July 26, 2008

Tenjin Matsuri

On Friday night we took a family outing to Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka's largest festival and one of the top three (Japan loves "Top Three" lists!) matsuri in Japan. While Mike had experienced the carnival atmosphere of such Japanese festivals (at Aizen Matsuri, Ashiya Summer Carnival, and Gion Matsuri), this was the first time for Ilena and the kids, who were still battling the jet-lag after returning from the U.S. earlier this week.

While Mike was at work, Ilena and the kids watched the land procession parade though the streets of Osaka (starting at Osaka Tenmangu Shrine). Lots of drumming, yukata-clad swarms of people, and portable shrines carried by 20-30 people each. In general, it seems that there is a lot more culture, history, ceremony to the Japanese parades than the standard U.S. marching-band style parades. (But maybe its just because it is so different for us.)

After the parade, we all met up alongside the river near the Sakuranomiya Bridge to watch the boat procession. The park was filled with carnival stall-food vendors, groups in yukata, all enjoying the evening. It was packed. And quite a great atmosphere.

The highlight of the festival occurs later in the evening. After the land procession, all of the participants board lantern-festooned (and otherwise tricked out) long flat barges, which cruise down the Okawa River. The boats play traditional music and have dancing or cheering. It was quite a scene. especially when night fell. And as it got later and later, more and more people crowded into the river-side area.

This was all followed, of course, by fireworks (hanabi).

Afterwards, dripping with sweat (it was approximately a million degrees) and full of carnival food, and with a small sleeping dead-weight girl attached to us, we made our way through the throngs and towards home. We may have been the only people leaving; the fireworks (which had lasted well over an hour) were still going and more and more people were crowding into the park. Leaving the riverside area was like swimming upstream. And we had never seen a train station so crowded before - with a snaking line outside the station just to get in. But (not shockingly) it was orderly and moved pretty quickly. All in all, an awesome time.


jmgesq said...

Wow. Maybe I've gotten inured to the parades and celebrations in NYC but it doesn't seem there are so many of them here as you experience in Japan! Phew...

Lisa said...

Great pictures and it looked like so much fun! Glad everyone is back on their feet enjoying the summer's festivities. I liked your sweat rag on your neck...stylish! It's like danny at the yankee game..