Japan – Land of Spectacular Festivals, Foods & Castles – Osaka Tenjin Matsuri, Part 2

We left for the Tenmangu Shrine after lunch on Day 2 of the Tenjin Matsuri. It was sweltering – and we were melting.

Kiyoe, our Goodwill Guide, was incredibly well prepared – she brought us fans and frozen energy drinks that were intended to double as ice packs. We found the reusable bags so handy that we adopted the ritual of filling and freezing them daily for the rest of our trip!

To escape the heat we kept dodging into air conditioned establishments with any reasonable excuse. Kiyoe took us to an ice cream shop known for serving the cold treat with homemade plum jam. The slight tartness of the jam was very refreshing – but even more so was the AC!

Tenjin Matsuri Taiko drummers carried on a platform

We arrived at the Tenmangu shrine early and got a front row view of the taiko drum players, called Ganji, performing on a mobile platform (taiko-dai) as the procession emerged from the temple.

We didn’t quite realize being close to the action has its own hazards: tipping the platform is part of the happenings but sometimes get out of hand.

The taiko dai bearers set off a minor stampede when they got too rambunctious and crashed into the spectators, including us…

Tenjiin Matsuri Lion Dance

An impressive sight with 10 to 12 gold headed, white maned ‘Lions’ doing the lion dance (shishimai).

The lion dance compared to the Chinese version is much less acrobatic and colorful. As shown, the body drape is a rather simple green fabric. But that’s just fine as I find most of the polychromed Chinese lion costumes too exuberant.

Tenjin Matsuri festival Umbrella Dance

Kasa odori (umbrella dance) was my favorite event at the Tenjin Matsuri.

The young ladies’ fresh voiced chanting amidst the sea of orange-yellow umbrellas make this a truly vibrant and charming dance.

Grade schoolers in the Tenjin Matsuri parade

Grade schoolers had bells hanging from the backs of their costumes.

The celebration was intended to create as much noise as possible in order to invoke the gods, so there were plenty of musical instruments, hand carried or on costumes, in the procession.

Tenjin Matsuri portable shrine

Portable shrine (mikoshi) on the parade route.

The mikoshi is taken out and returned each day of the festival. Considering that the floats are non-motorized, and Osaka in summer is brutal – about 90 F & 75% humidity – working the floats is no mean feat!

Character in demon mask on horseback

Beautifully attired character in demon mask.

Like the Rose Bbowl Parade, some of the procession are on horseback and so there’s someone walking right behind them with a pooper scooper.

Tenjin Matsuri festival stalls

The banks of the O-kawa river are lined with stalls selling food, games, and … lots of little goldfish!

I had hoped to visit the stalls to try some Osaka street food. But we ran out of time, so I could only look at them longingly as we dashed towards the boat parade.

The festival is one of the times you see ladies all decked out in yukatas (summer kimonos), some augmented with fancy obis and hair pieces.

There were fireworks from 7:30 – 9 pm. We went with the crowds to the river. Luckily we found a great spot on the bridge to view the fireworks and boat parade (Funatogyo). It was so fun to see the flotilla of party boats, some with their own association shrines and drummers, plying the river under the colorfully lit night sky!

Here’s a great video by osakanight.com. It has amazing footage of the fireworks, as well as the sights and sounds of the festivities on the passing boats.

Tenjin Matsuri boat with shrine

One of the boats carrying a shrine (Mikoshi).

Most boats are sponsored by companies or community organizations, although there are tourist boats as well. It was surprising to see trees on some of the boats. In fact, they were actually tilted down by deck hands in order to go under the bridge!

The next day, we went to visit the Osaka Aquarium. It was a disappointment. The layout and animal feedings were poorly coordinated and for an aquarium of this size, the variety on display was unimpressive.

Apparently since it’s Japan, where real estate is at a premium, the exhibits are housed in a distinctly Japanese fashion – I felt sorry for the dolphins which seemed to be pacing inside the small tank!

Osaka Aquarium jellyfish exhibit

Jellyfish exhibit, one of the redeeming features at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

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