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Thursday, 15th May 2014
In Events In Japan,

Kanda Matsuri gets underway

Preparations in Tokyo are already well underway for Kanda Matsuri, which is recognised as one of the capital's three largest and most exuberant festivals. Boasting an absolute plethora of events, you won't want to miss out on the festivities if you happen to be in Tokyo at the moment or this time next year.

Events linked to Kanda Matsuri generally last around six days, with particular focus on the weekend. The fun always occurs during mid-May each year, but what exactly is the celebration all about?

Historians have traced the festival's origins back to the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogun decided to hold a city-wide party in order to show off the prosperity of his new regime. Activities are generally focused around the Kanda Myojin Shrine, which is dedicated to three deities of various origins. 

But while the fun lasts for about a week, it is the Saturday and Sunday when the most fun is had. On these days, Tokyo's streets are thronging with crowds eager to watch a series of extravagant processions. The first and most popular leaves Kanda Myojin at 8am on Saturday before winding its way through this enormous metropolis. The Japanese carry out this ancient ritual exactly as it has been done for hundreds of years.

At 10:30 exactly, a stop is made at the shrine's former grounds near the Tokyo Imperial Palace before carrying on through the Otemachi and Kanda districts before a break for lunch at 1:30pm. Progress is resumed with passes made near the Nihonbashi Bridge and the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store at 4:30pm, with Akihabara being the final district visited before the procession returns to Kanda Myojin at 7pm.

Participants dressed in traditional Edo-period Japanese clothing carry enormous portable shrines, which are ornately decorated and look extremely resplendent. However, if you manage to miss the main procession, there are a number of others taking place that include everything from people dressed up as samurai to festival floats featuring popular characters from folk stories and contemporary culture. The streets are alive with music and dancing as a society considered reserved in the West lets its hair down for an all-weekend party.

A great place to enjoy the festivities is on the main approach to the Kanda Myojin Shrine itself, where most of the action is based. Here, various neighbourhood groups come to pay their respects, and they are usually dressed for the part. However, with so many people likely to have the same idea as you, be prepared for a busy day! It's worth arranging a place to meet friends should you get split up, especially if you haven't invested in a Japanese SIM card for your phone during your time in the country.

Overall, this is a joyous day that can be thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Everything from the parades to the portable shrines and the street food is certain to amaze.