The colorful annual Sanja-matsuri festival was held last weekend at Asakusa Kannon (Sensoji), Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple. Thousands of locals gather to participate. Even more come from even farther afield to be spectators. 

Sanjia matsuri is a festival dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy, whose miniature gilded statue has been kept at the temple since the 7th century. It is held over three days and includes various traditional rituals and festive activities. The most striking event of the festival is the solemn processions, during which participants carry on their shoulders omikoshi, heavy stretchers with copies of the temple mounted on them. The main deity of Asakusa Kannon, the goddess of mercy, virtually moves in them for the duration of the festival. 

On ordinary days, pilgrims come to the temple to worship her. During Sanja-matsuri, the goddess "visits" those living in the neighborhood of the temple in festive omikoshi. 

Carrying up to a ton on their shoulders, the omikoshi are dressed in traditional costumes. To keep up their pace, they all rhythmically recite a certain recitative together. Music plays, drums beat, and miniature kagura suzu bells jingle. All this creates an exciting and colorful atmosphere filled with energy and joy. Tourists who come to the festival can watch the processions, take pictures of the participants and even sometimes join in the dancing and some other rituals.

Sanja-matsuri presents a rare opportunity to see the colorful tattoos covering the bodies of the yakuza, local mobsters who also take part in the festival. Recently, however, local authorities have been setting up their omikoshi routes in areas far from the main locations of the festival.  

In general, it is a celebration when citizens come together to relax, enjoy the beautiful festive atmosphere, taste a variety of street food, and most importantly, honor the deity Kannon and remember mercy.

Come to Tokyo for Sanjia matsuri!

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