Sanja Festival, Asakusa

This is one of the wildest, largest and most interesting festivals in Tokyo. Strangely I didn't have a chance to check it out until the last weekend. This festival is held to honor three men who established Sensoji temple, read full description from Wikipedia here.  Neighborhood groups will form a team to carry mikoshi (portable shrine), get a blessing and return back to their respective neighborhood. The event usually runs for three days where each day features a different program. Although the main event happens on Sunday where the three Asakusa shrine owned mikoshi traveling around the area, I chose to visit on 2nd day (Saturday). You may find all over the internet regarding the association of this festival and yakuza (Japanese gangsters). Strictly speaking, this may not be precise as I believe majority of people are not gangsters. 2nd day marks an interesting program where local community groups carrying their mikoshi around the town. Among groups of mikoshi parade, it is believed several are sponsored by yakuza since the area is a base for their business. To me, this is the only opportunity once a year where those gangsters expose themselves to public and I can photograph them without dropping a cold sweat. 

After seeing these two men, my instinct told me I was at the right spot

I decided to arrive in Asakusa early around 930AM before majority of visitors do. According to my internet research, Nishi Asa San Kita area (西浅三北) would be an ideal location to find participants with tattoos. After spending some time wandering for interesting subjects to photograph, I spotted a group with people who stood out: some with bright yellow hair, some with part of their tattoo showing, etc.; yes I found what I was looking for. After some preparation, each mikoshi group has to be on the designated location to get ready. I tagged along with the group and had a a chance to witness and take part in the opening ceremony and mini speech given by a 'chairman' of this group. During the trip to Asakusa shrine, they had to stop once in a while due to heavy traffics, some of them even handed me their iPhone 6s and asked me to snap a group group for them. It was surely the only day on the calendar that they would be very friendly to the public since they take part as a local community.

Getting ready for the Chairman' s arrival

Members get a little sensitive when a stranger gets close to the 'management team'

I have to admit this group had a really beautiful mikoshi and it is huge! See no. of people it took to carry.

Group shot, big smile!

Diversity in the Leadership Team

Do not misinterpret this festival by seeing my photos, I chose to photograph and show only this perspective for my personal viewing & project. Most parts of the festival are like any other festival in Japan: really enjoyable, gangster-free and suitable for all ages of visitors. I also do not advertise or promote any organization/ individual shown in any of my images.

Interesting Sense of Humor here

Wefie Time!

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