53 versions of a travel itinerary just couldn’t work in this year’s Asakusa Sanja Matsuri in mid-May. While Ueno’s Shitaya Matsuri may not have the million or spectators like Asakusa, it is exuberant, colourful and highly recommended.
On previous trips I had made efforts to see a number of matsuri, from the tiny village to massive national events like at Takayama. Having become a real lover of the culture, history and pageantry associated with these events I was just a tad disappointed with missing out on the ‘big one’ of Sanja.
I was only half awake while gazing out from the window of the Taito City town bus that snakes it way around from Asakusa to Ueno. But awake enough to spot a ‘mikoshi’ being prepared dutifully prepared in a tiny laneway.
Re-tracing the bus route on foot I found that not just that mikoshi, but a few others being decked out for the Shitaya Matsuri to occur later that evening. Now that matsuri feeling was back!
Taking up a vantage point at the junction of two small laneways we were all set for the show!
What can be better than grabbing some street food, a couple of beers, and sitting on a street planter box. By chance, we were only metres away from the start of one parade and witnessed a Shinto Priest ritually blessing the mikoshi and its bearers.
The number of spectators was incredible, and then to add the mikoshi and the numerous men and women bearing the ornate portable Shinto shrine. It certainly got very squeezy at one point. But heck, what fun and a privilege to be able to be up close to such an important event.
See video of the 2012 Ueno Shitaya Matsuri
(Saturday 12th May, 2012)