The Kanda Festival

The venerable Kanda Festival under the patronage of the Tokugawa shoguns is a celebration representative of not only Tokyo, but also of Japan

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Peerless in both The Three Great Festivals of Japan and The Three Great Festivals of Edo, the Kanda Festival boasts a 1300-year history. The festival which is the pride of any Edokko (true Tokyoite) not only includes the highlight of mikoshi (portable shrines) but also a parade.
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The origins and history of the Kanda Festival

The Kanda Festival is a festival held at Kanda Shrine in the Kanda district of Tokyo. The 1300-year-old shrine was worshipped as the guardian deity for the streets of Edo during the Edo Era, and although the origins of the following festival are unclear, during the turbulent times in the year 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa made it a standing order to pray for victory daily. When he did achieve victory, he was able to unify the entire nation, and as a result, Kanda Shrine received protection from the Edo shogunate. Since that time, a grand ceremony has been held at the shrine in the form of a festival related to the Tokugawas.

The Kanda Festival as one of Japan’s Three Great Festivals and as one of Edo’s Three Great Festivals

The Kanda Festival is held biannually in May in odd-numbered years as a regular festival done in grand style. Depending on the year, the schedule varies but it is usually held around May 15th and goes on for about a week with various events happening. This venerable festival from the Edo Era generates a lot of excitement. It is not just one of Edo’s Three Great Festivals, but alongside the Gion Festival of Kyoto and the Tenjin Festival of Osaka, the Kanda Festival is one of Japan’s Three Great Festivals which attracts a large number of tourists from all over the country. Within the festival itself, during the most exciting day of the Mikoshi Miyairi, 100 portable shrines pour out onto the streets from Kanda Shrine, and the sounds of nimble flutes and taiko drums along with the high-spirited voices of the people last until night.

Unique floats and parades

The Kanda Festival was affected by conditions of the times through such things as cancellation of the float parades during economically tough times and war. However, in recent years, as the brilliance has returned, the pulled floats (hikisha) with their showy and large art works that appeared during the Edo Era have made a comeback, and with things such as the warriors’ parade and broadcasting the festival via the Internet, the excitement can be shown. Filled with dedicated events such as wadaiko drumming and nightly Noh performances, these various events which are in gratitude toward the deity protecting Edo are precious highlights with the knowledge of Japanese traditional culture.

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9 years ago
Joined the group
This was a most wonderful experience I have been apart of. (story time) Through my time of touring in Tokyo I stayed and worked in a hostel near Nihombashi. It was coming to my last day in Japan and my hostel was presented with being able to participate in this festival along with everyone around the area. Some of the housemates/workers were able to suit up and participate. There was at least a good 30 to 50 people attempting to carry this shrine made of gold and heavy wood. My cousin and I as well as the rest of the hostel staff and community struggled to carry shake and walk around while carrying this small yet heavy shrine. Felt as if my shoulders were going to be crushed. I'm so grateful for being the first tourist as well as black american to be able to join in. Lots of cameras and pictures being taken of our horrible faces struggling to keep going. I must say that day was a good day.
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