Tenjin Festival is Osaka's iconic grand festival drawing in 1.3 million people every year. Various events are held in about one month with the biggest spectacle happening on July 25.
The festival, also known as Tenjin Matsuri in Japanese, features magnificent events such as a parade of around 3,000 people called Rikutogyo and the river procession known as Funatogyo.
As the grand finale, a huge fireworks display kicks off along with lantern lights on the ōkawa River. This scenery is why the Tenjin Festival is also called the fire and water festival. The Tenjin Festival Gal Mikoshi is also a regular event that many spectators enjoy.
*In 2020, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, all parades, boat processions, and fireworks have been canceled. Only the Hokonagashi Shinji and Shinto priesthood rituals within the vicinity will be held.
- Table of Contents
- What is the Tenjin Festival? History and Access
- Tenjin Festival Access and Directions
- Tenjin Festival Event Schedule
- 11 Major Highlights of the Tenjin Festival
- 1. Flowers of Tenjin Festival: Liven up the Tenjin Festival by Watching the Gal Mikoshi
- 2. Ichibandaiko: Signaling the start of Tenjin Festival
- 3. Hokonagashi Shinji: The ancient origin of the Tenjin Festival
- 4. Moyo-oshidaiko Jichijunkō: Marvel at the sight of people beating the taiko drum
- 5. Suijotakiginoh: A performance above water
- 6. Honmiya Festival: A prayer for peace and prosperity in Osaka
- 7. Rikutogyo: A large procession comprised of 3,000 people
- 8. Funatogyo: Watch as more than 100 ships slowly traverse Okawa River
- 9. Funatogo Senjosai: A solemn ritual aboard Funatogyo boats
- 10. Fireworks: Marvel at the festival finale as it lights up the night sky and river waters
- 11. Watch from special seats with a great view of the fireworks!
- How crowded is the Tenjin Festival? What are the things to remember during the festival?
- Book an unforgettable experience in Osaka!
What is the Tenjin Festival? History and Access
Said to have started in 951, two years after the enshrinement of the Osaka Tenmangu, it is one of the three major festivals in Japan along with Tokyo's Kanda Festival and Kyoto's Gion Festival.
Osaka’s Tenjin Festival is held annually from late June to July 25 centered around the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine in Tenma, Osaka City. July 24 and 25 are particularly crowded days coinciding with the Yomiya and Honmiya. The 25th features the must-see scenery of 5,000 rounds of fireworks and a fleet of 100 boats floating along the ōkawa River!
Tenjin Festival Access and Directions
Osaka Tenmangu is a 1-minute walk from Osaka Tenmangu Station on the JR Tozai Line.
Tenjin Festival Event Schedule
■July 24 (Yomiya)
4:00~ Ichiban Daiko, or beating of a drum signaling the start of festivities
7:45~ Yomiya Festival
8:30~ Hokonagashi Procession
8:50~ Hokonagashi Shinji
11:30~ Yamakage Ryūgishiki Hōchō Hōnō
12:00~ Tenjin Kōshi Lion Dance
16:00~ Moyo-oshidaiko Jichijunkō
16:15~ Entrance of Dondoko boats – Hokonagashi Kamikohōkan
18:40~ Suijō Takiginoh, or Noh performed at night on stage boats
19:00~ Entrance of Moyooshidaiko
19:30~ Entrance of Lion Dance
■July 25 (Honmiya)
13:30~ Honmiya Festival
15:30~ Departure for Rikutogyo Procession
17:30~ Departure for Funatogyo Procession
21:00~ Commencement of the entrance of Moyooshidaiko
11 Major Highlights of the Tenjin Festival
1. Flowers of Tenjin Festival: Liven up the Tenjin Festival by Watching the Gal Mikoshi
The Gal Mikoshi is held on July 23 as a pre-event to liven up the Tenjin Festival. Originally known as the Tenjin Matsuri Jōsei Omikoshi or the Tenjin Festival Women’s Omikoshi, it became known as “Gal Mikoshi” as its popularity spread in Osaka. Eight women vigorously parade the 200-kg portable shrine called a mikoshi around the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street.
2. Ichibandaiko: Signaling the start of Tenjin Festival
Ichibandaiko is an event that signals the dawn of Tenjin Festival. As the main gate of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine opens at 4:00am, the ganji of Moyo-oshidaiko, strikes the ichibandaiko drum, and the music and dragon dance commence to liven up the atmosphere of the Tenjin Festival.
