Summer

Tenjin Matsuri – Enjoy One of Japan`s Top Three Festivals!

Anton

Writer

The Tenjin Festival (天神祭, Tenjin Matsuri) is an exceptional event in Osaka. This matsuri is a distinctive feature of Osaka which the city has been boasting since 951. Tenjin Festival is famous all around the world and is considered as one of Japan’s top three festivals along with the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo. Tenmangu Shrine holds this extraordinary matsuri and honors the sky deity – Sugawara no Michizane – the god of learning. In this article I am going to introduce you to the Tenjin Festival,  tell you about its history and the way how locals enjoy it!

Festival Background

The Origin

There are several Tenmangu Shrines in Japan, but Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka is the principle one. The Tenjin Matsuri is a major annual summer festival of the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and in the city as well. The citizens hold this event to wish for business prosperity, their health, peace for the city’s citizens, and to show the wealth of Osaka city to everyone. Tenjin Matsuri attracts over a million attendees during its two days every year.

Tenjin 天神is the deification of Sugawara no Michizane (845–903), the famous scholar, poet and politician of the Heian period (794–1185). However, Ten here means Sky and Jin implies a Deity or God.

The festival has its origins in sacred purification rite which started over 1000 years ago. This rite is called Hokonagashi and is performed by local people when they throw a halberd as part of a purification ceremony into Okawa river near Tenmangu Shrine even now. This indicates the opening of the festival. The purification ceremony was an essential feature of the festival as it was believed to protect against the infectious diseases which were severe in the hot and humid summer months.

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Tenjin Matsuri in Edo Period

During the Edo period (1603–1868) the Tenjin Festival became one of the most famous festivals in Japan firmly. The scale of the festivity was even more significant than today. One of the major highlights of Tenjin Matsuri in the Edo period were over 70 danjiri (festival floats) that paraded to the shrine. Unfortunately, only one danjiri remains today. Another highlight that showed the prosperity of Osaka city and its citizens are gorgeous dolls that were about 2.4 meters tall. People from every district made those dolls and put them in front of their houses. Citizens believed that the dolls welcome the spirits and gods. Currently, you can see some of these dolls on display at the shrine precincts during the festival days. Only about 15 dolls remain today.

Festival Breakdown

First Day

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Tenjin Festival is a 2-days annual summer event. As a thousand years ago the festival starts with The Hokonagashi Procession when the people and priests in traditional Japanese costumes head from Tenmangu Shrine to Hokonagashi Bridge and perform Hokonagashi purification rite. A child, who represents the god holding a long halberd gets together with a guardian of the shrine on a boat row onto the river. This parade is smaller than the ones that follow but worth seeing.

Also, on the first day, you will have a great chance to see a Miyoshi drum performance, Lion dances and small Mikoshi (portable shrine parade) near the shrine. Generally, the first day of the Tenjin Festival is considerably calm, compared with the extravagance of the second day.

Second Day

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The second day of the festival is called the Hommiya (main day). And this is when you can see the most magnificent festivity. There are two major events that you shouldn`t miss. It is Rikutogyo – the land procession and Funatogyo” – boat procession.

Over 3000 people participate in Rikutogyo. Citizens in traditional 8th to 12th-century imperial clothes parade through the main streets of Osaka and carry a lavishly decorated Mikoshi. You can see two more portable shrines at the parade later. But the one you shouldn’t miss is the Mikoshi with a gilded phoenix at its top. This is the one that has the deified spirit of Michizane inside.

Over 12000 people and more than 100 boats will impress you at Funatogyo. Closer to the sunset, the procession with Mikoshi moves to the Okawa River. Tenjin Matsuri Funatogyo creates one of the largest boat festivals in the world. There are many types of boats you can notice at the festivals. Some host noh and bunraku performances, others carry huge lanterns and some light flashy oil fires along the deck.

Things to Do at Tenjin Festival

Image courtesy of Tomi Mäkitalo

You should not miss the festival highlights. If you would like to enjoy more peaceful procession you need to get up early to enjoy the Hokonagashi purification rite as it starts at 7:45 am. Unique lion dances and charming and energetic traditional music will follow you whole day around Osaka Amenity Park and at the Imperial Hotel Osaka on the first day.

Unfortunately, you cannot participate in Rikutogyo or Funatogyo. But any picture you will take during these events will become a masterpiece. Feel the energy of locals at the land procession that starts at 3:30 pm, but try to arrive earlier to the Okawa river bench as it will get extremely crowded in the evening. The boat procession starts around 6 pm. Optionally, you can book reserved sears in advance, which will cost you 6000 Yen.

