10 Best Festivals in Osaka

Vibrant Traditions: Ten of Osaka's Most Captivating Festivals

10 Best Festivals in Osaka

Osaka is famous for being a quite vibrant metropolis that never sleeps, offering an endless array of activities and events all year round.

Known for its dynamic culture and rich history, Osaka is also a haven for festival enthusiasts. With an impressive lineup of celebrations, Osaka’s festivals range from the traditional and widely celebrated to the uniquely local and distinctly original. Each festival is a colorful tapestry of customs, stories, and community spirit, reflecting the city’s diverse cultural landscape.

In this article, we’ve carefully curated our list of the 10 best festivals in Osaka, ensuring you get a taste of the city’s most captivating and unforgettable celebrations. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a curious traveler, these festivals promise to offer something special, providing a glimpse into the heart and soul of Osaka.

1. Tenjin Matsuri

MitsuYaneDanjiri at Tenjin Festival
Photo by Tomi Mäkitalo (Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

We will start this list with the Tenjin Festival (天神祭). This festival, renowned as the city’s most famous celebration, stands as one of Japan’s three greatest festivals, alongside Kyoto’s Gion Festival and Tokyo’s Kanda Festival.

Originating from the Heian period (8th to 12th century), it celebrates the deity at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine with a tradition of boat processions on the Okawa River, known as Funatogyo. As one of Osaka’s three major summer festivals, it features an array of activities including a grand display of about 5,000 fireworks, hundreds of large boats adorned with bonfires and lanterns reflecting beautifully on the river, food stalls, and houseboats.

On the main night of the festival, numerous boats navigate the Okawa River during the Funatogyo, accompanied by a dedicated fireworks display. The festival is said to attract over a million visitors annually.

Date: Late July

Place: Osaka Tenmangu (大阪天満宮)

▶More details about Tenjin Festival

2. Sumiyoshi Matsuri

Sumiyoshi Matsuri
Copyright © Sumiyoshitaisha.

The Sumiyoshi Festival (住吉祭), held at Sumiyoshi Taisha, is one of the city’s three major summer festivals and marks the culmination of Osaka’s summer celebrations.

This traditional Shinto ritual, deeply rooted in the cleansing and purification of the city, was historically known as “Oharai.” The festival is famous for its spirited Mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, believed to purify the entire city during the series of rituals conducted over the festival period.

Drawing approximately 300 thousand visitors each year, the Sumiyoshi Festival not only showcases Osaka’s rich cultural heritage but also serves as a significant event for spiritual cleansing and rejuvenation for the city and its inhabitants.

Date: Late July to early August

Place: Sumiyoshi Taisha (住吉大社)

3. Aizen Matsuri

Aizen Matsuri
Copyright © https://www.aizendo.com/festival.htm

The Aizen Festival (愛染まつり) is the third of the three greatest summer festivals in Osaka. It is renowned as one of Japan’s oldest summer festivals, with a history spanning about 1400 years.

Celebrated for the deities of love and matchmaking, the festival is a vibrant display of culture and tradition. Young women, often dressed in yukatas, are seen smiling atop carried baskets, symbolizing joy and festivity. Also known as the “Yukata Festival,” it attracts many people wearing these traditional garments.

The festival also includes prayers for health and safety and features grand fairgrounds and processions that enliven Osaka’s summer. The highlight is the Hoekago procession on the first day, starting with energetic Aizen girls in yukatas riding in baskets, followed by the Nagoshi no Harae grand ritual and special openings of secret Buddha statues.

Date: Late June to early July

Place: Aizendo Shoman-in (愛染堂勝鬘院)

4. Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri
Copyright © Kishiwada City

Next, we have the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival (岸和田だんじり祭) held in Kishiwada City. This is a thrilling event known for its powerful and high-speed clashes of Danjiri – large wooden floats. These floats, weighing around 4 tons and reaching heights of 4 meters, are skillfully navigated through the city streets, showcasing a dynamic and forceful spectacle, especially during the Yarimawashi (the masterful and dramatic turning maneuvers).

Dating back approximately 300 years to the Edo period, the festival is a deeply rooted traditional event. Men display their strength and skill in handling the Danjiri, creating a series of intense and unmissable moments. The entire city of Kishiwada comes alive with energy and enthusiasm during this autumn festival, making it a vibrant and unforgettable experience for all who witness it.

Date: September, October

Place: Kishiwada City (岸和田市)

Website: https://www.city.kishiwada.osaka.jp/site/danjiri/

5. Summer Sonic

Summer Sonic Osaka 2023

Summer Sonic in Osaka is one of Japan’s premier rock music festivals, renowned since its inception in the year 2000. Attracting top artists from both domestic and international scenes, it has evolved into a hub for music enthusiasts.

