Michael Feather Photography from Sanja Festival
© Michael Feather

WAttention Tokyo Culture Special

Hot nights, traditional costumes, portable shrines and the rhythmical beating of drums immediately spell out matsuri, summer festivals, to any Japanese person. One of the three biggest in Tokyo and one of the earliest, always in the third weekend of May, is the Sanja matsuri in Asakusa. For three days in a row, it celebrates three people with three main mikoshi, or portable shrines, in Sanja shrine. The locals also have their own holy mikoshis that they carry around the streets, each neighborhood association, or chokai, having one.

We took part in the preparations and activities of the “Nishiasa Sankita (Nishiasakusa Sanchome Kita Chokai)”, a neighborhood association that has the biggest mikoshi among the locals. Mere coincidence, but even the name of this association features the number three or ‘san’ in Japanese. We also talked to Michael Feather, a photographer who documented the Sanja matsuri activities of another neighborhood association, Asakusa Senwa Chokai, for three years.

Backstage at Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa

mikoshi carrying at Sanja Matsuri
Mikoshi carrying at Sanja Matsuri