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.

RELATED TOURS
Flights Included
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace

Included

Typically $11,154
Now
$3,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $11,154
Now
$3,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Apr 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace

Included

Typically $8,781
Now
$5,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Apr 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $8,781
Now
$5,299 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Nov 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace

Included

From
$7,499 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Nov 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace
Fully Escorted
From
$7,499 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Leisurely Pace

Included

Typically $13,150
Now
$7,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Leisurely Pace
7 Days
Typically $13,150
Now
$7,999 pp twin share
AUD
$499 Flight Offer
Travel from:Feb 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Independent
From
$4,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Feb 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Independent
Private Tour
From
$4,299 pp twin share
AUD
$499 Flight Offer
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $5,395
Now
$2,799 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
7 Days
Typically $5,395
Now
$2,799 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace

Included

Typically $10,313
Now
$3,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $10,313
Now
$3,999 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Nov 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace

Included

Typically $15,149
Now
$5,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Nov 2022
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Lively Pace
Partially Escorted
Typically $15,149
Now
$5,999 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace

Included

Typically $15,655
Now
$6,599 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:May 2024
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace
Partially Escorted
Typically $15,655
Now
$6,599 pp twin share
AUD
Flights Included
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace

Included

Typically $12,696
Now
$5,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $12,696
Now
$5,299 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Fully Escorted
Typically $13,661
Now
$5,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Mar 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Included
Fully Escorted
Moderate Pace
Typically $13,661
Now
$5,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $13,800
Now
$6,999 pp twin share
AUD
Travel from:Oct 2022
Travel until:Nov 2023
Japan
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Small Group
Typically $13,800
Now
$6,999 pp twin share
AUD
LOAD MORE Use the search bar at the top to SEARCH for your preferred destinations
Processing...