Tenjin Matsuri
Before the Festival
 

Tenjin Matsuri is considered to be one of the three largest and most famous festivals in all of Japan. The festival takes place over two days, the highlight being a parade of thousands of participants accompanying priests and sacred mikoshi, or portable shrines. The procession makes its way over two kilometers from Osaka's Tenmangu Shrine to Tenjin Bridge. Upon reaching the bridge, the procession takes to the water and a river procession of over a hundred of highly decorated boats and barges travel from the Dojima River to the Okawa river while over one million spectators view an awesome fireworks display.

This festival has more than one thousand years of history behind it and was originally celebrated as a rite of purification and to commemorate the deification or godhood of Michizane Sugawara.

There are so many participants in this festival that it takes quite a lot of time to arrange them correctly and prepare them for the big parade. From early in the morning people can be seen gathering at the starting point, donning and fixing up their costumes, and preparing the mikoshi for the big procession to the river.

In the photos above, the participants are lining up in columns,
awaiting the start of the procession. The girl on the right completes a
few last minute calls on her mother's cell phone before being ushered into position.

The shrine from where this ceremony starts, was built in the year 949 when a series of disasters was believed to be caused by Michizane Sugawara, shortly after his death. It was thought that his spirit had taken the form of Raijin, the god of thunder, and this shrine was built to appease him. The disasters abated after he was enshrined at Tenmangu, and because he was a great scholar he is now worshipped as a god of learning.

Another group of participants
Spectators dressed in yukata

When nearly everyone was lined up and ready at Tenmangu Shrine, the ceremonies began. Blessings were made by priests and the dragons began to dance to the beat of sacred drums coming from the shrine.

 

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