Sanja Festival, Tokyo

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Sanja Matsuri draws over 1 million visitors during its three day celebration on the third weekend in May.  It is sponsored by the Asakusa Shrine which is located on the grounds of the Sensoji Buddhist Temple, a huge complex in the heart of old Tokyo. The temple and shrine grounds are wall-to-wall people and food booths, along with games of chance.  We also saw companies demonstrating their products to anyone who would stop to listen. One of the highpoints of the festival is the parade of 100 mikoshi, portable shrines that carry a kami, sacred spirit.  Each mikoshi is sponsored by a neighborhood association.  Their members wear distinctive happi coats and carry the heavy shrines on their shoulders.  Men, women and children all carry the shrines. The crowds press in upon the mikoshi but it's all good natured fun.  Those who carry the shrines chant and sing as they push through the spectators that throng the streets. Each mikoshi is topped with a golden bird or other spectacular sculpture.   The phoenix on top of this mikoshi is gorgeous as it catches the sunlight. Participants take turns carrying the mikoshi.  Those off duty form a sea of bright green happi coats as they escort the mikoshi down towards Kaminari (thunder and lightning) Gate at the entrance to Sensoji. Once a group finishes their procession, they carry the mikoshi to a side street where it rests on wooden supports while the group members enjoy food and drink.  This close-up shows how gorgeous the mikoshi is and how meticulously maintained. Photographers are everywhere, from cell phone snapshooters to the pros.  Many people want their picture taken with a mikoshi in the background. Say "Cheezu!" Steve just had to include some interesting backgrounds in his photos.  He's fascinated with the building with the very interesting architectural feature to the right in this photo. Taiko, taiko everywhere!  There were taiko drummers on the streetcorners and on wheeled carts.  These musicians played the smaller, higher pitched shimetaiko drums. We frequently saw children playing on the carts.  It seems that they start playing fairly young which we think is a great idea. We got to talk with one taiko group who played across from Kaminari Gate.  In the back on the right is the leader, a certified taiko master.  At 81 years old he's going strong and taught these young drummers some dramatic moves. Everyone loves a festival, even the smallest members of the neighborhood.  Even man's best friend enjoys wearing an official festival happi coat.