Kanda Myojin (神田明神), formally Kanda Jinja (神田神社), is a Shinto shrine in the middle of Tokyo which used to be the spiritual guardian of the city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in the Edo period. For details about this shrine, see the article on Kanda Myojinfor details.
The Kanda Matsuri (神田祭), held in mid-May, is another name for the annual grand festival of Kanda Myojin, and is one of the most prestigious traditional festival in Tokyo. Note that this rite is held fully in odd-numbered years only, and in even-numbered years, it is significantly scaled down.
As aforementioned, the Kanda Matsuri is conducted fully only in odd-numbered years -- in even-numbered years, the Sanno Matsuri of Akasaka Hie Shrine is fully conducted instead. In the Edo period, the mikoshi processions of these two festivals were allowed to get into the Edo Castle to show themselves to the shogun, allowing them to boast a special status known as the Tenka Matsuri, and these two rites are held alternately ever since.
The schedule for the Kanda Matsuri of the year 2017 is as follows:
- Thu, May 11 - Horen Mikoshi Senza-sai
- Fri, May 12 - Ujiko-chokai Mikoshi Mitama-ire
- Sat, May 13 - Shinko-sai
- Sun, May 14 - Mikoshi Miyairi
- Mon, May 15 - Myojin-noh
- Tue, May 16 - Kencha-sai
- Wed, May 17 - Reitaisai
The highlights of the week-long Kanda Matsuri is firstly the Shinko-sai on Saturday, May 13th and secondly the Mikoshi Miyairi on the following day. These are carried out only in odd-numbered years.
Some additional events are also held like drum concerts held at adjoining park on both May 13th and 14th.
Horen Mikoshi Senza-sai on May 11
The Horen Mikoshi Senza-sai, held at 7pm, is a ritual to load the three divinities enshrined at Kanda Shrine onto two horen (a kind of portable shrine) and a mikoshi (another kind of portable shrine.) in the evening darkness. These portable shrines will be the vessels of the deities during the Shinko-sai, or the large procession held on Saturday. You may take photos during this event but using flashlight is not allowed.
Ujiko-chokai Mikoshi Mitama-ire on May 12
Ujiko-chokai Mikoshi Mitama-ire, taking place from 4pm to 9 pm, is a process of filling some 200 mikoshi owned by 108 local communities with the spirits of the three shrine divinities at local communities' makeshift meeting places. These local communities, which are located within the area the shrine divinities protect, have their own mikoshi, and they visit Kanda Shrine carrying their mikoshi on Sunday to pay their respect.
Shinko-sai on May 13
Shinko-sai is the highlight of this whole festival. It is a large parade bearing the two horen and one mikoshi, parading through the area the shrine divinities protect all day long to purify the land and to offer the residents an opportunity to greet their guardians at their communities. The procession goes through 30km (19 miles) in length, but it is said that the procession is at its best at around Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihombashi (around 4:30pm).
The ceremony for this day starts from 5am, but the procession itself kicks off from Kanda Shrine at 8am. It will be back at the shrine at around 7pm.
The route & time of the shinko-sai procession
Click below blue icon and a window depicting the route and time of the shinko-sai for 2017 overlaid on GoogleMaps pops up. The red line is the main procession and the blue line is the procession of samurai warriors on horseback and baloon floats which joins the main procession partially. It's said that the best place to see this parade is at in front of the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi department store (around 4:30pm).
Mikoshi Miyairi on May 14
On Sunday, some 200 mikoshi possessed by 108 local communities parade on their own around their local communities, and about 100 of them visit Kanda Shrine to pay their respect all day (this paying visit is called the miyairi). This is another highlight of the Kanda Matsuri, though not so prominent as the Shinko-sai on the previous day.
Myojin-noh on May 15 & Kencha-sai on May 16
A noh theater will be dedicated to the shrine deities from 6pm on May 15. This is a paid attraction and you need to make reservation. Taking photos is prohibited.
At 10 am on May 16, a ritual called Kencha-sai will be performed. At this event, green tea will be offered to the shrine divinities.
Reitaisai on May 17
The Reitaisai held at 2pm on May 17 is the most important, though not so eye-catching, part of the Kanda Matsuri. It is a ceremony praying for the happiness and wellbeing of the people the shrine protects, and the prosperity and peace for the nation. Kagura theaters will also be performed.