All About Japan

All About the Tenjin Matsuri

| Summer Festivals , Osaka

Osaka's Tenjin Festival is held every July 24 and 25, and it's commonly ranked as one of the Top 3 festivals in Japan. It started over 1,000 years ago and spans both roads and rivers. People chant, sing and clap in rhythm to the drumbeats that encompass the city. Be sure to get a good viewing spot because it will be crowded!

Day 1: July 24

On the morning of the 24th, festivities start at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. In the early morning, monks prepare the portable shrines, or mikoshi, as well as the halberd (kamihoko) to be held by the Shindo ("holy child" or "wonder child"), who is selected from among the grade six students at nearby Nishi-Tenma Elementary School.

At 8:30, around 200 monks and the Shindo leave the temple and go to the Hokonagashi Bridge at the Dojima River. There, at around 8:50, the Shindo hurls the halberd into the river while a prayer is said. The prayer is meant to ask for peace throughout the city and marks the beginning of the festival.

Once the festival begins, you can hear the music throughout the streets near the shrine. Follow the different music and you'll arrive at a different festival float, or danjiri as they're called in Kansai, from around the various districts.

At 4:00 p.m., the Moyoshi Daiko, a deep bass drum, enters the shrine. This drum was a gift from Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the three great unifiers of Japan, at the height of his power during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573-1600). It will lead the procession on the next day.

Finally, 500 dancers gather at 6:30 in the evening to perform the Lion Dance, in which they move a giant lion head with vigor and humor, as well as the Kasa Odori, or dance with umbrellas, and the Yotsutake Odori, a dance with bamboo sticks.

Day 2: July 25

On the second day, the mikoshi portable shrines are prepared and leave their districts in a procession 3,000 strong. The event starts later in the day, around 3:30 p.m., but the parade only reaches the bank of the Okawa River around 6:00. Then all the mikoshi and floats are boarded onto some 100 boats and the parade continues on the water!

Throughout the festival, there's a lot of music, so be sure to join in the rhythmic clapping. To culminate the festival, fireworks are released on the Yodo River. Because it can get quite crowded, make sure that you get here early and find a good spot to see as many of the events as possible!

Access

It's best to start at Tenmangu Shrine. To get there from JR Osaka Station, walk to JR Kitashinchi Station (about 10 minutes), then take the Gakentoshi Line to Osaka Temmangu Station. Go south for about six minutes.

Alternatively, you can take the Tanimachi subway line from Higashi Umeda (about 4 minutes' walk from JR Osaka Station) to Minami Morimachi, then take exit No. 3. Continue going south for about six minutes.