Tenka Matsuri

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  • Japanese: 天下祭 (Tenka matsuri)

Sannô Matsuri and Kanda Matsuri were two of the most major annual festivals (matsuri) in Edo. As the only festivals in which participants processed through the grounds of Edo castle, they formed a special category unto themselves, and together were called the Tenka Matsuri ("Festivals of the Realm"). Though initially both festivals were performed each year, due to concerns about the expense, beginning in 1681 each was performed only in alternating years.

The Sannô Matsuri (山王祭) procession traditionally started from Sannô Gongen (today, Hie Shrine in the Nagatachô neighborhood of Tokyo), and entered the grounds of Edo castle via the Kôjimachi-mon (Kôjimachi Gate), circling around within the grounds and then crossing Tokiwa-bashi (Tokiwa Bridge) to leave the castle grounds and make its way into Honchô-dôri (Honchô Avenue).

Kanda Matsuri (神田祭), meanwhile, is associated with Kanda Shrine, in the Yushima neighborhood of Tokyo.

Both festivals involved massive processions, with participants numbering in the thousands. Each of the thirty-six bangumi (groups) from participating neighborhoods (chô) constructed costumes, floats, banners, and so forth according to their own separate theme. For example, Toshima-chô's section of the Kanda Matsuri procession typically featured some 160 people recreating the street procession of one of the Korean missions to Edo. With some considerable degree of loyalty to the general appearance of Korean costume and accoutrements, they recreated Korean costumes, hairstyles, banners, and decorative spears, as well as parade float versions (on wheels) of the Korean sedan chairs; some participants, performing the roles of high-ranking Korean officials, rode on horseback. Other bangumi from other neighborhoods reenacted the characters or stories of Urashima Tarô, sections of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, Kibi Makibi, or Empress Jingû's invasions of Korea, among others.

The Tenka Matsuri were simplified beginning in the 1790s, as part of Matsudaira Sadanobu's Kansei Reforms. They became smaller in scale, and less extensively lavish in style.


  • Ronald Toby, "Sakoku" to iu gaikô 『鎖国』という外交, Tokyo: Shogakukan (2008), 264-267.