3. Hokonagashi Shinji: The ancient origin of the Tenjin Festival
In order to cleanse sins and impurities, the shindo or wonder child boards an iwaibune boat to drop a wooden sword which is washed away in the Dojima River. This ritual is called Hokonagashi Shinji. The shindo is a boy who participates in the Shinto ritual of the Tenjin Festival and is selected from local elementary school students. Within the duration of the festival, he must abide by strict customs to cleanse his body. In the Hokonagashi Shinji, he is tasked to drop the wooden sword into the river.
4. Moyo-oshidaiko Jichijunkō: Marvel at the sight of people beating the taiko drum
The moyo-oshidako drum roams around the shiji or the land where a god is deified, as it leads the procession to beat of ofuredaiko. People beat the moyo-oshidaiko and yell "chesaja" and "sokoja" while accompanied by the lion dance of Tenjin Shishimai.
5. Suijotakiginoh: A performance above water
One of the stage boats called Nohbune in the Shinsai Funatogyo Procession is docked in the OAP port, where the takagi-noh dance is performed.
6. Honmiya Festival: A prayer for peace and prosperity in Osaka
The sound from moyo-oshidaiko and danjiribayashi, or festival music performed on small floats, heard throughout the morning in the Tenmangu Shrine, stops. During this time, a prayer is said to bring peace and prosperity and prevent calamities in the city. This ritual is called Honmiya Festival. When this ritual starts, the people who will participate in the procession gradually gathers.
7. Rikutogyo: A large procession comprised of 3,000 people
The Rikutogyo is a large procession of 3,000 people donning gorgeous outfits. The procession departs from the Tenmangu Shrine and ends at the wharf. The procession filled with people in colorful outfits carrying sacred items is truly a dazzling scenery straight out of an ancient picture book. The moyo-oshidaiko at the head of the procession, where six people forming two groups beat the taiko while yelling, is a must-see!
8. Funatogyo: Watch as more than 100 ships slowly traverse Okawa River
Once the Rikutogyo arrives at the wharf near the Tenjinbashi Bridge, people board boats starting with the moyo-oshidaiko and will begin rowing to Okawa River. This is the Funatogyo. This procession livens up the festival as it features various boats such as the Gohōrenhō-ansen carrying the divine spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, the Gubusen carrying the moyo-oshidaiko and danjiribayashi. There is also the Omukaebune, which is a boat adorned with an elegant doll that welcomes the divine spirit, and the Hōhaisen which are boats sponsored by companies and organizations. Aside from these, there are also boats that are not part of the procession, such as dondoko boats, and can freely move around the river regardless of the procession. Once the fireworks start, the large flowers blooming in the night sky together with the lights on the boats transform the river waters into a beautiful painting.
9. Funatogo Senjosai: A solemn ritual aboard Funatogyo boats
A solemn ritual known as Senjōsai is performed on the Hōansen in the middle of the Funatogyo. This ritual is a prayer asking the gods to watch over the parishioners and citizens and to grant them divine protection. During the Senjōsai, it is customary for the boats that pass by the Hōansen to stop making loud noises and quietly observe the ritual.
10. Fireworks: Marvel at the festival finale as it lights up the night sky and river waters
The fireworks are the finale of the Tenjin Festival. Marvel at the majestic scenery of fireworks lighting up the night sky of ōsaka and the brazier fires on the 100 boats of the Funatogyo. Four thousand rounds of fireworks shoot up from Kawasaki Park and Sakuranomiya Park. You should also see the kōbai, an original firework which blooms into the shape of an umebachi or plum bowl associated with Tenjin-sama - the deified spirit of Sugawara no Michizane!
11. Watch from special seats with a great view of the fireworks!
Special seats for firework-viewing are installed along the Waterfront of Osaka Friendship. This is the perfect location to watch the spectacle as it is located next to the launch site of the fireworks. You can also choose a reserved table seat where you can enjoy fireworks while sitting at the table, or an unreserved seat on the beach where you can relax on commemorative leisure seats while watching the fireworks. For inquiries and ticket purchase, call 06-6809-1588 ("Tenjin Matsuri Special Project").
How crowded is the Tenjin Festival? What are the things to remember during the festival?
Avoid using the JR Sakuranomiya Station which is the closest station to the firework-viewing area as it becomes heavily crowded before and after the event. Avoid some congestion by walking from the JR Tenmangu Station, Minami-Morimachi Subway Station, JR Kyōbashi Station, etc. which are all near the ōsaka Tenmangu. If you want to view the fireworks comfortably, you should buy a ticket for seats in advance.
After the Rikutogyo, traditional rituals, and Funatogyo, participated by 3,000 people, witness the climax of the festival as 5,000 fireworks bloom in the night sky and shine on the fleet of boats carrying blazing braziers! July 24 and 25 are packed with majestic and gorgeous must-see highlights, so be sure to check out the rituals you want to see!
Text by: Efeel Inc.
*The above article is based on information from June 2020
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