Coming to Japan in June? there’s an incredible opportunity to soak-in some traditional Japanese culture at the Sanno Matsuri Festival.

Its a colorful celebration, with people on horseback, Tengu the legendary goblin costumes, Japanese drums, and the most beautiful portable shrines all painted gold.

The Sanno Matsuri Festival occurs in mid June on even numbered years, and it runs for an entire week. It takes place on even numbered years, alternating with the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo which takes place in odd numbered years.

The festival’s biggest attraction is a parade that winds through almost 20 kilometers of central Tokyo on one of the festival days. The parade includes beautiful gold and black lacquered portable shrines. The parade begins and ends at Hie Shrine, the shrine of the guardian deity of Tokyo. It lasts about nine hours.

People on horseback, people dressed as Tengu the legendary goblin who is characterized by a long nose and red face and believed to possess supernatural powers, and people carrying drums are all part of the parade.

The portable shrines (mikoshi) with the Shinto Gods inside them are carried through the city streets which are partially closed for the occasion, while the busy traffic runs alongside the festival parade in the parallel streets.

In the middle of the Hie Shrine grounds, where the parade stops, you can find a large straw ring. It is an act of purification to walk through the ring. Visitors are welcome to participate in this act.

In addition to the parade, there are lots of traditional events that are held at Hie Shrine, such as Shinto music, tea ceremonies, and dance performances. The activities of the week are sure to make memories so enjoy!

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Beginning at the Hie Shrine, spectators watch the parade leave around 7:30 AM.

It then goes past Tokyo Station and through the Ginza District.  The parade winds its way gradually around the areas, going past the Yotsuya train station and Yasukuni Shrine.

Around noon, the parade arrives at the Tokyo Imperial Palace where it stops for around a half an hour allowing time for the mikoshi to be part of the religious ceremonies. At the palace, the chief enters and offers prayers to the imperial family and emperor. This rare ceremony happens just in the festival.

After the thirty minute break, the parade then carries on down past Tokyo Station.

The next stop is at the Nihonbashi Hie Shrine. This is a small shrine so part of the parade participants head to the nearby park.

The parade then resumes and now it passes near the Nihonbashi Bridge, then through the center of Ginza, on past Shinbashi Station, and finally ending back at Hi Shrine around 8 PM.

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