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Sanno Matsuri in Tokyo

Sanno Matsuri is a festival held in the heart of Tokyo annually in June. This year the festival will be held on Friday, 14th June. Although it is a festival celebrated annually, the procession in Chiyoda, known as “Shinkosai” will only be held on the even numbered-year.

“Shinkosai” begins and ends at Hie Jinja, where the guardian deity of the city is enshrined. Together with the shrine’s ‘Kami’ (Shinto Gods), the deity predates the foundation of Tokyo.

Children in traditional attire

When the Tokugawa shoguns began to rule the country from Edo (former name of Tokyo), the shrine also became associated with the Tokugawa family. During the period of their rule, the Edo Period (1603-1867), the festival became a celebration of the nation’s new political center and its rulers.

About 300 people dressed in ancient costumes parade through the heart of Tokyo including Tokyo Station, Ginza, and in front of the Diet Building. Consisting of mikoshi (portable shrines) adorned with a phoenix on the roof, dashi floats, people carrying drums, and people on horseback, the procession extends over a length of 600 meters. You will also see people dressed as the legendary goblin called Tengu, characterized by a red face and a long nose, who is believed to possess supernatural powers.

The procession’s route covers about 20 kilometers and lasts for about nine hours.

Floats being carried during the procession

In modern times, however, the parade has become much smaller in scale in order to avoid interfering with traffic and regular business. Many of the roads along the route are only partly closed, with busy traffic running alongside the festival parade. The procession consists of only some modest sized floats. The most important part of the parade are the three portable shrines (mikoshi), in which the kami (Shinto gods) are carried around the city.

During the festival week, you can also experience various traditions of Japan. For example, there are displays of flowers arranged in Japanese style known as Ikebana, and special tables and seats are set up in the shrine garden so that you can savor Japanese tea.

The thatch’s ring that purifies your sins

You might also see people going through a large ring made of thatch, which is believed to purify the sins you have unconsciously committed in the past 6 months. The doll you hold as you stroke your body and pass through the ring is said to take on your various sins for you. Perhaps you will want to try walking through the thatched ring in the hope of spending the remaining 6 months of the year in peace and happiness.

Passing the Ring of Thatch


Venue: Hie jinja Shrine
Dates: June 6th-17th (Procession on June 14th)
Direction: 3 minutes walk from Tameike-Sanno Station Exit No. 5

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