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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, umbrella dancers and other attractions.

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 when the river procession and fireworks are held. The competition for good viewing spots along the river is fierce as the demand for picnic space greatly outweighs supply. An alternative would be to purchase a paid seat located near Temmanbashi Station (from 4000 yen, advance booking required) which offers good views of the procession, but only moderately good views of the fireworks.

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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    • Feel Osaka Yu
      Budget-friendly
      Open in 2018, just a minute's walk from Shinsaibashi Station, Feel Osaka Yu offers shared dormitory rooms and private rooms. Free WiFi and a shared kitchen are provided. Guests can conveniently go shopping at the nearby America Village. Osaka Castle is a 5-train ride from the property, while Umeda is a 6-minute train ride away. The shared bathroom is fitted with free toiletries. All guest rooms will provide guests with a microwave. Yodoya Bridge and Kyocera Dome are both a 4-minute train ride away. Nagahoribashi Station is a 10-minute walk away.
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    • Osaka Guesthouse Midoriya
      Budget-friendly
      Osaka Guesthouse Midoriya offers dormitory rooms that are shared with other guests, and private rooms in Osaka, 2.2 km from Osaka Castle and 4.1 km from Shitennoji. Every room is fitted with a shared bathroom. Osaka Guesthouse Midoriya features free WiFi throughout the property. There is a shared kitchen at the property. The hostel also offers bike hire. Glico Man Sign is 5 km from Osaka Guesthouse Midoriya, while Namba CITY shopping mall is 5 km from the property. Osaka Itami Airport is 15 km away.
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    • Hostel Yu - Luxury Mixed Dormitory -
      Budget-friendly
      Open in 2018, just a minute's walk from Shinsaibashi Station, HOSTEL 優 - Luxury Mixed Dormitory - offers shared dormitory rooms. Free WiFi and a shared kitchen are provided. Guests can conveniently go shopping at the nearby America Village. Osaka Castle is a 5-train ride from the property, while Umeda is a 6-minute train ride away. The shared bathroom is fitted with free toiletries. All guest rooms will provide guests with a microwave. Yodoya Bridge and Kyocera Dome are both a 4-minute train ride away. Nagahoribashi Station is a 10-minute walk away.
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    • Tomiya
      Budget-friendly
      Located just a 2-minute walk from Dobutsuen-Mae Station, Tomiya offers free WiFi. JR Shin-Imamiya Station is a 5-minute stroll away, while Shin-Imamiya Station on Nankai Line is a 10-minute walk from the property. All units have a private bathroom, kitchen, refrigerator, freezer and flat-screen TV. Free drinks and scale are provided in the public area. Property is secured with a security camera and auto-lock entrance door. Tsutenkaku is 700 metres from Tomiya. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 17 km from Tomiya. There are various convenience stores and dinig options within a 10-minute walk from the property.
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    • Guest House Laule'a Tennoji
      Mid-range
      Set in Osaka, near Abeno Harukas, Kuwazu Ten Shrine and Kyozen-ji Temple, Guest House Laule'a Tennoji features free WiFi. The accommodation features a spa bath. Accommodation is fitted with air conditioning, a fully equipped kitchen with a dining area, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with hot tub, slippers and a hairdryer. A microwave, a fridge and stovetop are also featured, as well as a kettle. Popular points of interest near the aparthotel include Shitennoji Koshindo Temple, Negainomiya Temple and Horikoshi Shrine. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 17 km from Guest House Laule'a Tennoji.
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    • 旅館-ホテル業 The Familiar Inn
      Mid-range
      Situated in Osaka, near Hanazono Shopping Mall, Matsunomiya Shrine and Haginochaya Shopping Street, 旅館-ホテル業 The Familiar Inn features free WiFi. All units here are air-conditioned and feature a flat-screen TV, a living room with a sofa, a well-equipped kitchen and a private bathroom with bidet, slippers and a hairdryer. A microwave and fridge are also available, as well as a kettle. Tsurumibashi Shopping Street is 1.3 km from the holiday home, while Tsumori Shrine is 1.9 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 17 km from 旅館-ホテル業 The Familiar Inn.
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    • Hostel Mitsuwaya Osaka
      Budget-friendly
      Located a 10-minute walk from Matsuyamachi and Tanimachi Rokuchome subway stations, Hostel Mitsuwaya Osaka offers cosy accommodation decorated with wooden interior. Free WiFi is available throughout the property. Compact units come with reading lights, power outlets and curtains to secure privacy. Bathroom facilities are shared. You will find a shared kitchen at the property. Guests can relax in the common area fitted with tatami (woven-straw) flooring. The hostel also offers bike hire. Shitennoji is 1.7 km from Hostel Mitsuwaya Osaka, while Tsutenkaku is 2.1 km from the property. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami Airport, 14 km from the property.
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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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    • Guest House Yadomaru
      Budget-friendly
      Set in Osaka, within 600 metres of Tempozan Ferris Wheel and 3.1 km of Isoji Central Park, Guest House Yadomaru offers accommodation with a shared lounge and free WiFi throughout the property. The property is around 3.2 km from Minato Kumin Centre, 4 km from Osaka Bay Tower and 4.3 km from Foleo Osaka Dome City. The property is situated 6 km from Hirao Park and 6 km from Chishima Park. At the guest house the rooms are equipped with a shared bathroom. Aeon Mall Osaka Dome City is 5 km from Guest House Yadomaru, while Ansei Earthquake Tsunami Monument is 5 km from the property. The nearest airport is Itami Airport, 15 km from the accommodation.
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    • The Pax Hostel
      Budget-friendly
      The Pax Hostel is conveniently located within walking distance from central areas of Osaka, such as Namba and Minami. The property is also a 30-second walk from Tsutenkaku Tower. Free WiFi is available throughout the entire property. The Pax Hostel boasts air-conditioned rooms, while free toiletries and hairdryers are available. Guests will find a shared kitchen on site. The hostel also offers rental towels and bike hire. Kansai International Airport is a 40-minute train ride away on the Nankai Line Airport Express. Ebisucho Station is a 3-minute walk away, while JR Shin-Imamiya Station is a 5-minute walk. Shin-Imamiya Station on the Nankai Line is an 8-minute walk.
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