There's no shortage of festivals to enjoy across the year in Japan. Summer is famous for its music festivals and fireworks displays, the cooler months are brought to life through colourful illuminations, while excellent art exhibitions take place year-round.
One of the best places to get a taste of all these events is Osaka, where you can enjoy vibrant traditional festivals, incredible light-ups and many other unforgettable experiences. Here are some festivals you shouldn't miss while you're in Osaka this year.
June 30-July 2, Aizen-do Shoman-in Temple
The main highlight of Aizen-do Shoman-in’s namesake summer festival occurs on the first day, where 12 women dressed in yukata are carried in their respective hoekago (literally means ‘treasure basket’) for a parade along Tanimachisugi street. These women, also known as Aizen Musume, were traditionally geisha back in the Edo period (1603-1867). Today, they consist of women selected by the organisers, and occasionally include local celebrities.
July 24-25, Temmangu Shrine
This traditional festival is one of the biggest in Japan, dating back over 1,000 years. It takes place annually in July over two days, with the main festivities happening on the second day. This culminates with a vibrant parade of mikoshi (portable shrines) carried by devotees in elaborate costumes. The procession starts at the historical Temmangu Shrine before arriving at the Okawa River. It then continues on boats accompanied by fireworks over the water.
August 5, Yodogawa Park
Summer in Japan is synonymous with fireworks festivals. So don’t miss Osaka’s biggest pyrotechnic display, held along the Yodogawa River with a spectacular view of the city skyline in the background. The hour-long festival is split into five sections, each featuring a pair of songs played in sync with the fireworks.
September 16-17 and October 7-8, around Kishiwada Castle
This awe-inspiring festival is a sight to behold, especially with 34 danjiri (massive wooden floats) parading the streets around the historic Kishiwada Castle, a landmark in the southern part of Osaka prefecture. Each float belongs to a different neighbourhood in Kishiwada city, and are crafted in ornate details by the residents themselves. Make sure to arrive early to enjoy traditional Japanese street food like takoyaki, grilled squid, yakisoba and more.
November 5, Creative Center Osaka
One of Osaka’s premier art events, Suminoe Art Beat, which takes place at the Creative Center Osaka art complex in Kitakagaya, is beloved for its 9.5m-tall giant rubber duck by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman. Additionally, there will be a series of exhibitions, pop-up shops and food stalls as well as performances.
November 31-January 31
For this year-end celebration, Osaka’s most popular landmarks and attractions are lit up in colourful illuminations after dark, especially Midosuji avenue between Umeda and Namba, which currently holds the Guinness World Record for having the ‘most illuminated trees on a single street’. Also, don’t miss the Osaka City Central Public Hall, which will serve as the backdrop for a spectacular projection mapping display. Festival of the Lights also sees many other locations across Osaka prefecture lighting up for the occasion, including the Expo ’70 Commemorative Park.
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