One of Tokyo’s three most famous festivals is Kanda Matsuri. The other two are Sanno Matsuri and Fukagawa Matsuri. Kanda Matsuri takes place in mid May in odd numbered years, while the Sanno Matsuri is held in even numbered years. The Kanda Festival lasts over an entire week, but the main action usually happens over the weekend closest to May 15, and more particularly through central Tokyo on Saturday, and portable shrines (mikoshi) by the various neighborhoods on Sunday.
The festival started during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Edo was the older name of Tokyo Then, the Kanda Matsuri and the Sanno Matsuri were the only two festivals that were allowed to pass through the Edo Castle grounds. Both were originally held annually, but they were competing against each other,and thus were eventually ordered to be held in alternate years only.
The Kanda Festival has come to be a celebration for the wealth and good fortune of the people In the older days, the Kanda Matsuri was the festival of the Kanda Myojin Shrine which enshrines three deities: Daikokuten – the god of good harvest and matrimony, Ebisu – the god of fishermen and usinessmen, and Taira Masakado – a feudal lord of the 10th century.
The program On Friday, Shinto rituals are held to invite the spirits of the three deities into three ornately decorated mikoshi. These portable shrines are paraded through the streets of Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi and Akihabara on Saturday.The mikoshi are followed by thousands of people, including musicians, priests on horses, and many dressed in colorful traditional costumes. On Saturday morning,at 8:00 the procession leaves Kanda Myojin Shrine. At around 10:30, it stops for praying near the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The procession continues through the Otemachi and Kanda districts before a break for lunch is made around 13:30. The route continues near the Nihonbashi Bridge and by the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store at 16:30. It then proceeds along Chuo-dori Street through the Akihabara district and it returns to the shrine around 19:00. Also on Saturday, a secondary procession starts at 15:00 from close to the Arima Elementary School and proceeds north to the Kanda Myojin Shrine in about three hours. In this procession you can see men on horses clad in samurai uniforms, festival floats with characters from popular folk stories and contemporary pop culture, musicians and dancers.
On Sunday, the mikoshi parades go by various neighborhoods in the Kanda and Nihonbashi districts.. During the parades, the local guardian deity (ujigami) are temporarily housed in mikoshi (portable shrines) and walked through the streets to bless the local residents.
If you want to catch the activity the main approach is close to Kanda Myojin Shrine, since most of the mikoshi eventually make their way to the shrine. From around 8:00 to 17:30, the various neighborhoods enter the shrine. You can then see streets full of vibrant colors, festival music and a joyful atmosphere.