One of the most famous festivals of Tokyo, Kanda Matsuri is also ranked among the three largest festivals of Japan.
Protected by the Shogun during the Edo period (1603-1867) and permitted to enter the grounds of Edo Castle where he lived, it also came to be called Tenka Matsuri (Tenka meaning Shogun).
The main festival is conducted in years ending in odd numbers, according to the Western calendar, and the festivals held in even-numbered years are much smaller in scale.
The rule to change the scale of the festival in alternate years was determined by the Shogun in the Edo period, as the festivals then were so extravagant.
The main attraction, well worth viewing in odd-numbered years, is the parade on May 9, when about 300 people march through central Tokyo districts, such as Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi, Marunouchi and so on.
In addition to the portable shrines with a phoenix decoration on the roof, there are all kinds of floats, and Shinto priests mounted on horseback line up in rows, producing a spectacular sight.
On May 10, almost 100 small and large portable shrines are gathered from each quarter. Recommended souvenirs are T-shirts printed with pictures of the festival scene, fans, towels, etc.
Kanda, the venue of the festival, was formerly the central quarter of Edo (present-day Tokyo) back in the Edo period. Those born and bred in Kanda were called Edokko.
Eddokos are considered to be very high-spirited, and their characteristics are reflected in Kanda Matsuri, which is a jovial festival brimming with energy.
The Kanda Myojin Museum, which is open to the public on weekends and on national holidays, has a diorama of Kanda Matsuri and also displays models of floats. If you wish to find out more about the festival, please visit the museum.
(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website: http://www.jnto.go.jp/)
Place: Kanda Myojin shrine, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
Dates: May 7 through 15