Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭) is one of the three popular festivals alongside the Sanno Festival in Tokyo and Gion Festival in Kyoto. It is also the biggest summer festival in Osaka and is an annual event held on 24-25 of July. Tenjin Matsuri is an ancient event that first took place in 951 as purification rites were performed to prevent infectious diseases during the hot summers. The most famous shrine in Osaka that held the festival is Osaka Tenmangu, which then became its typical event, about 1000 years ago.
Tenjin Matsuri is divided into three main events, Rikutogyo (street procession), Funatogyo (boats procession on a river) and Hanabi (fireworks), which is held on the second day of the celebration. On the first day, July 24, a child who represents the god holding kamihoko (a long halberd), accompanies a shrine’s guardian to a boat, then they row down the river.
The procession begins at 4 p.m from Osaka Tenmangu. About 3000 people dressed in traditional costumes accompanied by the sound of drums, bells and people’s chanting, leave the shrine and proceed the streets in the neighborhood. The land procession takes about 2 hours, starting from the shrine and going to the riverbank. You can see the land procession anywhere on its route, if you want to visit the shrine, Subway Minami Morimachi station is close enough to the shrine.
At around 6 p.m, the people are going down the river by boats. There are about one hundred boats prepared for the boat procession. To see the boat procession, you can walk along the northern side of the riverbank from Tenjinbashi bridge to Tenmabashi bridge.
The last part of the festival is fireworks, which begins from 7:30 and lasts to 9 p.m at the riverside. Gin-bashi bridge and the park near the Imperial Hotel are good spots to view the fireworks from. If you choose the park, you need to come earlier to take the best place because it gets very crowded.
Before or after the fireworks, you can walk along the street around the procession to buy food and drink from various stalls, or enjoy some other amusement such as goldfish catching.