Sanja Matsuri – Day 2

Saturday at the Sanja Matsuri is the day for blessing the portable shrines – all of them. We went to one of our favorite coffee shops for breakfast with a plan to seek out the parade once we had eaten. Turns out our restaurant was pretty much right on the route. Kaminarimon-dori (thunder gate street) is the big street that bounds this neighbourhood to the south. The shrine parade was coming from somewhere on the other side of the street and crossing at Orange Street. (Interestingly Orange Street is spelt in English, not in the Japanese spelling of oranji, and the road is painted orange. If we get disoriented we can always figure where we are if we see the orange street. Anyhow)

The traffic was still flowing on Kaminarimon-dori, and the police were managing the parade crossing the traffic. Everyone followed the traffic signals and one group at a time made their way across.

Each neighbourhood group has their own distinctive jacket. And everybody is out to support their shrine.

Some groups brought their own musicians. Also in this picture you can see the saw horses if they need to put the shrine down.

There were miniature shrines for kids to carry – though as you can see helping adult hands are rarely far away!

A couple of things to remember. The really big shrines are heavy – can weigh up to a ton. And they don’t just carry them along. Every so often they start to shake and toss the shrine back and forth. This is, apparently, to energize the kami inside. Early in the parade they are still pretty feisty and there is lots of shaking going on.

Here’s a quick clip of what it sounds like

Crossing Kaminari-dori

I wasn’t kidding about Orange Street being – you know – orange…

From Orange street they parade turns right onto one of the old shopping streets and then will intersect with the main road that leads to the temple and shrine. We decided to turn the other way and work our way around the edge of the temple complex and down the other side to not get caught up in the parade congestion. We zigged and zagged through the neigbourhood, passed through the food stall areas and met up with the parade after they passed the second big gate before the temple.

At this point a clear shot of anything is pretty tough with people everywhere. There were little gaps between the groups so we could jump out and try for pictures – and eventually get to the other side. The above picture shows a group, led by the local dignitaries – passing under the Hozomon Gate.

This is the view in the other direction, looking at Sansoji temple. The parade swings to the left and carries around behind the temple. The shrine where the ceremony will happen is to the right, so we hotfooted it across the parade and headed over.

Though the parade has been going on for a bit the crowds aren’t too bad yet. Yet. The police were set up to manage the traffic and the guy with the microphone spent a lot of time saying ‘Gochuui kudasai‘ – please be careful. Mostly telling them to be careful and stay out the way of the guys carrying the big shrines….

We found a little high point to stand and look over the crowd. This is the view to the gate as they leave the shrine precinct – you can see the two officials directing them out. It appeared that going through the gate is a really good time for the shrine to get a shaking so we saw some pretty good maneuvers. You can also see how may people are holding this shrine up – its a big one.

And then a little one for the kids. You can see a couple of Dads at the front sort of steering things, but for the most part the kids have it.

Here’s a video to give you an idea of what it looked and sounded like:

After an hour or more hanging on a lamp post (sort of) we decided it was time to figure out how to get out of there. We found a way out the side – with a quick stop for fried chicken replenishment:

Even without the pictures I can read that sign!

Turns out getting out was a bit of a challenge. We couldn’t go behind the big temple because it was pretty much a parking lot for waiting mikoshi and there were serious fences in place. Couldn’t go around the front because the crowd was crazy thick and the exiting mikoshi were there. We eventually realized that the temple itself was being used as a passageway, so we climbed up the side steps, scurried across the sacred space (making our apologies to Kannon, goddess of mercy) and back down the steps on the other side. Swam through the crowds and passed the street of food stalls.

If we can just get through that gate we’ll almost be home!

We did – only to find that the party had been moved to our little street. More to follow!

Author: Sharon

I like to make things. I like to travel. I like to talk about what I'm up to.

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