21 Osaka Festivals You Shouldn’t Miss
There's an Osaka festival for everyone. To find yours, take a look at our complete guide to the 21 greatest Osaka festivals.
Osakans are renowned in Japan for their fun-loving, laid-back attitude to life. The city, at any time of the year, hums with life, a feature no visitor will miss. However, to see Osaka at its finest, you need to check out one of the many Osaka festivals.
Throughout the year, festivals of all kinds fill Osaka’s streets with pomp, colour and fun, offering invaluable insight into the cultural life of the city and how it likes to let off steam. From the tradition of the age-old Tenjin Matsuri and the beauty of the cherry blossom festival to the magical winter illuminations, there’s something for everyone.
For more on this fantastic city, including advice on where to stay, things to do and what to eat, check out Compathy Magazine.
Tenjin Matsuri Festival
The Tenjin Matsuri, along with the Gion Matsuri and the Kanda Matsuri, is one of Japan’s foremost traditional festivals. Moreover, it is the world’s largest boat festival. Needless to say, it is highly impressive.
The festival begins at Tenmangu Shrine, honouring its principle deity, Sugawara Michizane. From here, the festivities splay out into the city beyond, culminating in two main processions: land and river. For the former, traditionally dressed revellers pack the city’s streets, all aiming to entertain the deity as he passes. Drummers, dancers, giant floats, there’s plenty to see. Flanking the main procession you’ll find food stalls of all kinds and other entertainments like mini sumo tournaments and karaoke contests. There’s plenty to get involved in and the joyous vibe is infectious.
The river procession kicks off at dusk with a coordinated fireworks display from the banks. A flotilla of boats small and large slowly float down the river, all adorned with lights and packed with people. The spectacle is unique to Osaka and a real sight to behold. From roughly 21:00 to 22:00 on the last night, the convoy begins to make its way back to the shrine, marking the close of the festival.
Osaka is a welcoming, hospitable city, so although the festival celebrates local culture and tradition, newcomers are embraced with open arms. Get involved!
03:00 – 22:00, Jul 24-25
Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Festival
In the spring, from late March through to early May, Osaka begins to bloom with the legendary cherry blossoms or sakura. The blossoms represent the beauty and fleeting nature of life and their short lifespan is celebrated up and down the country. Osaka is no exception, its cherry blossom festival being among the best in the country. Customarily, hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is the go-to activity, in which groups of friends and family gather in the shade of the cherry blossom trees to enjoy copious food and drink.
There are many excellent hanami spots in Osaka; take a look at some of our favourites, below.
Kema Sakuranomiya Park
A riverside park with thousands of cherry blossom trees and plenty of space to relax. This is an excellent choice for Osaka hanami.
Osaka Castle is a tourist magnet at any time of the year, but especially so during the cherry blossom festival. Find out more with: Osaka Castle – an Osaka Icon.
9:00 – 17:00
Osaka Mint Bureau (Museum)
For cherry blossom season, the otherwise private Osaka Mint Bureau throws open its gates to allow its cherry blossom trees to be appreciated by the general public. Another great spot.
9:00 – 16:45
Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park
A park packed with cherry blossoms and typically quieter than many other hanami locations.
Subway Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Station (Exit No.1)
Expo 70 Commemorative Park
This park, the site of Osaka Expo 70, is slightly out of the city but well worth the extra effort. There are bags of room for everyone here.
9:30 – 16:30 (Closed on Wednesday)
Osaka Light Festivals
Osaka Hikari Renaissance and Midosuji Illuminations bathe Osaka in light come wintertime. These two events culminate into what is known as Osaka’s Festival of the Lights which lend the city an irresistible magical glow.
Osaka Hikari Renaissance
The Osaka Hikari Renaissance is an annual illuminations event that adorns the area between the city hall and Nakanoshima Park in thousands of magical lights. On top of this, Osaka City Hall itself plays host to a spectacular light and sound show each evening. The lights create a great atmosphere, complimented by the various food stalls and drink sellers that flood into the area. Wrap up warm and get yourself there for some festive fun.
17:00 – 22:00, Mid-Nov – Early Jan
The Midosuji Illuminations, or the Osaka Festival of Lights, holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest stretch of illuminated road. To be precise, the festival stretches itself over four kilometres in central Umeda, creating a magical urban walking trail you can’t help but be impressed by. Each year, the Midosuji Illuminations adopts a different theme, making the event hotly anticipated every time.
17:00 – 23:00, Mid-Nov – Early Jan
Osaka Music Festival
Summer Sonic is Japan’s biggest rock festival; your annual chance to catch the biggest acts from Japan and abroad right here in Osaka. The lineup is always expertly curated, attracting an international crowd of eager music fans. Visit the official site for more info and the lowdown on how to get yourself tickets.
9:00 – 23:00, Aug 19-20
Aizen Festival (Yukata Festival)
Held annually from June 30th to July 2nd, the Aizen Festival marks the beginning of summer in Osaka. Taking place at the beautiful Aizendo Temple, the festival is a chance to dress up in your best yukata (summer kimono), sample some delicious Japanese snacks and generally soak up the summer vibes. The main event, however, is a parade in which young women are carried in a kind of basket on the shoulders of groups of men. Intrigued? Check it out.
Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri Festival
Held in late September, the autumn Kishiwada Danjiri Festival must rank as Japan’s most thrilling. To the beat of the drums and the screams of the crowds, teams race around the narrow Osaka streets pulling along with them an ornately decorated, carved wooden shrine replica weighing up to five tons. Atop the wooden shrine dances the daikugata (carpenter) who is the real star of the show, at once entertaining the crowd and willing on his team below. The race is high-octane and a real spectacle. Miss it at your peril.
