** 2020 COVID-19 Update: While some of the ceremonial aspects will go ahead, all public events including parades and fireworks are canceled **
Although this is held throughout Japan, the festival that takes place around Osaka Tenmangu shrine is the most famous. Touted as one of Japan’s Top 3 festivals, the Tenjin Matsuri has a history of over 1,000 years.
There are two main parts to the festival, one on land and the other on the water. On dry land, there is a procession of 3,000 people dressed in the style of courtiers of the 8th to 12th centuries accompanied by mikoshi (portable shoulder borne shrines). The water part of the festival takes places when the same 3,000 participants board boats at Tenmanbashi bridge and sail up river.
As the sun sets, fires are lit on board the vessels, creating a spectacle for those on the banks. Although they’re lit just for effect now, originally, they were lit for night patrols or fishing.
As the darkness descends, there is also a fireworks display.