a parade of some 500 people clad in the costume of the imperial court. The procession starts from one of Tokyo's business districts and proceeds for about 300 meters to the Imperial Palace, with Shinto priests offering prayers for peace along the way. Imperial carriages and portable shrines shaped like those used during the days of the ancient court are carried along by priests and worshippers in costume. It is a page right of history. While the Kanda Festival is a celebration of the common townsfolk, the Sanno Festival is an elegant affair noted for its pageantry, rather than rowdiness.


The Scene


The Sanno parade has been held in alternating years since 1681. Even in years when there is no parade, though, a special stage is set up on the shrine grounds for performances of traditional dances and songs. There are also many street stalls selling traditional festival snacks and drinks.


The festival attracts many visitors, and the vicinity around the shrine becomes packed with people. Local children in particular look forward to the festival, playing with friends and buying snacks and drinks.