Tokyo // Asakusa + the Sanja Matsuri festival

when we booked our stay in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, we had no idea we would be arriving in the middle of a festival. but when we emerged from the subway system, we were greeted by packed streets and the banging of drums.

since we only spent one night in actual Tokyo [the rest we were at Tokyo Disneyland] we decided to splurge stayed at The Gate Hotel. it wasn't cheap. but the views were stunning, the food was to die for, and it was right in the middle of everything. the Sensoji temple [which is the center of the Sanja Matsuri festival] was only a few short blocks away. we dropped our bags and went out to explore the nearby temple and market. and of course, gawk at the festival activities.

the Sensoji temple and surrounding buildings were gorgeous - I loved the sweeping roofs and the bold red. I did not take near as many photos as I normally would, because the area was extremely crowded. the Sanja festival is one of the largest religious celebrations in Japan, and draws up to 2 million people each year. and we unknowingly walked into the middle of it.

throughout the course of the weekend-long celebration, the streets are crowded with people both participating in and viewing the carrying of various mikoshi [or small shrines] to and from the main temple for blessings. it seemed that every street we turned down had a procession going through. even though it was unplanned [on our part] it was incredible to see this kind of cultural event in action.

the market area surrounding the temple was - if possible - even more crowded. but I'm glad we took the time to explore. one of my favorite things about traveling in Asia is going through the markets and seeing what is different or the same as other countries and cultures.

after a while, the noise and crowds started making me a bit claustrophobic. so we went a few blocks away and discovered a lovely riverside park with a great view of the Skytree and Asahi Beer buildings. [note: the Skytree is actually much taller than it looks here.] we crossed over and found a bar to have a drink in, then headed back to the hotel for dinner with a view.

though I'd love to spend more time exploring Tokyo, our experience walking into the festival unaware will be tough to beat. it really was amazing to see, planned or unplanned. if you'd like to experience the Sanja Matsuri on purpose, it is held the third weekend in May every year.

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