In Musashi-no-kuni province during the Kamakura period, Chichibu Shigetsugu, (later renamed Edo Shigetsugu), marched into Edo and subsequently built Edo Castle. He established Sannougu shrine by organizing a ceremonial transfer of the divided tutelary deity from Kawagoe Sannougu shrine and thus Hie Shrine began. When Ota Dokan later built Edo Castle on the site where a fortress of the Edo clan was located in the Bunmei years (1469-1486) of the Muromachi period, he worshipped at this shrine by once again inviting the divided tutelary deity from the Kawagoe Sannougu shrine into the castle.. When Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo Castle in the 18th year of Tensho (1590), he built a new shrine inside the castle on Momijiyama. For generations the Tokugawa family worshipped at this shrine which they considered the “Tokugawa rekicho no ubugami” (tutelary deity of the Tokugawa family), and the citizens of Edo believed this to be the “supreme tutelary deity.” During the rule of the second Shogun Hidetada, when Edo Castle expanded, the shrine was moved to outside the Hanzomon gate of the Castle, near the current National Theatre. After the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657 the shrine was moved to the Hoshigaoka area, a place of scenic beauty overlooking Akasaka Tameike, and it has remained there to the present day.
Since Ota Dokan worshipped the Hie Shrine’s divided tutelary deity, the guardian of Edo Castle, Kawagoe Sannosha, the Sanno Festival has been held each year in June for more than 500 years. Around the time of the third Shogun Iemitsu, a procession of dashi (floats) and mikoshi (portable shrines) was allowed to enter Edo Castle and since then, the Sanno Festival has been flourishing as the “Tenka matsuri (State Festival),” which the shoguns observed. It is considered to be one of the three major Japanese festivals, along with the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Tenma Festival in Osaka. Around the time of the fifth Shogun Tsunayoshi in the first year of Tenna (1681), it was decided by a decree that is now considered to be a forerunner of the Kenyakurei (laws regulating expenditures), that the major festival of the Sanno Festival should be held every other year, alternating with the Kanda Festival.
The Sanno Festival is a collective term that includes more than 20 festivals held before and after the Reisai Houhei on June 15. The Jinkosai, the largest parade, which is held only during the major festival years, coincides with displays of splendid period picture scrolls in the city center. The Rengotogyo (parade of mikoshi) by shrine parishioners is also a must-see.
During the Edo period at the Sanno Festival, dashi were drawn by shrine parishioners and later in the Meiji period, mikoshi were used. After the Second World War however, as mikoshi carriers have been decreasing due to accelerated urbanization, the vigor of the mikoshi togyo (parade of mikoshi) in each town has been lost. And so, in 2002 young people living in Nihonbashi in the Shitamachi area (an area equivalent to the castle towns in the Edo period) who had developed a sense of urgency about the matter, decided to call the neighboring town of Kyobashi to join the mikoshi togyo, and the Mikoshi no Rengotogyo (parade of mikoshi in the township) began. The area of Kayabacho joined in 2006 and Hacchobori in 2008 and now the Rengotogyo is held with the entire Shitamachi area..