Sanja Matsuri 2018 – photos from Sensoji

2018 was the first time I visited the Sanja Matsuri on a Saturday. I had wanted to do that for many years, but work always interfered. It was a great day. The event was an eye-opener, as it taught me a few new things.  The crowd was unchanged, though. It is a great Japanese festival!

What was my photo gear for this event?

  • Camera body: Fujifilm X-T2
  • Lens: Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

How was the Sanja Matsuri experience?

Everything at the festival involves mikoshi (portable shrines). On both days, they tour the local neighborhoods to bring good luck. There are about 100 of them. The Sanja Matsuri is big!

On Sundays, the three large mikoshi that belong to Asakusa Shrine approach Kaminarimon. There, they are lifted as high as possible under the gate. It is exhilarating and noisy.

The Saturday saw the action take place around Asakusa Shrine and Sensoji temple. From what I saw, some mikoshi returned from the neighborhoods through the Hozo Gate. Others came in through different gates.

They then made their way to the back of the temple and waited. As you can see in the pictures, a huge crowd supported them. With so many lined up, there were a lot of chances to get photographs.

At 1:30 pm, the mikoshi were picked up and carried to Asakusa Shrine to be blessed by a priest. Then they restarted the tours of the neighborhoods. My spot for photos was behind the torii at the entrance. I was in an excellent position to see what was going on. Only fifty meters, the priest was blessing the mikoshi. When they made their way out, they passed only centimeters from me. I got many good photos.

As I’ve said in previous articles, the Sanja Matsuri can be dangerous. The mikoshi are huge and weigh about a ton. They are carried on long poles by forty or so people, who bounce them up and down on their shoulders. If you have a camera and want to get close to get your pics, that’s okay. No one will complain, but be situationally aware to avoid accidents. Don’t bump into anyone and create a dangerous situation.

I wish I had stayed until the very end. The problem for me was I had taken an enormous amount of pictures, over 1600, and they needed sorting and editing. That takes a lot of time. So I headed home early, which I now know was a mistake. But that’s okay, as there is always another Sanja Matsuri!!

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