One of the major highlights of any summer festival in Japan is the fireworks display. Tenjin Matsuri is not an exception. In the middle of Funatogyo (around 7 pm), you will see the sky bursting with the fireworks of various shapes and colors! The scene and its reflection on the water are breathtaking indeed. So, call your friends, put on yukata and geta, grab something in Yatai (Festival food stall), find the best place to look at the boat procession, and enjoy Tenjin Matsuri like a local.

Details and Access

Dates: July 24th & 25th. *Held annually on the 24th & 25th of July

Brief Schedule:

July 24th

7:45-8:30 Yoimiya Yasai – morning pray at Tenmangu Shrine

8:30 The Hokonagashi Procession

8:50 Hokonagashi Shinji – purification ceremony

18:40 Waterfront Ritual – a few Noh performances on the boats at Amenity Park Harbor

July 25th

13:30-14:30 Honmiya Festival – priests will pray at Tenmangu Shrine before the land procession

15:30 The Rikuto Parade

18:00-21:00 Boat Crossing or Funatogyo

19:00-21:00 Fireworks Display

Place: In and around the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. Between Tenjinbashi bridge and Hisho bridge on Okawa River.

International Reception and Info: Tenjin Matsuri pamphlet available in Japanese and English. Inside JR Osaka Station is “Osaka Visitor’s Information Center Umeda”

Home Page: http://www.tenjinmatsuri.com/

Address: Osaka Tenmangu Shrine.  2-1-8 Tenjimbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka

Access: For Tenmangu Shrine

from JR Tozai line Osaka Tenmangu station 4 min. walk.

Osaka Underground Tanimachi / Sakaisuji line; Minamimorimachi station 5 min. walk.

Parking lots are available

 

 

 

Closing Remarks

Sometimes locals call Osaka – a city of water. Indeed, the city has deep connections with sea and water being one of the biggest trading harbors in Japan. Tenjin Festival is a vivid indicator of the city’s old traditions and an influential citizen`s spirit. Never miss an opportunity to visit this unique matsuri as it is worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.

The local guides are here to help! If you need any help and would like a local guide to tell you more about Tenjin festival or even more, please check the banner below! It is always better to know someone local on such a big and famous event as Tenjin Matsuri.

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Osaka Stay!

Being the third largest city in the country, Osaka is one of the major gateways of Japan. Even if it is not the main place of your destination, it would be a great idea to stay in this great city for a few days. Whether you want to go sightseeing, shopping, eating out, or trying something special that you can experience only in Japan, Osaka has it all and even something extra. In the following article, you will find 100 things to do in Osaka and many ideas on how to spend your time in the city!

Please, have a look, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/events/100-things-osaka-sightseeing-spots-traditional-japanese-events

The Real Kyoto Gion Festival

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Of course, the Tenjin Festival is a great event to attend, and you should do it when you have a chance! As you probably know, the Kyoto Gion festival is also one of the three best festivals in Japan. Besides, Kyoto is close to Osaka. Why don`t you visit Kyoto in spring and enjoy Gion festival under the cherry blossoms as well? I am sure you will enjoy one of the most popular Gion festivals in Japan! For more information about Kyoto`s Gion Matsuri, please click on the link below!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/982/

Kanda Festival – One of the Three Great Matsuri of Tokyo

If you want to experience “the old classic Japanese festival,” Kanda festival should be your priority to visit. Not merely it has a long history, but the scale is stunning. Furthermore, it is one of the “the three great festivals” of Tokyo along with the Sanja Festival and Fukagawa Hachiman Festival! Since the early 17th century, Japanese people, especially who have lived in Tokyo, have devoted their passion and energy to this festival. The following article is the guideline of what to see and do at the traditional Kanda festival.

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/1236/

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5363/

What is Mikoshi?

If you were ever wondering about Japanese festivals, you probably came across Mikoshi. Mikoshi is an essential part of any Japanese, religious matsuri, and it is hard to even imagine a traditional festival scene without it. If you would like to know more about Japanese traditional festival culture and find out what Mikoshi is, the next article is for you. Please click on the link to check it out!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5678/

Don`t Stay Hungry at the Festival!

Image courtesy of Tomomarusan

For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!

URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/5504/

Anton

I`ve been living in Japan for over 10 years and still fascinated with this unique country. I always discover something new about the land of the rising sun when there is a chance!

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