Festival—floats, fireworks, and bonfires on boats at Osaka’s premier festival
The Tenjin Matsuri is a sensational summer festival in Osaka that is full of rituals, dance, and music. It is known for its grand procession of portable shrines and culminates in a dazzling fireworks display that lasts for an hour and a half. This raucous festival, which is over a thousand years old, is held to honor Sugawara Michizane, the Japanese deity of scholarship and learning.
The festival began in the year 951 at Tenmangu Shrine, and it has since become one of japan‘s top three festivals. The main highlight of the festival takes place on the night of July 25 when a 100-boat parade floats down the Okawa River. The festival area can be conveniently reached by train and taxi, with the nearest stations being JR Osaka-Tenmangu Station and Minami-Morimachi Station on the Tanimachi and Sakaisuji subway lines. The festival is centered around Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and the Okawa River.
On July 24, the festival kicks off with opening rituals at Tenmangu Shrine, which is just a six-minute walk from Minami-Morimachi subway station. The rituals include a shishimai lion dance and prayers for Osaka’s safety and prosperity. Once the preparations are complete, men in red hats begin playing drums, signaling the start of the festivities. The festival revolves around the god of learning, Sugawara Michizane, who is enshrined at Tenmangu Shrine. He is moved from the shrine to a portable shrine and carried through the streets before being taken on a cruise of the city to ensure Osaka’s prosperity.
The big procession begins on the second day of the festival, starting at 3:30 p.m. Traditional floats and portable shrines, along with characters in costumes, lion dancers, umbrella dancers, and other performers, pack the streets of Tenjimbashi and Nakanoshima throughout the afternoon. The procession is led by the drummers in red hats and is a sight to behold. Visitors can watch the massive procession carrying mikoshi floats down the street in the late afternoon near Osaka City Central Public Hall.
One of the highlights of the festival is the evening boat procession, which carries the mikoshi (portable shrines) on the river in illuminated boats, some of which have bonfires on them. Visitors are welcome to put on a yukata (traditional summer wear) and geta (traditional shoes) and join in the procession. In addition to the boat procession, traditional noh and bunraku plays are performed on floating stages, adding to the enchantment of the festival. The evening culminates with a captivating fireworks show over the Okawa River, signaling the end of the procession. After the fireworks, the mikoshi are taken back to Tenmangu Shrine.
Throughout the festival, there are thousands of food stalls set up along the river to satisfy the throngs of hungry festival-goers. These stalls offer a wide variety of traditional Japanese festival foods, such as takoyaki (octopus balls), yakisoba (fried noodles), and taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries filled with sweet red bean paste). It’s a great opportunity to indulge in the delicious flavors of Osaka’s local cuisine.
The Tenjin Matsuri is not only a celebration of tradition and culture but also a time for the local community to come together and enjoy the festivities. It is a chance for people to dress in traditional attire, dance, sing, and have a great time with friends and family. The festival creates a lively and vibrant atmosphere in the city, with the streets filled with people of all ages enjoying the spectacle.
In recent years, the Tenjin Matsuri has gained international recognition and has attracted visitors from all over the world. It is a unique cultural experience that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the traditions and customs of Japan. The festival offers a glimpse into the rich history and heritage of Osaka and provides an opportunity to witness the passion and dedication of the local community in preserving their cultural traditions.
For those planning to attend the Tenjin Matsuri, it is recommended to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot for the procession and fireworks. It’s also advisable to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the festival can be crowded and involve a fair amount of walking. Additionally, visitors should be mindful of their surroundings and follow the instructions of festival organizers and security personnel to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Overall, the Tenjin Matsuri is a must-see event for anyone visiting Osaka in the summer. It offers a unique and immersive cultural experience that showcases the vibrant traditions and customs of Japan. The festival’s combination of floats, fireworks, and bonfires on boats creates a magical atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Whether you are interested in history, culture, or simply want to have a great time, the Tenjin Matsuri is an event not to be missed.
Address And Maps Location:
2-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu