Summer is here! While it’s normally uncomfortable to deal with the intense heat, especially in Asian countries such as Japan, there are several ways to enjoy the season without having to lock yourself inside the comforts of your air-conditioned hotel. One of the most eagerly awaited major summer festivals is the Aizen Matsuri (愛染まつり) in Osaka (大阪). It’s considered to be the oldest summer festival in the country! The event lasts for three days, starting on June 30th to July 2nd of every year.
The festival originally started as a form of a purification ritual. It is done at Shoman-in (勝鬘院), Aizen-do (愛染堂), a 1400-year old Buddhist temple that was commissioned by Prince Shotoku (聖徳太子). As a ritual, it seeks to ward off sickness as means of preparation for Osaka’s hot summer months. As the years went by, several changes were added to the practice. Today, it is now a happy festival honoring the temple’s primary god, Aizen-Myoo (愛染明王) who is believed to bring good luck and happiness to one’s marriage.
As well as the religious reference that the festival signifies, there is so much more you can enjoy while attending the event. Here are five things you shouldn’t miss!
This is one of the most anticipated activities in the festival. On June 30th, twelve beautiful women are carried on a decorated palanquin and paraded around town. This parade kicks off the festive atmosphere of the event and mirrors the old custom of wearing a yukata (浴衣) while going to worship on a palanquin.
— 愛染堂（愛染さん） (@aizendo) June 16, 2016
From the many female applicants, designated organizers select the best who will join the beauty competition on July 1st. It’s a nice event to witness Japanese beauty in their gorgeous yukata outfits.
One doesn’t often see this Buddhism deity’s statue out in the open. It’s only open to the public during New Year and this Aizen Festival, so if you’d like to see for yourself how locals show their reverence to this deity, then this event is your chance!
Of course, no trip would be complete with the absence of great food and entertainment to match the event’s hype. As you stroll around Aizen-do, you’ll find an array of stalls selling traditional Japanese delicacies, sweets, and drinks for refreshments. Games like catching crabs and turtles into a paper bag remains a popular pick as it is believed to attract good fortune.
There will also be traditional dances and comedy shows to maintain the excitement and entertain guests who are new to the local culture. If you’re lucky to be among the first 100 guests wearing a yukata to enter the temple in the three-day event, you’ll be given prayer bead bracelets by Aizen women as a sort of lucky charm!
Aizen-Myoo is a revered god in Buddhism and believed to be a bearer of good fortune. Today, followers of the belief, especially women, ask the deity for good luck in life and love. Stroll around Aizen-do during the three-day festival and experience this great Osaka festivity! It’s not too late to prepare, so grab your best yukata and add this to your summer escapade itinerary!