Experience Edo Culture at Kanda Matsuri Festival: 3 Must-See Highlights

After 4 years, the long-awaited “Kanda Matsuri/ Kanda Festival” will finally be held again this May! The Kanda Matsuri is one of the three major festivals in Japan, along with Kyoto’s Gion Festival and Osaka’s Tenjin Festival, and is a traditional festival held once every two years in Chiyoda City (Chiyoda-ku).
By all means, please experience the lively mikoshi (portable shrine) competition and the gorgeous parade up close! I, Editor-in-Chief Marei, will tell you about the highlights of the Kanda Matsuri.
(The video is from the Kanda Festival held in May 2019.)

What is “Kanda Matsuri (Kanda Festival)”?

Edo/Tokyo was a town of craftsmen and merchants during the Edo period. Various manufacturing and trading such as lumber, blacksmithing, dyeing, and selling fruits and vegetables were carried out. “Kanda Matsuri” is a Japanese tradition that has been handed down to this day as an event to thank the gods enshrined at Kanda Myojin and pray for further prosperity.

During a Shinto ceremony in which spirits are transferred into a mikoshi (portable shrine)

The area where the Kanda Matsuri is held is the shrine “Kanda Myojin” near Akihabara and at each of the neighborhood areas of the Kanda district. The festival begins on May 11th, when the three divine spirits enshrined at Kanda Myojin Shrine are transferred to various vehicles called ‘horen‘ (imperial carriage) and mikoshi (portable shrine). On the next day, each town assembly calls a divine spirit into their own mikoshi. Carrying the portable shrine, the bearers parade around the town.

There is also an event where friendly neighborhood associations carry their own mikoshi and get together.

There is a special greeting at the Kanda Matsuri: a rhythm of “3-3-3-1” in which everyone claps their hands. This “applause” unites the people participating in the festival, so don’t hesitate to join them and clap your hands together.

3 Highlights of the Kanda Matsuri (Kanda Festival)

In my opinion, the highlights of the Kanda Matsuri are the “Shinkosai,” “Tsukematsuri,” and “Mikoshi Miyairi,” which are held over the weekend.

① Shinkosai Festival
The “Shinkosai Festival” on May 13th (Sat) is a procession that starts from Kanda Myojin Shrine. Around 1,000 people from the shrine, dressed in Heian period costumes, go around the neighborhoods of 108 parishioners of Kanda. The most important part of the parade is the three phoenix floats and portable shrines (with the spirits inside). The parade distance is 30 kilometers!

Shinkosai Festival

Recommended viewing spots for the “Shinko Festival” (*Approximate time and place)
11:40 in front of Akihabara Station
16:30 In front of Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Store (Nihonbashi Chuo-dori)

Shinkosai Festival

② Tsukematsuri

Another fun procession joins the Shinkosai procession in the Mitsukoshi area. In the parade called “Tsukematsuri”, you can enjoy the traditional culture of Edo. The fun and colorful floats are a must-see!

The colorful parade of the Tsukematsuri

③ Mikoshi Miyairi

May 14th (Sun) is the grand finale of the Kanda Festival, “Mikoshi Miyairi”. The portable shrines of each neighborhood association head for Kanda Myojin Shrine all at once from their meeting places. It is a ceremony to return the divine spirits from their mikoshi to the shrine. You can observe the ceremony from around 9:00 in the morning until evening at Kanda Myojin’s precincts.

Women’s power! Women can carry the mikoshi, too!
If the bearers are in sync and the mikoshi is handed over, the “entrance to the shrine” (miyairi) is considered successful.

Experience the Kanda Festival’s power, which inherits the traditional culture of Edo and showcases the strength of the bond between people!

Visit the “Kanda Festival” Official Website: https://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/kandamatsuri/

Here’s the “Kanda Festival” schedule:

May 11 (Thu) 7:00 pm   Horen Mikoshi Senzasai
A ceremony to transfer the spirits of the three gods enshrined at Kanda Myojin Shrine to special portable shrines and vehicles.

May 12 (Fri) Evening:   Ujikochokai Mikoshi-mitamaire
The ceremony during which divine spirits are transferred into the Miyoshi portable shrines at each town assembly.

May 13 (Sat) all day    Shinkosai Parade
The parade departs from Kanda Myojin Shrine from 8:00 to 19:00 (cruising through Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi/Marunouchi area close to Tokyo Station, and Akihabara).

May 14 (Sun)  all day       Mikoshi Miyairi
May 16 (Tue)  11:00    Omotesenke Iemoto Service Tea Ceremony
May 16 (Tue)  18:00    Myojin Noh performance, Yugen no Hana (Kongo-ryu Takigi-noh)
May 17 (Wed) 14:00    Reitaisai

Don’t forget to check out Kanda Myojin Shrine! You can’t miss this Tokyo festival!

Kanda Myojin Shrine

2-16-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Festival Website: https://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/kandamatsuri/
Nearest Station: Ochanomizu Station, Shin-Ochanomizu Station, Akihabara Station, Suehirocho Station
Goole Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/GGQXvgpT1wuS2Ucz7.