A festival preserving its traditions and continuing to evolve
In 951, two years after Osaka’s Tenman-gu Shrine was established, a sacred spear, a kamihoko, washed up on the beach in front of the shrine, and when a Shinto ritual was held at the funeral hall established on that beach, the procession of ships escorting the divine spirits out (funatogyo) was the beginning of the Tenjin Matsuri, a festival boasting a 1000-year-old history that is one of Japan’s three great festivals. Centering upon Osaka’s Tenman-gu, there is a festival-eve vigil on July 24th with July 25th as the actual day of the festival. In recent years, gyaru mikoshi and a dedicated fireworks show have been established as festival events, and the energetic festival itself is continuing to carve out a history while being sensitive to the generations.
The gyaru mikoshi bringing the area alive
The gyaru mikoshi, which celebrates 35 years in 2015, is popular as an event lending grace to the Tenjin Matsuri. It’s an event that was started as a cheerful creation of a local amenity to promote the area and boost Osakan culture. The official name of the event is the Tenjin Matsuri Women’s O-mikoshi, and up to 80 women between the ages of 15 and 30 are openly recruited, and on July 23rd, the day prior to the festival-eve, the women carry a portable shrine weighing 200kg from Tenjinbashi Suji Shopping District and parade it to Tenman-gu Shrine. On July 24th, there is the excitement of crowning Miss Tenjinbashi.
The spectacular rikutogyo (land procession) and funatogyo (sea procession)
Following the festival at the main hall of Tenman-gu Shrine on July 24th, the 1000-year-old festival launches with the Hokonagashi-shinji ritual. At the main shrine on the 25th from about 3 p.m. the rikutogyo procession begins with moyo-oshi daiko drummers leading a total of 3000 people wearing brilliant clothing and carrying the mikoshi in a huge parade for 3km to Tenjinbashi, the starting point for the funatogyo. From about 6 p.m. the ships carrying the mikoshi depart on Okawa River, an amazing procession that has 100 boats. And from 7:30, on the banks of the river, the festival reaches a climax as a fireworks show is held with 4000 explosions.