Tenjin Matsuri, 2007


This year’s Tenjin Matsuri was really a lovely time. I left the boat behind and my friend Marié “The Fantastic” Abe and I decided to walk around, eat street-food delights, people watch, and check out the hanabi (fireworks).

(Please note: The photo at the top of the page was taken at the very end of the evening when all of the boats had already gone home. The river really is full when the parade is in full effect.)

We ended up somewhere near Sakurabashi (I think), and then followed this flow of people down to the riverbank. Somewhere between several hundred thousand and perhaps even a million people show up for Tenjin Matsuri, which runs up and down the Okawa River. The riverside is lined with revelers, food stalls, lights, and flaming torches. There is a fleet of boats that parades up and down the river carrying the mikoshi from Tenmangu shrine, and tons of party boats follow along. There are also stationary boats that feature dancers performing traditional dances and — my favorite — several fire barges where a man with a scooper full of what seems to be gasoline scoops the fuel onto a flaming pyre to create huge gusts of all-enveloping flame.

This is a kakigori stand. Kakigori is like shaved ice, but with different syrup flavors of goodness than we normally get in the States. Not like a Slurpee (TM) or a Slushy (TM), but genuine shaved ice and very, very delicious.

The grilled chicken was good too. Mmmm.

Here’s part of the enormous crowd waiting for the hanabi to start. This was a large open area and it was packed from wall to wall with people. The theory behind this spot was that from here you could see both displays of fireworks (which are set off at different points of the river) at the same time. Unfortunately what it actually meant was that you could sort of see most of the fireworks half of the time. Enjoyable nonetheless.

Watching both sets of fireworks at the same time also allowed us to ascertain that one of the sets of fireworks clearly involved a much more vaster sum of money than the other. Red blooms above the treetops are nice in any weather, however.

This year I brought several film cameras with me, since last year I was only somewhat satisfied with the digital shots that I took. I loaded my LOMO with Fujifilm’s Natura 1600 (available only in Japan), perhaps the greatest color night film ever made, in the hopes that I could get even somewhat close to capturing the intense energy and festival vibe that surrounds the river and the food stalls. In fact, I think I failed in this, but I did get several good shots of street vendors (including this man, who was selling some rather delicious takoyaki).

Although the crushed ice in these cups relegates this particular kakigori to less-than-classic status, the crazy sci-fi tubes that transport the syrup are certainly awesome to behold.

Apparently this is a kind of teddy bear lottery. You buy a ticket and if your number comes up you can redeem it for teddy bear prizes. And for other cute stuffed-animal type things as well.

I do like these Hello Kitty fries! (“Sanrio — The Official Fry of Tenjin Matsuri 2007.”)

These are bananas that are coated with chocolate, strawberry, and something else that I can’t quite identify. Waxy and delicious and fantastic.

This lantern-adorned boat is one of the boats associated with the parade of the mikoshi. Apparently this boat carries sacred objects that are carried from Tenmangu shrine. It also travels up and down the river at about three times the speed of the other boats, so you get to see it several times during the course of the evening.

Sakurabashi with a big streak of a boat passing beneath.

One of the most amazing moments in the evening was when two boats of festival drummers temporarily docked on the shore right near where we were standing. The two boats took turns pounding out traditional rhythms that only get played once a year, during the festival itself. The drummers were incredibly friendly and as full of energy as you would expect from a team that only gets to present its practice one time a year. It’s at these moments, listening to rhythms that have been passed down for hundreds of years, that the festival both shrinks and expands, almost as if the spatial locus of attention is reduced to the span of the two boats while the temporal locus expands simultaneously into the past and the future. And one of the boats also had a young boy dressed as a samurai on board and ready to pose for pictures. What could be better?

A couple wearing yukata buy delicious fried things. Mmmmmmm. It really is hard to stress how utterly delicious all of this stall food really is.

This man is making hand-made candy. He pulls a lump of raw candy material from out of an ingredients box and then molds it into whatever shape you might prefer. Marié chose a goldfish (painted with beautiful orange and black spots) and I chose a wild boar, since the Year of the Boar was the year that I was born in. The craft of candy making is becoming increasingly rare, and in fact I’ve never seen anyone else in the Osaka area with a stall like this (though I did run into the same candy maker at a different festival later). It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more stands like his — there’s a kind of magic in his hands as he turns an indistinct lump into recognizable form, almost literally animating it.

This is Tenjinbashi, one of the central sites for Tenjin Matsuri. This photo was taken pretty much after the festival was over, but you can still see the lanterns lining the railings.

Here are Marié and I with our candies!

(That’s a Bogulta shirt I’m wearing, in case you’re wondering.)

Tenjin Matsuri 2005
Tenjin Matsuri 2006

The full set of photographs from Tenjin Matsuri 2007


2 Responses to “Tenjin Matsuri, 2007”

  1. 1 K

    I just love your photos. They really evoke the feeling of the place as you see it. It’s nice when you are in some of them occassionally too! Hope you are well.

  2. 2 Trane DeVore

    Hey Karen — Thanks for the kind words. One of these days I’ll actually getting around to filling out this post with some descriptions!

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