Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭) is one of the most symbolic water and light festivals in Osaka, also ranked as one of the three greatest festivals in Japan, held annually on 24th–25th of July. Tenjin is 'god of the sky' and Matsuri is festival in Japanese. The other festivals are the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo.
Osaka, also known as the City of Water and Light, hosts this festival that dates back from more than a thousand years ago. This festival started in year 951 to commemorate the deification of the great scholar, Sugawara no Michizane, enshrined now as the God of Learning.
Come and you will get a first-hand experience how Japanese celebrate their summer. Tenjin Matsuri is the amalgamation of a boat festival, a fireworks display of over 3000 shots and parades of Omikoshi-portable shrines. And of course a lot of energy from the crowd clad in colorful yukata (summer kimono) and geta (wooden slippers) to be a part of this annual summer event.
Start your exciting journey into the festival from Tenmangu shrine. For early birds, on 24th July, the Yomiya-sai(Pre-evening festival) starts as early as 7:45am with rituals and prayers for the success of the festival.
There is a Taiko-Japanese drum performance accompanied by a Danjiri (Omikoshi carrier) dancer and a dragon dance to signify the start of this festival. Do not miss the golden Omikoshis on display in Tenmangu shrine used in the festival.
By 11am in Tenmangu shrine you can see the people dressed in costumes getting ready for the possession of the Omikoshis. One of the famous stops that you won’t want to miss is the possession on Midosuji street all the way to Tenjinbashi bridge.
Sound and music are of course a big part of any festivals, for Tenjin Matsuri, you can see people young and old, sweating profusely in the summer heat, chanting loudly, playing traditional music while 20-30 Danjiris shouting to the rhythm of music while carrying the sacred Omikoshis that weights up to hundreds of kilos.
At 6pm, the Boat Possessions starts on Okawa River. Try to spot the possession with a Kabuki actor, or the boat with the Japanese puppets while enjoying your walk along the stalls by the river.
On 25th July, known as the Honmiya - the actual festival day, the three main events are the Land Possessions, Boat/ Water Possessions and the Fireworks at night.
The highlight is the Hanabi-firework that starts around 7:30pm with a much bigger crowd. In Japan, a summer festival is not complete with Hanabi, this must see event displays 3000 shots of awesome fireworks. The firework is indeed a great end to a grand festival.
The people, the energy, the sound and the color from Tenjin festival are indeed experiences a Japanese traveler wouldn’t want to miss.
It is an easy stroll from Osaka Tenmangu Station.