The Kanda Matsuri or the Kanda Festival is one of three great Shinto festivals which take place in Tokyo. The festival originated in the 17th century as a celebration of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victory and the prosperity which resulted during his rule in the Edo period.
The celebration consists of numerous events held over an entire week but the main event takes place on the weekend closest to May 15th during odd numbered years. This is due to the fact that the Kanda Matsuri alternates with the Sanno Matsuri, which takes place at the same time during even numbered years.
Kanda Matsuri usually involves around 200 mikoshi (portable shrines), musicians and folks dressed in traditional costumes. On the evening prior to the main procession several Shinto rituals take place inviting the deities into the portable shrines. The mikoshi are then paraded through the streets of Kanda, Nihonbashi, Otemachi and Marunouchi on Saturday. The procession departs Kanda Shrine at 8:00 AM and a brief stop for prayers is made at the shrine’s former location near the grounds of the Imperial Palace. The procession continues through the streets until 1:30 PM when participants break for lunch. After lunch, the parade continues passing by Nihonbashi Bridge, the Mitsukoshi Department Store and along Chuo-dori before returning to the Kanda Shrine at 7:00 PM.
On Sunday, a second parade takes place usually starting around 3:00 PM and lasts for about three hours. This parade features men dressed as samurai, floats, musicians, dancers and characters from popular stories.
Born to a minor warlord, Tokugawa Ieyasu eventually established a family dynasty that endured for centuries. The festival is an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of what life in Japan was like during Ieyasu’s rule.
In order to find the best viewing spot for the parade, be sure to secure a spot along the route to the Kanda Shrine. The venue is 5 minutes on foot from the JR Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, exit Ochanomizu Station.
Kanda Shrine web page: http://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/
Address: 2-16-2 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda-ku