Crowded House

Think of it as the Japanese Mardi Gras. Held in May, the 350-year-old Sanja Matsuri festival brings 1.5 million revelers to Asakusa in eastern Tokyo to honor the three founders of the district's Sensoji — a Buddhist temple that is the city's oldest. The throng, more densely packed than any rush-hour train, is an unforgettable spectacle. Young and old are adorned in festive clothes, and pant with the effort of bearing dozens of mikoshi (portable shrines) through Asakusa's 44 residential blocks, while yakuza in loincloths proudly sport their full-body tattoos in a normally forbidden...

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