Daigyoretsu - opening the Sanja Festival

The Sanja Festival is one of the largest and most important events on Tokyo’s cultural calendar. It starts with an opening parade around Asakusa’s streets to get the ball rolling for the weekend. The event, known as Daigyoretsu (Big Parade), is the opener and dates back to the Edo period.

Geisha and entourage
A geisha and her entourage.

I took these photos in 2018. That year, even though the afternoon was relatively warm, a huge crowd was on hand to watch. In the parade were priests, geishas, heron dancers, and dignitaries. From the rear of Sensoji Temple, the large group inched its way along the route shepherded by police and other officials.  When it reached Sensoji’s Nakamise-Dori, the number of people watching increased. In that narrow street, the pace dropped.

Finally, they made it back to Sensoji and Asakusa Shrine. Once at the finish, the main participants simply bowed and dispersed. The parade was over.

Sanja Festival Daigyoretsu heron dancer parade
The parade making its way through the backstreets of Asakusa.

I couldn’t stay for the whole event. But after I left, the festivities continued. Mikoshi from shrines in Asakusa’s central neighborhoods appeared. They were carried around the streets. That would have been nice to see. Hopefully, that is something I’ll be able to see in the future.

Daigyoretsu is very subdued, despite the Sanja’s rowdy reputation. It is the weekends when things get noisy once two million visitors join in. So, the Friday is a good day for visitors to see something different.  

Daigyoretsu heron dancers entering Sensoji
The Daigyoretsu heron dancers entering Sensoji.

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