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Osaka is the largest city in Kansai, and the second largest in all of Japan. As you might guess, Osaka has plenty to offer visitors. Despite hot and muggy summer temperature, locals and visitors alike flock to the city for its wonderful outdoor festivals which celebrate the history and traditions of Japan. On just one day in July, there are two exciting festivals that you surely will want to visit.
The Tenjin Matsuri festival, named for the Tenjin Shrine, is the largest festival in Osaka, and one of the three largest festivals in Japan. It is also the world’s biggest boating festival and dates back more than 1000 years. Each year thousands of visitors flock to this festival, which is held at the Tenman Shrine and is dedicated to Sugawara-no-Michizane, a politician and court scholar in the ninth century. Sugawara-no-Michizane is deified as Tenman Tenjin, the patron god of learning and art. The festivities run from July 24th-25th and culminate in a huge clelebration on the 25th, which is Michizane’s birthday.
The festival begins solemnly the morning of the 24th, with a ritual at the Tenmangu Shrine. Following the ritual, attendees are led in prayers for the prosperity and safety of Osaka and its people. The festival continues with the Hokonagashi Ritual (throwing of the sacred sword) by Hokonagashi Bridge. The morning culminates with Shishi-Mai (Lion Dance) and Mikoshi (Portable shrine) on the grounds of the shrine. In the afternoon, festival visitors can watch and listen to men in tall red hats play drums, symbolizing the official start of festival events.
One of the most exciting events of the festival occurs midday on the second day, when the red-hatted drummers return to merrily lead a land procession through the streets of Osaka, from the Tenmangu shrine through to the riverbank. Finally, the whole festival culminates in a spectacular fireworks display along the riverbank, and boats cruise the river with lit torches that light up the inky black stream, twinkling for onlookers all across the city to see.
Luckily, there’s no need to choose between these two festivals. Throughout the Tenjin Matsuri, visitors can also visit events that are part of the nearby Daigaku Festival. The Daigaku festival located at the Ikune Jinja shrine, also located in Osaka.
According to the history of the construction of Sumiyositaisha Grand Shrine, the Ikune Shrine was constructed circa 1600 as the middle shrine in the structure. The god enshrined at Ikune Jinja is Sukunahikona, and the Daigaku festival invites him to visit the shrine.
During the festival, young men carry poles, called daigaku, in a spiritual procession through Akita Prefecture, destined for the shrine. Each daigaku holds one of 78 lanterns, which light the way of the procession and honor the deities. Onlookers line the route of the procession and follow along behind celebrating the invitation to the deity and the solemn beauty of the lighted parade.
Whether you decide to attend the peaceful, reflective Daigaku festival, or the exuberant spectacle of the Tenjin Matsuri, it’s clear that in Osaka, the weekend of July 24th, is not to be missed.
Reaching the Tenjin Matsuri Festival: The Tenjin Matsuri Festival can be reached in a 5-minute walk from Osaka Tenmangu Station. Osaka Tenmangu Station is about 30 minutes from JR Shin-Osaka Station on the JR Tozai Line.
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Reaching the Daigaku Festival: The Daigaku Festival can be reached in an 8-minute walk from Tamade Station.
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