Osaka is absolutely full of shrines and temples, and many of them hold festivals in July. In fact, there are so many summer festivals that you probably can find one almost every weekend. However, there are three festivals in particular that are both quite famous and beloved by many Osakans:
Among those festivals, Aizen Matsuri started 1,400 years ago and is one of the oldest summer festival in Japan. It is the first summer festival in Osaka, and is held every year from June 30th through July 2nd. See our post about Aizen-do for directions to the temple.
While the festivities carry on for all three days of the festival, June 30th is when the most historically significant events, namely the Aizen Hoekago Parade and Nagoshi-no Harae, take place.
UPDATE: As of 2018, the festival is indefinitely down sized. The festival will still take place, but there are no vendors and the parade is cancelled.
Aizen Matsuri Hoekago
The Hoekago Parade on June 30th is one of the most important events during Aizen Matsuri. This might sound familiar to those of you who read our post about Tooka Ebisu. Traditionally, a Hoekago Parade are when geisha were carried in a special palanquin from a certain district to a temple or shrine during a festival. During the Edo Period, Hoekago Parades were especially elaborate, gathering people from miles around who hoped to catch a glimpse of the beautiful geisha. Today, Hoekago Parades are still popular events and can even include celebrities or other important people from the community.
Hoekago Parades may still include a couple of geisha, but it is more common for a committee to select the girls through a special screening process. During Aizen Matsuri, the girls who ride in the palanquin are called Aizen Musume, and are akin to the Fuku Musume of Tooka Ebisu.
The Hoekago Parade for Aizen Matsuri is starts at Q’s mall next to Abeno Station and then proceeds up Tanimachisuji Street to Aizen-san. Whenever the palanquin is in motion the crowd will chant:
“Aizen-san da, Hoekago!
Beppin-san da, Hoekago!
Shoubai hanjo, Hoekago!”
Nagoshi no Harae Festival
June 30th is also Nagoshi no Harae Festival. During this festival, people go to shrines in hopes of purging themselves of sin, and pray health and wall-being for the remainder of the year. Nagoshi no Harae Festival take place in many shrines throughout Japan. However, because this festival is exclusive to Shinto shrines, it is a little unusual that Aizen-san, a Buddhist temple, holds a special prayer service on this day.
High ranking monks from Shitenno-ji come to perform the service, which is very rare.
Aside from the Hoekago Parade and Nagoshi-no Harae, there are many other events throughout Aizen Matsuri. Specifically, this is the only time of the year the public can go inside Aizen-san’s pagoda. Inside, and you can see the statue of Dainichi-Daishou, which dates back to 1597.
Also, Aizen Matsuri is one of only two times out of the year Aizen-san’s kondo allow the public to see the statue of Aizen Myouou.
Moreover throughout the festival, you can buy a hana mamori from the Aizen Musume. These charms bring success in both business and love. The flower of the hana mamori is the designed to look like a Chinese trumpet flower, specifically those of the Aizen Kastura.
Neko mamori were also extremely popular this year!
Aizen Matsuri at Night
Aizen Matsuri is fun during the day, but it really takes off at night. Hundreds of visitors and bustling vendors offering scores of popular festival snacks and games. This festival also signals the start of yukata season for many in Osaka.
Another iconic part of Aizen Matsuri however, occurs entirely by chance. Aizen Matsuri takes place right in the middle of Japan’s rainy season (tsuyu). Since Aizen-san is a popular spot for couples, you may experience what is known as Aizen Parapara [愛染パラパラ]. Aizen Parapara is when two people who go to Aizen Matsuri together, get rained on, on the way home. Supposedly this means that these people will be able to form a long lasting relationship together.
Aizen Matsuri is a brilliant way to start the summer, and is only the beginning of even bigger and dazzling festivals to come.
Coming next time,
The myths of Omononushi, setting us up for our trip to Mt. Miwa.
The adventure continues…