In Japan there are three major festivals that occur. One is the Kanda Matsuri which takes place in Tokyo and the second is the Gion Matsuri that takes place in Kyoto. The third top festival in Japan takes place in Osaka and is called the Tenjin Festival. The Tenjin Matsuri festival first took place in the 10th century and today it takes place on July 24 and July 25. The main celebration of this festival takes place on the second day, July 25th, and there is a land procession as well as a river procession with fireworks.
The Tenjin Matsuri is the festival of the Tenmangu Shrine and it is a festival to honor the Sugawara Michizane deity which is the deity of scholarship. The festival first begins with inviting the Sugawara Michizane deity out from the Tenmangu Shrine and then parading him through the city of Osaka. There are all sorts of exuberant festivities in order to entertain the deity and then once this is done he is returned back to the shrine.
On the morning of July 24th, the first day of the festival, there is a ritual that takes place at the Tenmangu Shrine to kick off the festival. After the ritual there are prayers for peace and safety and the prosperity of Osaka that take place at the river. Then men with drums make loud sounds which is a signal to the people to let them know that the preparations for the festival have been completed.
Then in the afternoon of the second day the highlights of the festival begin. The drummers with their red hats lead the land procession from the shrine all throughout the streets of Osaka. There are a variety of costumers characters like Sarutahiko who is a goblin with a long nose riding a horse. There is also a ceremonial float along with other festival music, lion dancers, umbrella dancers and a lot of other attractions.
An hour into the procession, the portable shrine that is carrying the Sugawara Michizane deity leaves the shrine and is preceded by a boy and a girl leading a sacred ox who is believed to be the messenger of the Sugawara Michizane deity. There are two other portable shrines that join the parade later on but the one carrying the spirit of Michizane is the one that has a phoenix on the top of the portable shrine.
Around 6pm, the procession arrives at the Okawa River and from their the members and the portable shrine are put onto boats to be paraded up and down the river. Beside the procession boats there are other boats beside them with stages on it where traditional noh and bunraku performances are performed for people by the river side. And along the river there are lots of food stall lined up so that you can grab some food while enjoying the river parade and performances.