Exit Search

Snapshot: Kanda Matsuri

September 14, 2020

One of Japan’s most time-honoured festivals is a stunning celebration of tradition and prosperity

 

Tokyo is one of the world’s great cities, and whether you travel for culture, history, food or just for fun, Japan's capital has something for everyone. The streets of its 23 special wards are simultaneously ancient and modern, conventional and eclectic; they’re also jam-packed with remarkable sights, restaurants and endless people-watching opportunities. So it’s fitting that a place of such diversity hosts one of the country's most famous matsuri (festivals), the Kanda Matsuri.

Every second May, the matsuri celebrations take place at the Kanda-Myojin Shrine and surrounding area. The festival will run in May next year, with the main celebrations and day-long street parades usually taking place in the middle of the month. Across the seven days of the festival, people make offerings to the Shinto gods and pray for continuing prosperity. Expect parades, entertainment, street food and over 200 elaborate floats. The matsuri is a great opportunity for visitors and locals alike to watch performances and connect with Japanese traditions. Visitors who don't like crowds should avoid this area for the week.

 

Japanese people in costume walking the streets of Tokyo.
Japanese people in costume walking the streets of Tokyo.

 

History

While celebrations have evolved over time, the modern-day Kanda Matsuri can be traced back to the early 17th century. In 1600, the Battle of Sekigahara broke out between east and west Japan over a struggle for power. The conflict, now considered one of the most significant in Japanese history, was eventually won by the eastern army and its leader Tokugawa Ieyasu, became the supreme shogun (military commander) of a unified Japan.

EXPLORE OUR INSPIRING JAPAN SMALL GROUP TOURS HERE

After the war ended, victory celebrations took over the streets of Tokyo (then known as Edo). Commemorations continued throughout the Edo era as a way to celebrate Japan’s prosperity under the Tokugawa Shogunate and eventually transformed into the Kanda Matsuri as we know it today, a celebration of wealth and good fortune.

 

Japanese locals dressed in traditional outfits in a parade.
Japanese locals dressed in traditional outfits in a parade.

 

What to expect

Nowadays, the Kanda Matsuri centres around the Kanda-Myojin Shinto shrine, near the vibrant Akihabara area of central Tokyo. In addition to the parades, the matsuri involves traditional taiko drum and music performances. Countless food stalls line the streets surrounding the shrine, so between serves of takoyaki (octopus balls) and juicy yakitori (skewers) there’s no chance attendees will go hungry.

 

Locals dressed in traditional clothing playing drums.
Locals dressed in traditional clothing playing drums.

 

Main celebrations

Although the Kanda Matsuri runs for a week, the two biggest days of celebration are on Saturday and Sunday. Crowds ebb and flow throughout the matsuri, but you'll need to get there early for a front row spot on the weekend.

Saturday is all about the parade. A procession of almost 1,000 people winds around the Chiyoda and Chuo wards, passing through many districts and pausing for prayers, before returning to the Kanda-Myojin shrine in the evening. Participants clad in traditional outfits walk alongside towering floats, musicians, dancers and there are even people on horseback.

 

A local man wears a samurai costume on horseback during a parade.
A local man wears a samurai costume on horseback during a parade.

 

On Sunday, over 100 mikoshi (portable shrines) are carried along the parade route by groups of men and women representing their communities. The mikoshi is stunning, adorned in gold with a phoenix on top and they’re also incredibly heavy. It’s believed that being able to carry the mikoshi – often weighing more than 300 kg – proves that the community will be prosperous for the coming year. While carrying their heavy shrines through the crowds, they chant messages of good luck and fortune. The standout mikoshi is the mammoth Sengan, which weighs a staggering 3,750 kg. The entire procession is a sight to behold, and a highlight of the Kanda Matsuri.

 

Locals in traditional clothing carrying a Mikoshi Shrine.
Locals in traditional clothing carrying a Mikoshi Shrine.

Subscribe Now!

To receive our free printable eBook "Inspiring Japan"

book
RELATED TOURS
$1099 Flight Offer
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
Fully Escorted
Lively Pace
Typically $3,465
Now
$1,899 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
Fully Escorted
Lively Pace
Group Tour - Classic
Typically $3,465
From
$1,899 AUD
pp twin share
$1099 Flight Offer
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $17,005
Now
$10,599 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
7 Days
Typically $17,005
From
$10,599 AUD
pp twin share
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $15,473
Now
$7,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Group Tour - Classic
Typically $15,473
From
$7,999 AUD
pp twin share
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $11,320
Now
$7,099 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Group Tour - Classic
Typically $11,320
From
$7,099 AUD
pp twin share
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $14,544
Now
$7,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
Group Tour - Classic
Typically $14,544
From
$7,999 AUD
pp twin share
$1099 Flight Offer
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace

Fully Escorted

Typically $5,395
Now
$3,699 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Nov 2025
Japan
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
7 Days
Typically $5,395
From
$3,699 AUD
pp twin share
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
From
$7,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Partially Escorted
Moderate Pace
Group Tour - Classic
From
$7,999 AUD
pp twin share
$1,099 Flight Offer
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Lively Pace
Partially Escorted
Typically $13,821
Now
$7,499 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Lively Pace
Partially Escorted
Typically $13,821
From
$7,499 AUD
pp twin share
Flights Included
Travel from:Oct 2024
Travel until:Oct 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Fully Escorted

Included

Typically $5,755
Now
$4,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2024
Travel until:Oct 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Fully Escorted
Lively Pace
Typically $5,755
From
$4,299 AUD
pp twin share
$1099 Flight Offer
Travel from:Nov 2024
Travel until:Dec 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Local Guides
Moderate Pace
Typically $9,202
Now
$6,399 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Nov 2024
Travel until:Dec 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Local Guides
Moderate Pace
Small Group
Typically $9,202
From
$6,399 AUD
pp twin share
$1399 Flight Offer
Travel from:Mar 2025
Travel until:Apr 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $7,381
Now
$4,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2025
Travel until:Apr 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $7,381
From
$4,999 AUD
pp twin share
Flights Included
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Flight Inclusive
Fully Escorted
Typically $9,256
Now
$5,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Jun 2024
Travel until:Dec 2025
Japan
$99pp deposit
Flight Inclusive
Fully Escorted
Lively Pace
Typically $9,256
From
$5,299 AUD
pp twin share
Processing...