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The Tenjin Festival (天神祭, 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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    • Guest House Yadomaru
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Osaka and within 500 metres of Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Guest House Yadomaru has a shared lounge, non-smoking rooms, and free WiFi throughout the property. Built in 2017, this 1-star guest house is within 3.1 km of Isoji Central Park and 3.2 km of Minato Kumin Centre. Hirao Park is 5.8 km from the guest house and Aeon Mall Osaka Dome City is 5.8 km away. At the guest house the rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. Ansei Earthquake Tsunami Monument is 6.3 km from Guest House Yadomaru, while Universal Studios Japan is 6.4 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 27 km from the accommodation.
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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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    • 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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    • 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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    • HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA
      Luxury
      Well set in the centre of Osaka, HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA provides American breakfast and free WiFi throughout the property. This 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk. Private parking is available on site. 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 TKP Shinsaibashi Ekimae Conference Center, Stage Ku and Shinsaibashi Station. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 21 km from HOTEL THE LEBEN OSAKA.
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    • MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST is situated in Osaka, 600 metres from Namba Shrine and less than 1 km from Samuhara Shrine. 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. At the hotel rooms include a private bathroom and bed linen. Popular points of interest near MIMARU OSAKA SHINSAIBASHI WEST include Manpuku-ji Temple, Wakoji Temple and Orange Street. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 20 km from the accommodation.
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    • MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North
      Luxury
      Featuring 4-star accommodation, MIMARU Osaka Shinsaibashi North is located in Osaka, 500 metres from TKP Shinsaibashi Ekimae Conference Center and 600 metres from Shinsaibashi Station. This 4-star hotel offers luggage storage space and free WiFi. 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 Namba Shrine, Nipponbashi Monument and Zojugoi Yasuidoton Dobokukiko Monument. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 21 km from the accommodation.
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    • LIBER HOTEL AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
      Luxury
      LIBER HOTEL AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN features air-conditioned rooms with satellite flat-screen TV in the Osaka Bay district of Osaka. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and ticket service, along with free WiFi. The hotel has a garden and provides a terrace. Guest rooms in the hotel are equipped with a kettle. All units will provide guests with a fridge. A continental breakfast is available daily at LIBER HOTEL AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN. Universal Studios Japan is 3.1 km from the accommodation, while Tempozan Ferris Wheel is 6 km away. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 22 km from LIBER HOTEL AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN.
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    • Miyako City Osaka Hommachi
      Luxury
      Well set in the centre of Osaka, Miyako City Osaka Hommachi provides ? la carte breakfast and free WiFi throughout the property. This 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and a business centre. The property is non-smoking and is located 300 metres from Stage Ku. The hotel will provide guests with air-conditioned rooms with a wardrobe, a kettle, a fridge, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV, a terrace and a private bathroom with a bidet. Miyako City Osaka Hommachi features certain units with city views, and rooms include a balcony. At the accommodation every room is fitted with bed linen and towels. At Miyako City Osaka Hommachi you will find a restaurant serving Chinese, international and European cuisine. A halal option can also be requested. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Nanba Betsuin Temple, Namba Shrine and Shinsaibashi Station. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 20 km from Miyako City Osaka Hommachi.
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    • Hotel Cordia Osaka Hommachi
      Mid-range
      Featuring 3-star accommodation, Hotel Cordia Osaka Hommachi is set in Osaka, 400 metres from OSTEC Exhibition Hall and 400 metres from Mitama Shrine. With a restaurant, the 3-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property is 1.1 km from the city centre and 200 metres from Hongan-ji Temple Tsumura Betsuin. The units at the hotel come with a flat-screen TV and a safety deposit box. At Hotel Cordia Osaka Hommachi every room includes bed linen and towels. A continental breakfast is available every morning at the accommodation. Hotel Cordia Osaka Hommachi can conveniently provide information at the reception to help guests to get around the area. Popular points of interest near the hotel include Nanba Betsuin Temple, Namba Shrine and Aramitsu Inari Daimyojin Shrine. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 19 km from Hotel Cordia Osaka Hommachi.
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