Sanno Festival

Sanno Festival

The Sanno Matsuri is one of the three most famous festivals of Japan, along with Sanja Matsuri and the Kanda Matsuri. Even though it is an annual event, only on even-numbered years the festival comes paired with the Jinkosai, a famous procession of floats and shrines. The Sanno Matsuri takes place in mid-June, extends over a week and offers very traditional events.

Jinkosai - which extends over a length of 600 metres - takes place in the middle of June in every other year. In the procession, about 300 people dressed in ancient costumes parade through the heart of Tokyo. The parade features three mikoshi (portable shrines) adorned with a phoenix on the roof, and are said to hold Shinto gods that protect Tokyo.

Festival-goers will also see dashi floats, people carrying drums, people on horseback, and also people dressed as the legendary goblin called Tengu, described as having a red face, long nose and believed to have supernatural powers.

Apart from the Jinkosai, most of the events held at the festival are rather small; nonetheless, you can witness a large variety of Japanese traditions during the event. To start with, there are large displays of flowers arranged in Japanese style known as Ikenaba, and special tables and seats are set up in the shrine garden to sip on Japanese tea.

An important event during the festival is the Sanno Chinkasai, a purification ceremony held at Hie Shrine. In this ceremony, people pass through a large ring made of chigaya and bamboo. Such practice is believed to atone for the sins unconsciously committed in the past six months. As people pass the ring, they hold a doll which is said to take on their sins.

Historically, the festival had more than 40 floats; however, due to the disruption it causes to traffic and commerce, the parade has been significantly reduced. Still, this is an unmissable event with one of the most notable points being a stop at the Imperial Palace, where the mikoshi are used in a religious ceremony.

Since the Sanno festival is historically a celebration of the city's rulers, the chief priest offers prayers to the current Imperial Family.

Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival

Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival

Hundreds of brightly-coloured fireworks paint the evening sky of Tokyo every summer in the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival - one of the major fireworks displays in Japan. This event, held on the last Saturday of July over the Sumidagawa near Asakusa, attracts close to a million of celebrants every year. The reflection of the dazzling fireworks over the Sumida River is an unforgettable sight.

In direct contrast with other fireworks displays in other parts of the world, the Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai follows the Japanese tradition of having a pronounced competitive nature. During the festival, rival pyrotechnic groups try to out-do the last, and subsequently, there is an incredible variety of fireworks in different colours and patterns. Different lights paint the sky of Tokyo with shapes as complicated as Doraemon, Pikachu or kanji.

The Sumidagawa Festival is said to have originated in the Edo period. Back then, people viewed fireworks while enjoying the cool of the summer evening. However, others say that the roots of this event lie in the Suijin Festival dedicated to the water deity held to appease the souls of those who had died of starvation or of plague and to drive away pestilence during the reign of Tokygawa Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa Shogun (1684-1751).

This old tradition was suspended because of too much traffic and too many buildings, but it was revived in 1978. Since then, it has a new name, Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai (Sumida River Fireworks Display). Today, this event is widely considered one of the most marvelous scenes of the summer season in Tokyo.

If you are looking for a good spot to view the fireworks display, you will find it along the Sumida River, which flows through the eastern part of Tokyo and empties into Tokyo Bay.

Things to do in Tokyo

Things to do in Tokyo

Tokyo is an extravagant amalgam of the old and the new. Traditional temples and markets stand side by side high-tech gadgets and skyscrapers. There are, for instance, stone lanterns scattered among the most modern buildings.

As the streets in Tokyo are terribly crowded, you will find people in the streets dressed in all sorts of styles. Traditions, variety and craziness bring this city to life which has an infinite activities to offer. Here are some suggestions of things you can do in Tokyo:

Tsujiji Fish Market: Don't miss the opportunity to visit the world's largest and busiest fish market. It handles more than 400 different types of seafood from cheap seaweed to the most expensive caviar, and from sardines to tuna and whales. The most interesting part is the Tuna Auction, though tickets are issued on a first come, first serve basis. Check their website to see if public access is permitted during the day you want to visit. In the market, you will see fishmongers filleting the day's catch or have a succulent sushi breakfast. Also, there is an alternative to the wholesale market which is the Tsukiji's outer market. This is a warren of narrow streets packed with stalls selling fresh seafood and even wasabi.

Sumo: this is how Japanese people have fun. If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three gran tournaments in January, May and September, you will see more action at Ryogoky Kokugikan, Tokyo's National Sumo Hall, than you would expect from Weezer's video "Hash Pipe".

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: This is the most beautiful green space in Tokyo. If you want to escape the crowds, this is the place for you. Get a map in English and as you stroll, visit the major gardens: English Landscape, French Formal, Japanese Traditional space with teahouse and the Mother and Child Forest. Don't miss the Taiwan Pavilion, enter and look out the second-story windows. In this garden, you can also have a picnic or buy take-away items at the gourmet food hall in the basement level of Takashimaya department store. You can also shop in a massive department store in the mega-mall complex called Times Square, where you will find anything from gold body stockings to Japanese tea sets and stationary.

Tokyo Superstitions

Tokyo Superstitions

Supernatural forces also dwell in modern cities such as Tokyo. If you visit the city, make sure you are aware of locals’ superstitions, so you can take advantage of the city’s good fortune or at least avoid bad luck.

The curse of Roppingi Hills: According to a recent urban legend, Roppongi Hills is cursed. People say that residents of Roppongi Hills are doomed. The building opened in 2003, and has since seen a number of its residents fall from grace, related businesses become embroiled in scandal and one child died in gruesome circumstances.

The curse has become something of an urban legend. There are a few reasons attributed to the building’s bad luck. First, its address since there are three sixes in Roppongi 6-chome Roppongi Hills. Second, the building looks like a grave stone. Historically, the idea that it was built on the very ground that witnessed the deaths of some of the 47 Ronin in the Ako Vendetta legend committed ritual suicide after avenging their master’s honour.

Such are the repercussions of the superstition that the property management company imposes many regulations on the owners of the residence to prevent them from performing harmless hobbies like gardening on the balcony.

Love and the lights of Tokyo Tower: People of Tokyo believe that your love will last longer if you watch the lights of Tokyo Tower get turned off with your partner.

In contrast, Tokyo can also break couples apart. Legend tells that couples who take a boat ride on the pond at Inokashira Park might break up prematurely. According to the superstition, Benzaiten (the Buddhist goddess of wealth and carer of the pond) gets jealous watching happy couples. Well, don’t we all?

Love lost while queuing... This belief might cross the threshold from superstition to science. It is believed that new couples visiting Tokyo Disney Land will suffer a short romance. This is because the length of the queues tests their chemistry and many discover they don’t have much in common.