Osaka Tenman-gu where Michizane is enshrined
Losing a bid for power at the Imperial court, scholar and politician Michizane Sugawara found himself demoted to the Dazaifu region but on his way there, he went to pray at Daishogun Shrine in what is currently the grounds for Tenman-gu. Following Michizane’s death in 949, Emperor Murakami heard rumors of a shining pine tree planted at that location and had Michizane enshrined at Daishogun which began Tenman-gu. At the time, with a trend of lightning strikes and epidemics occurring, it was thought that the ghost of Michizane was out for revenge, so in order to appease his spirit, he was deified as Tenjin-sama, the god of scholarship. Having been burned down 7 times in the past, the current honden main hall was reconstructed in 1843. The pelorus of the Chinese zodiac on the ceiling of the Daimon gate has the “tori” (bird) part not represented by a chicken as would usually be the case but by a phoenix. After a legend about Michizane being driven out by a chicken’s crowing came to light, the chicken was rejected from the pelorus. As the patron god protecting the Tenma area and as the god of learning and performing arts, the shrine has become a focal point for the local residents and the merchants of Osaka.
Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s three great festivals
In 951, a kamihoko (sacred spear) washed up on the beach in front of the shrine, and later during a festival to hold a ritual at the funeral hall on that beach, there was a sea procession of boats (funatogyo) to see off the divine spirits which became the roots for the Tenjin Matsuri, and since then the 1000-year-old festival has become one of the three great festivals in Japan. Following the latter half of the 17th century, it has greatly flourished as a symbol of Naniwa prosperity. July 24th is the eve of the festival and on the 25th, the festival itself and the funatogyo are held. In the funatogyo, 100 boats traverse the Okawa River in a water parade. 5000 fireworks soar into the sky at the fireworks show during the festival which has also been called a festival of fire and water. Along the banks of the river, there are street stalls lined up and every year, the area is enlivened with many spectators.