Osaka Tenjin Matsuri
By John Asano
The Tenjin Matsuri is ranked as one of Japan’s three greatest festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto (also happening in July) and the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo (which takes place in May). The festival is held at the famous Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka and honors the deity Sugawara no Michizane, the god of learning.
Tenjin Matsuri, which literally means “festival of the gods,” first started in the 10th century and is held every year on July 24th and July 25th. The main celebration is held on the second day, July 25th, from around 3.30 p.m. and includes a land procession. with mikoshi (portable shrines), a river procession with festival boats along the Okawa River and spectacular fireworks as night falls.
With a history of more than a thousand years, the Tenjin matsuri lets you feel the atmosphere of a summer festival at its biggest and best in Japan.
Photos (clockwise from left to right): elmimmo, Lolu Photography, elmimmo, James Gochenouer, Lolu Photography, Isaac Bordas, elmimmo.
The Tenjin Matsuri gives you the chance to see a spectacular summer festival in Osaka with a large-scale land and river procession as well as a stunning fireworks display. The first day of the festival features a ritual at Tenmangu Shrine in the morning to kick things off. This is followed by prayers at the river for peace and for the safety and prosperity of Osaka.
The highlight of the festival is the second day with the gilded mikoshi carried along by participants dressed in traditional imperial court style costumes. The main event starts at 3:30 p.m. with the land procession from Tenmangu Shrine through the central streets of Osaka. It features ceremonial floats, costumed characters and lively festival music (generally drums, flutes and a lot of yelling). This is followed by the convoy carrying the mikoshi that houses the spirit of the deity, Sugawara no Michizane, from the shrine out into the streets of Osaka.
Featuring around 3,000 participants, the procession arrives at the Okawa (river) around 6:00 p.m., where the mikoshi and participants are loaded onto the festival boats and paraded up and down the waterway. There are around 100 boats, which are illuminated at dusk creating a beautiful reflection off of the river.
The day is capped off with a spectacular fireworks display along the Okawa at around 7 p.m. along with illuminated festival boats that make for a truly amazing spectacle. The fireworks finish around 9 p.m., when the mikoshi and festival participants disembark the boats and make their way back to Tenmangu Shrine, signaling the end of the festival.