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The Tenjin Festival (V_, Tenjin Matsuri) of Osaka is ranked as one of Japan's top three festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto and the Kanda Matsuri of Tokyo. The festival started in the 10th century and today takes place on July 24 and 25 every year. The main celebrations are held on the festival's second day, July 25, including a land procession and a river procession with fireworks.

Tenjin Matsuri is the festival of the Tenmangu Shrine and honors its principle deity Sugawara Michizane, the deity of scholarship. The festival begins by ceremonially inviting the deity out of the shrine and parading him through the city, carrying out various exuberant festivities to entertain him, before taking him back to the shrine. For the people, the lively festivities manifest in a wonderful occasion to enjoy the hot summer day, filled with traditional costumes, spectacular processions and a celebratory atmosphere.

On the morning of the first day (July 24), the festival kicks off with a ritual at Tenmangu Shrine, followed by prayers at the river for peace and the safety and prosperity of Osaka. In the afternoon, drums are sounded by men in tall red hats to inform everyone that preparations for the festival are complete.

The highlights of the festival start at 15:30 of the second day (July 25), when the red-hatted drummers lead the land procession from Tenmangu Shrine through the streets of Osaka. The long procession features costumed characters, including Sarutahiko, a long-nosed goblin riding a horse, a ceremonial float accompanied by festival music, lion dancers and umbrella dancers.

About an hour into the procession, the convoy carrying the mikoshi, the ornate, gilded portable shrine that temporarily holds the spirit of Tenmangu Shrine's deity, Sugawara Michizane, leaves the shrine, preceded by a boy and a girl leading a sacred ox, Michizane's messenger. Two more portable shrines join in the parade later, but look out for the one with a gilded phoenix at its top: this is the one that carries the deified spirit of Michizane.

After the procession arrives at Okawa River around 18:00, its members and portable shrines are loaded onto boats to be paraded up and down the river. Besides the procession boats, there are some "stage boats" on which traditional noh and bunraku performances are put on for landside onlookers. Darting between all of these boats, you can also spot some Dondoko boats that are agilely propelled up and down the river by young rowers. Seemingly endless rows of festival food stalls along the river contribute to the joyful mood.

The river procession continues as celebrations go on into the night and culminates at about 19:30 when fireworks start to go off, continuing until about 21:00. Although not one of the most outstanding firework displays in Japan, the fireworks of the Tenjin Matsuri, combined with the illuminated boats and their reflections off the river, make for a truly unique spectacle. The mikoshi convoy disembarks at about 21:00 and makes its way back to the shrine at 22:00, marking the end of the year's festival.

Expect throngs of people attending the Tenjin Matsuri, especially in the evenings during the river procession and fireworks. The competition for good viewing spots along the river is fierce as the demand for picnic space greatly outweighs supply. Paid seating is available in multiple locations along the river for between 3,000 and 49,000 yen. Advance bookings are required and difficult to make for foreign tourists.

Bridges along Okawa River are closed to road traffic during the river procession and provide good vantage points, but visitors are supposed to keep moving to ensure the smooth flow of human traffic. Kawasaki Bridge gets closed even to pedestrians, partly because common people are not supposed to look down onto the shrine's deity.

