Sanja Festival 2017: Do you like crowds?

Sanja Festival 2017 was incredible. It happened around Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Shrine. The event was big, wild, and noisy. About 2 million people attended its three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The weather cooperated to make it perfect. Photographers love this event.

What is the Sanja Festival?

On March 18, 628, two brothers who were fishermen made a massive discovery. They had been fishing in the Sumida River. In their net, they found a statuette of the Bodhisattva Kannon. A wealthy landlord named Hajino Nakatomo heard about their discovery.

He approached them and converted them to Buddhism. They then devoted their lives to the faith and consecrated the statue in a small temple. It became Sensoji, which now houses the goddess’s statue. The Sanja Festival celebrates this.

What happens at the Festival?

The festival’s main attractions are three mikoshi. They are miniature, portable versions of Asakusa Shrine. Gold sculptures, carvings, and leaves cover them. Each weighs approximately one ton and houses a kami (god). They appear on the third and final day of the event.

About 40 people carry them on long poles at one time. But a total of about 500 are needed. They bounce the mikoshi vigorously on their shoulders. I doubt anyone could carry these things the entire day because they are so heavy. You get rotated out after a time, and another person takes your place.

The bouncing of the mikoshi is said to intensify the power of the kami they house. It also bestows good luck upon their respective neighborhoods. These days, you’ll see plenty of foreigners taking part.

Due to the size and weight of the mikoshi, it can be dangerous. Imagine if a one-ton shrine landed on someone. It could cause serious injury. So, there are dedicated people directing everyone. No one wants a collision with shops or onlookers.

The three mikoshi are the heart of the the festival. Still, approximately 100 other smaller ones parade through the neighborhood on Saturday. Even women or children carry some of them.

What did I see at Sanja Festival 2017?

Unfortunately, I only attended the Sunday. And to rub salt into the wound, I didn’t get there till mid-morning. So, I missed the Mikoshi leave for the neighborhood rounds. That was okay, as I still got to see the main action. That occurred on and around the road in front of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). I took most of my pictures there.

People flooded Asakusa. They were everywhere. What more can I say? You need to see it to understand. Everywhere you looked, there was a crowd.

Looking back at these photos of the Sanja Festival  2017 several years later, I see their flaws. There is no story. I concentrated on the mikoshi rather than the event as a whole. There are few photos of the temple and the shrine, which are integral to the event. People unfamiliar with the event probably couldn’t gain insight from my shots.

For example, let’s look at the pictures of Tokyo Skytree.  The tower looks great, but it wasn’t a part of the festival.  There was little need for me to take photos of it. That is okay because now, as I look at and republish these old photos, they are great studies. Study of things not to do in future!!

Still, I enjoyed Sanja Festival 2017. It was a great day. The following year’s event was excellent, too. Please leave comments, thoughts, and questions below.

Sanja Festival 2017 Fujifilm camera gear:

  • Camera Body: X-T2
  • Lenses: XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

For more Sanja Festival articles, look at:

External websites with photos of the 2017 Sanja Festival

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