The even though Yomiya is a pre-celebration for Tenjin Matsuri, it is a proper festival in and of itself! With plenty to see and do, you really might want to get up early! It’s a full day!
This post is about Yomiya. For more information about Honmiya, see our post Tenjin Matsuri: Honmiya.
Tenjin Matsuri Yomiya
July 24th is Yomiya. Thorough out a day, there is always something going on at Tenmangu. Even without Tenjin Matsuri’s famous fireworks show, the crowds are still quite large once the evening ceremonies start.
Hokonagashi [鉾流], the spear floating ceremony, is one of the main events on the 24th. As we covered in A Brief History of Tenjin Matsuri, the Hokonagashi used to be a crucial event during Tenjin Matsuri because the place where spear went ashore was the place they conducted a ceremony. However, since the construction of the angu in the Edo Period, they stopped doing Hokonagashi, but they started to do this again in the 1930’s. The ceremony starts the little early in the morning, but if you have the chance, you should try to go see it.
In this ceremony, one little boy who live in Tenma is picked as the “shin-do” or “god child” to drift the spear on the Dojima river. The procession heads towards the Dojima River and Osaka Tenmangu’s Wakamatsu no Hama [若松の浜] where the rest of the ceremony will take place.
After a number of purification rituals and prayers, the shin-do and a few priests get in a small boat to toss the spear into the river.
Tenjin Matsuri Yomiya at Osaka Tenmangu
Tenmangu Shrine Grounds
After the Hokonagashi ceremony there will be a number of other events at Tenmangu Shrine later in the day, but many of them do not start until the later afternoon/early evening. You will have to wait a while before the other festivities start at Tenmangu Shrine. Kill some time at Tenmangu Shrine and walk around Tenjinbashi-Suji Shopping Street. But do not get too far away from the Tenma district. The crowds only get bigger as the day goes on, making things more challenging later if you want a front row seat.
Of course there will be plenty of vendors with food, drink and games to keep you preoccupied for a while, but besides taking time to get plenty of things to eat, be sure to take a walk around Tenmangu Shrine. There you will be able to get a closer look at the mikoshi and danjiri, as well as the giant taiko.
Mikoshi and Taiko
The danjiri at Tenjin Matsuri is very special as there are very few of them in Japan today. These Mitsu Yane Danjiri, get their name from their distinct three separate roofs. However, even more iconic than the roofs are the elaborate carvings. The carvings actually tell a story, but as you might imagine, it is hard to study the carvings as the danjiri is running through the streets. Yomiya is one of your best chances to see the Mitsu Yane Danjiri at rest and up close.
Be sure to head back towards the danjiri around dusk to catch the Jya Odori [龍踊り]. The Jya Odori, or dragon dance, has been a part of festivals in Osaka for a very long time. The movements of the dancers are supposed to resemble a dragon holding golden orbs as it flies through the sky.
Another thing that is really cool you can find in Tenmangu Shrine during Tenjin Matsuri are these dolls that are Osaka prefectural treasures. There are 16 of these dolls in total and are all from the Edo Period. Those dolls were decorations on the ships participating in Funatogyo festival.
Many of the dolls are historic Japanese figures, but one of these dolls is the Japanese god Susano-o. There are very few paints or drawings of the gods from the Kojiki, so any representation of a Japanese god is pretty unique. Only a few of these dolls are only put on display during Tenjin Matsuri so many people come to see them. If you wait till the 25th then the shrine will be even more crowded, hard to believe I know, so try to go see them on the 24th or even the 23rd.
Also on display with the dolls for the first time this year was the only surviving mikoshi of Kawasaki Toshogu, a shrine that housed the soul of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
After the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kawasaki Togoshu was converted into a different shrine. Osaka Tenmangu was then able to acquire the mikoshi. Since Ieyasu was not a very popular person in Osaka (Osaka Summer Wars and all) the mikoshi was almost never put on display. However, realizing this is after all a 400 year old mikoshi, Tenmangu Shrine has decided to start displaying it on special occasions.
Miyairi is the ceremony where taiko and shishimai celebrate in the shrine the night before Tenjin Matsuri, as well as receive blessings from the shrine. Tenmangu Shrine has limited capacity and can only hold about 600 people in the shrine. If you want to get an up close spot to watch the taiko and shishimai be in the shrine ground at least thirty minutes early.
Just before the festivities start a few shishimai will head down Tenmabashi-Suji to bless local business that contributed to the festival. This is another good chance to get a look at one of the purification rituals that also take place later in the evening. This is a good chance to get a closer look at the shishimai’s costumes as well as the actual process of the ritual. You never know where you might end up standing once Miyairi starts, after all.
The very first part of the Miyairi starts with blessing the Dondokosen [どんどこ船]. This boat will sail up and down the rivers on the 25th call out that Tenjin Matsuri has started. The boat are rolled into the shrine to be blessed and are then paraded around the shrine grounds.
After this ritual will be your absolute last chance to get in the shrine if you want to.
One of the most iconic and most anticipated parts of Tenjin Matsuri are the Taiko. This massive drum (allegedly Hideyoshi’s war drum) and their performers, called ganji [願人], with their flashy red hats have been a part of the festival for a long time. Groups of six will ride around pounding the drum while the rest cheer and help maneuver the large instrument. They also perform some pretty amazing feats of balance and strength. They lift the drum in to the air, but also rotate it from side to side!
Shishimai and Kasa Odori
After the taiko finishes, the last half of the night’s festivities start: the shishima and Kasa Odori, or umbrella dance. The colorful umbrella and cheerful shishimai dancing around the shrine are a real delight.
Yomiya was a lot of fun, but boy I was tired. It is still not the official day of Tenjin Matsuri!
Coming next time,
At last, Tenjin Matsuri, Honmiya
The adventure continues…