Sannou Matsuri Procession – Last Day Today
Today – right now actually – is your last chance to see this year’s grand Sannou Matsuri procession on the streets of Tokyo. Covering a pretty good part of Tokyo’s most central addresses, this procession will spend almost ten hours winding its way to Nagatacho’s Hie shrine. I took these photos on Friday, the first day of the procession, and since it was a weekday very few people were out to watch it. As with most traditional things in this city of millions, most people have never heard of this festival and can live their entire lives in Tokyo without ever seeing it even though it employs hundreds of people and is one of the three major historical festivals in Tokyo.
As with all festivals, the portable shrines are the center point. They are carried, pulled, rolled or drawn around the city to parade the holy shrine for the city to see. In the old days festivals would compete to have the most extravagant omikoshi, hikiyama or dashi (お神輿, 曳山, 山車, there are several names for the different types of portable shrines). These hikiyama could become very tall, some have raisable platforms so that they could more easily be stored, some had mast like contraptions that could raise the top of it tens of meters in the air. But most of these really tall hikiyama fell victim to the modernization of Japanese cities and the last time they were used in Tokyo was in 1889, before the trams and train lines made it impossible to move them around the city. These days they are much smaller but still accompanies by teams of men with large bamboo poles to lift wires and other obstructions. When they pass through particularly narrow openings or under bridges, people usually cheer! The phoenix (or any kind of mythological bird) on top of the portable shrines) look slightly different around Japan. I have been told that Osaka birds are more modest in their wingspan, while Tokyo people preferred birds that really stretched out their wings. I wonder if this is correct? So if you’re in Tokyo reading this, get out there and cheer them on! I posted a link to the procession map in yesterday’s blog!