Daigyoretsu - kicking off the Sanja Festival
The 2018 Sanja Festival, one of the largest and most important events on Tokyo’s cultural calendar, started with an opening parade around the streets of Asakusa to get the ball rolling for the weekend. The event known as daigyoretsu, is the traditional opener for a festival that, dates back to the Edo period, although the Sanja’s roots go back to the seventh century when two brothers found a gold statue of Bodhisattva Kannon in the Sumida river which led to the founding of Sensoji temple.
Even though the afternoon was rather warm, there was a huge crowd on hand to watch the procession. In the parade there were priests, geishas, heron dancers and dignitaries. As there were so many people, they literally inched their way along the route shepherded by police and other safety officials. And when the parade reached Sensoji’s Nakamise-dori, there was a huge crowd waiting for them in that narrow street, and the pace was reduced even further.
I wasn’t able to stay for the entire day, but during the early evening mikoshi from shrines in Asakusa’s more central neighborhoods were carried around the streets. While I was walking around the area, it was obvious many businesses were putting their finishing touches to decorations and preparations for the big day.
The daigyoretsu is a very subdued event, despite the Sanja having a reputation as one of the rowdiest of Tokyo’s festivals. It will be the weekend though where things get a lot more rowdy, especially as two million visitors join the celebrations. Still, the Friday is a good day to go as visitors can see something a little different. You can see photographs from the Saturday here and Asakusa shrine’s website here.