Although the Sanno Festival occurs annually, the Shinkosai procession happens only on even-numbered years. Dating back to the times of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Shinkosai was to welcome three sacred mikoshi (sacred shrines) into the Edo Castle, each believed to be carrying a god. The Sanno Matsuri itself is considered one of Edo's three major festivals.
Overpasses put an end to the towering floats in 1885, but the pageantry has not faded. Blessed by fine weather, the large procession of people dressed in period costume began its journey at 8 a.m. at Hie Shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda Ward. Accompanied by gagaku (imperial court music) throughout, the parade snaked its way through central Tokyo, passing by the Imperial Palace and through famous districts of Ginza and Marunouchi, before returning to its starting place at 5 p.m.
Halfway, the procession paused in front of the Japanese National Theater for a sacred ritual involving Hie Shrine maidens and katana swords.
The Sanno Matsuri continues over the weekend and ends on Sunday, June 9.