Getting there and around

Hotels around Osaka

    • Kaneyoshi Ryokan
      A modern Japanese inn in Dotombori. the center of Osaka. 2 subway stations nearby. Close to many shops and Osaka Castle.
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    • Guesthouse Ten-roku - Female Only
      Budget-friendly
      Guesthouse Ten-roku - Female Only features accommodation within 2.5 km of the centre of Osaka, with free WiFi, and a kitchen with an oven, a microwave and a toaster. The air-conditioned accommodation is 1.1 km from Toyosaki Shrine. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, a shared kitchen and luggage storage for guests. All units are fitted with a fridge, stovetop, a coffee machine, a kitchenware and kettle. All units have a shared bathroom, slippers and bed linen. Guests can also relax in the shared lounge area. Popular points of interest near the guest house include Catholic Osaka Umeda Church, Tsunashikiten Shrine Otabisha and Hankyu Men's Osaka. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 20 km from Guesthouse Ten-roku - Female Only.
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    • Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi
      Mid-range
      Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi is an 8-minute walk from OCAT (Osaka City Air Terminal) and a 10-minute walk from Namba Station. Glico Man Sign is a 4-minute walk from the property. Free WiFi is available in all rooms. Featuring modern d?cor, all rooms come with air conditioning and heating facilities, a flat-screen TV and pajamas. Private bathroom includes a bath, walk-in shower, hairdryer, toilet with an electronic bidet and free toiletries. Free luggage storage is available at the 24-hour front desk. Guests can enjoy billiards at the property. There is a drinks vending machine, and laundry service can be arranged. Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai shopping street are a 16-minute train ride away. Osaka Itami Airport is a 45-minute drive from Hotel 88 Shinsaibashi.
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    • Guest House Yadomaru
      Budget-friendly
      Featuring 1-star accommodation, Guest House Yadomaru is set in Osaka, 500 metres from Tempozan Ferris Wheel and 3.1 km from Isoji Central Park. The air-conditioned accommodation is 3.2 km from Minato Kumin Centre. Hirao Park is 5.8 km from the guest house and Aeon Mall Osaka Dome City is 5.8 km away. Featuring a shared bathroom, units at the guest house also feature free WiFi. Guests can also relax in the shared lounge area. Ansei Earthquake Tsunami Monument is 6.3 km from the guest house, while Universal Studios Japan is 6.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 27 km from Guest House Yadomaru.
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    • Guesthouse Yours
      Budget-friendly
      Located in Osaka, 400 metres from Wiste Mall and 1.8 km from the centre, Guesthouse Yours provides air-conditioned accommodation with free WiFi, and a terrace. This 1-star guest house offers luggage storage space and a housekeeping service. The guest house features family rooms. There is a coffee shop, bar and lounge. Popular points of interest near the guest house include Nankeiji Temple, Ryotokuin Temple and Tenjinsha Shrine. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 18 km from Guesthouse Yours.
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    • HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA
      Luxury
      Well set in the centre of Osaka, HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA is within 500 metres of TKP Shinsaibashi Ekimae Conference Center and 400 metres of Stage Ku. This 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk. Free WiFi is available and private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, free toiletries and a wardrobe. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Shinsaibashi Station, Namba Shrine and Nipponbashi Monument. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 21 km from HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA.
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    • HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi
      Mid-range
      3-star accommodation, HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi is located in central Osaka, 600 metres from Dotonbori River and the Ebisu Tower Ferris Wheel, 700 metres from popular music and shopping district America Village. Conveniently located in the Chuo Ward, the hotel is situated 2.4 km from Shinsekai. The hotel offers a 24-hour front desk with multi-lingual staff. Free WiFi is available at the hotel. Each air-conditioned room is equipped with a flat-screen TV and desk. Free toiletries and rain shower are provided in all rooms, while certain rooms feature a bathtub. A buffet breakfast is available daily at the hotel. Traditional locations such as Shitennoji Temple and Kuromon Ichiba Market are within 2.5 km from the hotel. Osaka Itami Airport and Kansai International Airport are both less than a one-hour train ride from HOTEL THE FLAG Shinsaibashi.
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    • Citadines Namba Osaka
      Luxury
      Citadines Namba Osaka has a fitness centre, shared lounge, a restaurant and bar in Osaka. With free WiFi, this 4-star hotel offers a shared kitchen and a 24-hour front desk. The property is 700 metres from the city centre and 300 metres from Nipponbashi Catholic Church. All rooms at the hotel come with air conditioning, a seating area, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, a safety deposit box and a private bathroom with a shower, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Each room is fitted with a kettle, while some rooms are fitted with a kitchen with a stovetop. At Citadines Namba Osaka the rooms include bed linen and towels. A buffet breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. Popular points of interest near Citadines Namba Osaka include Nipponbashi Park, Komyo-ji Temple and Shinko-ji Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 22 km from the hotel.
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    • MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North
      Luxury
      Located in the Chuo Ward district in Osaka, MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North offers 4-star rooms with free WiFi. This property is situated a short distance from attractions such as Nipponbashi Monument, Zojugoi Yasuidoton Dobokukiko Monument, and Mitsutera Temple. The property is 500 metres from Stage Ku, and within 2.3 km of the city centre. All units are equipped with air conditioning, a fridge, a microwave, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. At the hotel every room is equipped with a private bathroom and bed linen. Popular points of interest near MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North include TKP Shinsaibashi Ekimae Conference Center, Shinsaibashi Station and Namba Shrine. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 21 km from the accommodation.
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    • MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST
      Luxury
      Attractively situated in the Nishi Ward district of Osaka, MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST is situated 600 metres from Namba Shrine, less than 1 km from Samuhara Shrine and a 7-minute walk from Manpuku-ji Temple. This 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk, luggage storage space and free WiFi. The property is 400 metres from Kokoni Sunaba Ariki Monument, and within 1.9 km of the city centre. The rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a fridge, a microwave, a kettle, a bidet, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. All guest rooms at the hotel are equipped with a private bathroom and bed linen. Popular points of interest near MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST include Wakoji Temple, Orange Street and Amida Pond. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 20 km from the accommodation.
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    • Houseږx
      Mid-range
      Located in Osaka, 200 metres from Shimoyamatobashi Monument and 1.2 km from the centre, Houseږx provides air-conditioned accommodation with free WiFi, and a terrace. It is situated 300 metres from Hoan-ji Temple and features a lift. This 3-star apartment offers private entrance. Each unit is equipped with a balcony, a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave, a seating area, a TV, a washing machine, and a private bathroom with bath and slippers. A fridge, a stovetop and kitchenware are also provided, as well as a kettle. At the apartment complex, every unit has bed linen and towels. Popular points of interest near the apartment include Nipponbashi Monument, Zojugoi Yasuidoton Dobokukiko Monument and Mitsutera Temple. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 22 km from Houseږx.
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