First published with Sunny Side Adventures –

Men are dripping with sweat as they chant and carry portable shrines in 28 degree heat through the crowded streets of Tokyo’s Asakusa.


It is the third day of Sanja Matsuri, one of Tokyo’s most popular festivals which draws around 2 million people to Asakusa over three days.

A celebration of the three founders of Sensoji Temple, the festival is bursting with energy and colour as 100 portable shrines called mikoshi are carried through the streets to bring good fortune to local businesses and residents.


For the three days of the festival the neighbourhood is alive with drums and flutes, packed with food stalls, performances and people. But it is Sunday, the final day, which sees the biggest crowds.


It is an experience like no other, stepping back amoung the crowds to make way for a team of sweaty Japanese people in traditional dress bouncing a shrine on their shoulders.

But it is not just the chanting parades which show off Asakusa’s traditions. There are other performances throughout the festival, including dragons, geisha dancers, and music.


It has never been so wonderful to be lost amoung the streets of Tokyo, finding new wonders at every turn of a corner. It really is an experience like no other and a true insight into Japanese culture.


The three founders of the Sensoji Temple are enshrined nearby at Asakusa Shrine.

Festivities begin on Friday afternoon with the Daigyoretsu Parade, a large procession of priests, city officials, geisha, musicians and dancers wearing costumes, culminating in a Shinto ceremony and a traditional dance to pray for an abundant harvest and prosperity.


Saturday and Sunday see the portable shines carried around the neighbourhood streets. By Sunday evening each shrine will have visited every street before returning to Asakusa Shrine.


The entire festival is wild and intense, a feat of strength and endurance. Some portable shrines weigh up to 900kg and can cost around half a million dollars. It is a demonstration of a Japanese passion for teamwork and ganbatte (do your best) spirit.

Sanja Matsuri is a must see festival, rated one of Tokyo’s best.