Uniquely situated in the urban outskirts, Summer Sonic, alongside its Tokyo counterpart, is celebrated as a city-based festival. Held in August at the specially designed Maishima venue, the festival has expanded beyond rock, featuring a diverse array of genres and attracting a wide range of age groups.

It epitomizes the essence of a summer music festival, combining the energy of live performances with the vibrant spirit of the season, making it a must-visit event for music lovers.

Date: August

Place: Maishima Sports Island (舞洲スポーツアイランド)

Check out more about Summer Sonic from the following article!

▶SUMMER SONIC in Tokyo and Osaka Lineup and Ticket Info

6. Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

The Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival(なにわ淀川花火大会) is a burgeoning summer celebration unique to the “City of Water,” Osaka. Held annually since 1989 in the city’s heart, the festival takes place every August along the Yodogawa riverside.

For about an hour, an array of spectacular fireworks light up the night sky, creating a stunning visual display between the buildings. This event not only showcases a breathtaking fireworks exhibition but also features numerous food stalls, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Each year, the festival surprises and delights its attendees with inventive and awe-inspiring presentations, making it a highlight of Osaka’s summer and a must-see event for both locals and visitors.

Date: August

Place: Yodogawa River (淀川)

7. Toka Ebisu Festival

Toka Ebisu Festival

We proceed to the next festival which is the Toka Ebisu Festival (十日戎), traditionally known as “Ebisu-san” in Kansai. This is a beloved event centered around Ebisu, the god of fortune and prosperity.

Held around January 10th, coinciding with Ebisu’s birthday, this festival is especially popular in Osaka at the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine. It draws crowds of businesspeople who come to seek blessings for success and safety in their enterprises.

A key ritual is the purchase of lucky bamboo branches, known as Fukusasa (福笹). These are sold by shrine maidens who chant prayers for “business prosperity and household safety”. The bamboo branches are customarily adorned with various charms and decorations, known as Kitchou (吉兆), symbolizing good fortune.

Each year, for three days, around one million visitors participate in this vibrant festival, immersing themselves in a tradition steeped in faith and community spirit.

Date: January 10

Place: Imamiya Ebisu Jinja (今宮戎神社)

8. Ikutama Summer Matsuri

Ikutama Summer Matsuri

The Ikutama Summer Festival(いくたま夏祭り), celebrated at Ikutama Shrine, is counted as one of Osaka’s three greatest festivals. It takes place annually on July 11th and 12th at the Ikutama Shrine. Ikutama Shrine, boasting a history of about 2700 years, is the oldest shrine in Osaka, embedding the festival with deep historical significance.

Originating in the Heian period, the festival spans two days, consisting of Yoi-miya (宵宮) on the first day and Hon-miya (本宮) on the second. Visitors can enjoy traditional activities beyond just the food stalls; performances like lion dances and Makuradaiko drumming add to the festive atmosphere.

Date: July 11th and 12th

Place: Ikutama Shrine (生國魂神社)

9. Doya Doya Festival

Doya Doya Festival

The Doya Doya Festival (どやどや祭り), held annually on January 14th, is one of Japan’s three major unique festivals. Originating in 827 AD, it marks the final day of the Shushoe (修正会), a Buddhist event that starts on New Year’s Day.

The festival takes place with a solemn purpose: to pray for peace and a bountiful harvest. In a striking and unusual display, young men divided into red and white teams, clad only in loincloths called Fundoshi, compete to catch protective charms scattered from the ceiling of the temple. This vibrant and physical contest, where nearly naked participants clash in the cold season, is not just a test of endurance but also a deep-rooted traditional ceremony, symbolizing the warding off of evil spirits and the ushering in of good fortune.

Date: January

Place: Shitenno-ji Temple (四天王寺)

10. Setsubun festival

Setsubun festival
Copyright (C) 成田山大阪別院明王院

And lastly, on our list, we have the Setsubun Festival (節分祭) taking place at Osaka Naritasan Fudoson. Setsubun Festivals are celebrated across Japan but are particularly renowned at Naritasan Fudoson for their extravagant bean-throwing ceremony.

Setsubun, aimed at warding off misfortune and praying for traffic safety, is steeped in tradition. In the case of Naritasan Fudoson, the temple grounds feature a 150-meter-long stage, and at its center, the Sensho Daifukumasu (Masu is a tool to measure grains), the largest of its kind in Japan, symbolizes good luck and protection from evil.

Each year, celebrities dressed in traditional kamishimo and hakama participate as bean throwers. They scatter beans from the stage, chanting “Fuku wa uchi” (Fortune in), aligning with the spirit of the festival.

Date: February

Place: Osaka Naritasan Fudoson (成田山不動尊)

I hope this article was helpful to you. If you decide to go to one of these festivals, one thing you should keep in mind is that you will encounter a lot of people. So my advice would be to go to these events wearing comfortable clothing and with little baggage. And be sure to keep your valuables safe at all times.

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.