Tenjin Matsuri

Tenjin Matsuri
Photo: osaka-info.jp
The Tenjin Matsuri is one of Japan's three biggest summer festivals. It is held at the Ōsaka Tenman-gū shrine, a Shinto shrine in the city of Osaka dedicated to the Shinto kami (deity) of scholarship.

Tenjin is the deification of Japanese scholar, poet and politician Sugawara no Michizane. He held a number of important government posts during the Heian period but was demoted because of the political plots of a rival, Fujiwara no Tokihira, and died in exile in 903. Seven decades later, he was deified first as a god of natural disasters (the name Tenjin literally means “sky deity”) and then as a patron of scholars. Today, many students and their parents pray at his shrines before important exams.

There are about 14,000 Tenman-gū (shrines dedicated to Tenjin) in Japan. One of the most famous ones is located in Osaka. The Ōsaka Tenman-gū shrine hosts an annual matsuri (traditional festival) to honor Tenjin. The Tenjin Matsuri has a history of over 1,000 years. It is one of the most important summer festivals in Japan and arguably the world’s biggest boat festival. The festival takes place on July 24 and 25 every year.

One of the main highlights of the Tenjin Festival is the boat procession featuring about 3,000 people on 100 boats. The procession begins at Tenmabashi Bridge and sails upstream on the Okawa River. At night, the boats are lit up with lights that illuminate the surroundings and create a spectacular view on the river.

The boat procession is preceded by a ritual at the shrine and the land procession where the same 3,000 people dressed up in traditional clothes march beside portable shrines dedicated to Tenjin through the streets of Osaka. The land and boat processions are followed by traditional performances such as kagura music and bunraku theater and a fireworks display on the river bank.

Tenjin Matsuri




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