Sanja Matsuri: How to Make the Most of Traditional Festivals
Sanja Matsuri, a festival dating back more than 700 years, attracts thousands of visitors over (2?) days in May every year. Held May 17 and 18, 2014, the festival was enjoyed by huge crowds in warm, sunny weather this year.
Portable shrines, mikoshi, are carried by locals throughout the procession. The festival is held annually to honor the three founders of Senso-ji. While the festival lasts three days, the weekend is the busiest time, since many people have work holidays those days. While Sanja Maturi is an exciting event to witness, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.
Due to crowds and commotion, it is helpful to keep a few suggestions in mind in order to enjoy the festival as much as possible.
1. Travel lightly. Large bags make difficult squeezing past tightly packed areas. It is also advisable to keep an eye on personal belongings due to the high volume of visitors from all over the world, who may not all share the respect for belongings that is generally practiced by Japanese people. While lockers may be available at stations, the large number of visitors means that lockers are likely to be occupied throughout the day.
2. Try festival foods. Instead of waiting in long queues for restaurants in the area, indulge in some festival foods such as freshly grilled meat and seafood or okonomiyaki.
3. Walk along the outer alleys, not the main road, when heading toward the shrine to avoid the crowds and move more quickly. However, if shopping for souvenirs is a goal, it is best to stay on the main path.
4. Buy omikuji (fortune) inside Sensoji, not in the front plaza to avoid crowds. The omikuji booths in the main square are likely to be more crowded than those inside the temple where people go mostly to pray.
5. Visit side shrines and temples for relaxation away from the crowds. At Senso-ji, there are many smaller areas beside the large main complex. Each one has its own meaning and character.
[posted by Nadia]
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