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.