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Looking back at the 2016 Sanno Festival

The first time I went to Hie Shrine was for its 2016 Sanno Festival. While the event went for eleven days, I only attended on a Sunday.  It’s very traditional and colorful, which makes it perfect for photographers.  

main entrance to Hie Shrine
The main entrance to the shrine.

By the way, have you visited Hie Shrine?  It is on the top of a hill.  To enter, you have to walk up a long series of stairs.  Luckily, there were some escalators.  That made things very easy.

omikoshi portable shrine
One of Hie Shrine’s portable shrines.

What is the Sanno Festival?

The festival takes place over eleven days at Hie Shrine in central Tokyo.  Its main attraction is the Shinkosai, a procession around the city.  Participants carry omikoshi (portable shrines) on their march.  You need a lot of stamina because it goes for nine hours.   The parade takes place only on even-numbered years.


What happened during my visit?

The 2016 Sanno Festival was held in an even-numbered year, but due to work commitments, I didn’t see the parade.  When I went, the main festivities had already finished.  I only got to see people coming to pray and drink tea.  It wasn’t the most exciting day, but I had a good time.

people waiting to pray
Japanese court musicians

One of the day’s highlights was listening to gagaku (court music).  That was something I had never heard live before.  It was good to see it at a big festival.

model of man carrying monkey mask

It was very different from my favorite festival, the Sanja.  The Sanja is in Asakusa and is much bigger and far noisier.  That event happens a month earlier each year, in May.

sake bottles

Most of my time was spent wandering around.  As there were no major festivities, I photographed people and the omikoshi.  I also took some architectural photos.

model bird on taiko drum

One thing I especially liked was the location.  It is in Nagatacho, so there were some skyscrapers around the shrine.  The way they tower over the shrine shows how Tokyo intertwines old and new.

skyscrapers tower over Hie Shrine
worshippers in courtyard

Wrapping up

Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the Sanno Festival since 2016.  Of course, I have wanted to go again.  But as my work often takes place on weekends, it is often difficult to schedule things.  Anyway, it is another thing on my bucket list.  And I want to walk with the Shinkosai around the city.  That would be a thrill!

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3 thoughts on “Looking back at the 2016 Sanno Festival”

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