Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sanja Matsuri

A week ago last Sunday, I went to the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa, which is one of Tokyo's biggest festivals.

The festival honours the fishermen who dicovered the statue of the Kannon(Goddess of Mercy) in their nets, over a thousand years ago.

The festival lasts three days and it is the final day which is the most spectacular. In total around a hundred mikoshi(portable shrines) as well as the three huge mikoshi from the Asakusa Shrine, are carried through the streets. They're all very beautiful and weighing over a tonne, require lots of people to carry them.

The mikoshi carry the shrine's kami(deities) and the processions bring luck, blessings and prosperity to the neighbourhood. It's believed the more the mikoshi are shaken, the more blessings will be given.

I've never seen Asakusa so busy and the atmosphere was incredible, as the crowds followed the mikoshi around the streets. The rain fortunately didn't manage to put anyone off having a good time either.

Most interesting of all was seeing lots of
Yakuza on a shrine being carried around the streets, chanting and blowing whistles. They were showing lots of flesh and you could see their huge tattoos, which covered almost all of their bodies. Apparently it's usually illegal for them to openly display they're tattoos in this way, so I was quite lucky to catch a glimpse. You can see a picture here.

They definitely appeared to be having a great time and the seemed to love the attention that they were getting from the crowd. I suppose it makes a nice change from cutting off people's fingers.