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Sanno Matsuri means festival season is near

by Han Zhang

Staff Writer

As the Tokyo Skytree takes Japan to new heights, the festival season brings the nation back down to its roots — and they run pretty deep.

The Sanno Matsuri, one of the three biggest festivals in Japan, begins next weekend in Tokyo. Although it’s an annual festival, only on even-numbered years does the event come paired with the Jinkosai, a famous procession of floats and shrines.

Beginning at the Hie Shrine, spectators can watch the parade depart at 7:45 a.m. on June 8. From there it passes Tokyo Station and goes through the Ginza district. The procession is around nine hours long and features three mikoshi (portable shrines) said to hold Shinto gods that protect Tokyo.

Historically, the festival had more than 40 floats, but now the parade has been significantly reduced due to the disruption it causes traffic and commerce. Still, it’s a sight to see, with one of the more notable points being a stop at the Imperial Palace, where the mikoshi are used in a religious ceremony. Because the Sanno festival is historically a celebration of the city’s rulers, the chief priest will offer prayers to the current Imperial Family. This year, the parade will include a prayer for those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Aside from the Jinkosai most of the festival’s events are rather small, but on June 14 be sure to attend the Sanno Chinkasai, a purification ceremony held at Hie Shrine, in which those who wish to rid themselves of sin or gain good luck pass through a large woven circle made of chigaya and bamboo.

Sanno Matsuri will be held at Hie Shrine in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, from June 7-17. For more information, visit www.hiejinja.net.