One of the best spots to spectate from is a five-minute walk from Haruki Station. There you’ll find crowds of eager onlookers and a real carnival vibe.
Strawberry Picking Season
Fruit picking is an extremely popular activity in Japan. Anyone can do it, it’s a lot of fun and you get some fresh fruit at the end of it. What more could you ask for? In Kansai, strawberry farms are abundant, giving visitors plenty of venues to try their hand at a spot of farm labour. Most farms will charge a fee (usually 1,000 – 3,000 yen) for a set amount of time (usually 30 – 60 minutes) and allow you to keep the (literal) fruits of your labour. Strawberry picking season is generally between March and May, though obviously dates vary each year.
Take a look at some of the best strawberry picking farms near Osaka:
Strawberry Farm Haru
To the south of the city, Strawberry Farm Haru is a very foreigner friendly farm, with great facilities and even a cafe for some post-picking down-time. If the weather isn’t great, don’t worry, the fruit is grown in a giant greenhouse.
Jan – Early June
Kishiwada Kankounouen Farm
A hillside farm in Kishiwada, this is a great spot for families and there’s also the option to pick tangerines if strawberries aren’t your bag.
Dec – June
Izumi Kogawa Strawberry Farm
A large farm which grows an impressive seven varieties of strawberries. If you don’t know what to do with all those strawberries, they also offer a dessert cooking class on the farm.
Feb – May
Osaka Auto Messe
A three-day event which regularly attracts over 200,000 visitors, needless to say, the Osaka Auto Messe is a big deal. It is Kansai’s largest motor show; a showcase for the latest in car and motorbike technology and a chance for Japan’s motorheads to meet up and swap stories.
09:00 – 18:00, Feb 10-12
Great Japan Beer Festival, Osaka
Everyone likes a beer festival, and the people of Osaka are no exception. Join in the fun at this three-day event (Jul 14-16), packed with fun and gallons of the all important beer. Taking place in MyDome Osaka [Google Map Link], tickets for the event cost between 3,500 and 5,000. The Great Japan Beer Festival actually takes place in cities across Japan, meaning that if you miss the Osaka event, you may be able to catch it somewhere else.
Osaka Asian Film Festival
The Osaka Film Festival is one of Japan’s biggest and best film festivals and a venerable showcase for Japanese and international film talent. Over the course of the festival, film screenings take place in theatres across the city, with tickets set at very reasonable prices. This year, the festival is celebrating its 12th year and promises to be the best yet.
For detailed ticket and venue information, check out the official website.
09:00 – 18:00, Mar 3-12
¥ 1,300 – 1,500
Nipponbashi Street Festa
The Nipponbashi Street Festa is Japan’s biggest cosplay festival – a magnet for cosplay, anime and manga fans the world over. Taking place in Den Den Town (hence its alternative name: Den Den Festival), the streets are filled with characters of all kinds, all culminating in a parade through the heart of the district. Watching the parade is totally free, but if you wish to take part it’ll cost you 1,500 for a wristband from one of the many official sellers. This year’s event will take place on Sunday, March 19th from midday to around 15:00, though the festivities tend to continue well into the night.
Setsubun Big Festival
The annual Osaka Setsubun Festival celebrates the coming of spring and is a great chance to see some traditional culture up close. Although celebrated in Buddhist temples and shrines throughout the nation, the festivities at Osaka’s Tenmangu Shrine attract record numbers. One of the biggest oddities of the festival is the bean throwing, a custom said to banish evil spirits from the temple, taking bad luck and ill health with them.
06:30 – 19:30, Feb 3
One Night Kanjo Festival
Officially recognised by the Japanese government as an ‘Intangible Folk Cultural Asset’, the One Night Kanjo Festival is a treat for those interested in traditional Japanese customs. The festival, taking place on February 20th at Nozato Sumiyoshi Shrine each year, is said to stem from the need to appease the spirits of a group of women who sacrificed themselves to save Osaka from disaster.
14:00, Feb 20
Sumiyoshi Matsuri Festival
The Sumiyoshi Matsuri takes place over three days in and around Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. For those new to Japan, it is a great festival in which to experience some uniquely Japanese customs. The main event is the nagoshi harai shinji ritual in which women and children clad in traditional Muromachi dress take it in turn to pass through a large thatch hoop, which, it is said, helps bring about good health and wealth. On the last day of the festival, there is a large mikoshi (portable shrine) parade from Sumiyoshi Taisha to Shukuin Tongu Shrine which is another great spectacle. It is one of the last summer festivals in Osaka, taking place from July 30th to August 1st.
Yet another age-old Osaka festival, this time honouring Dosho-machi and Shinno, two deities of medicine. Held at Sukunahikona Shrine on Doshomachi Street, an area often called Osaka’s ‘Medicine Town’, the festival generates a great atmosphere in the streets, with plenty of revellers and food stalls to try out.
10:00 – 20:00, Nov 22-23
Toka Ebisu Festival
Regularly attracting upwards of one million people, Osaka’s Toka Ebisu Festival is one of the city’s largest. Dedicate to Ebisu, the deity for business, fishing and good luck, it is particularly popular with those hoping for a good financial year. Such people customarily purchase bamboo branches decorated with charms to this end. During the festival, you can see these lucky bamboo branches being decorated and even have a go yourself if you wish. You’ll also find a great variety of other entertainments, including dancers, musicians and lantern displays.
Osaka Firework Festivals
Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival
Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival lights up the night sky above the Yodo River beautifully each year and attracts legions of onlookers. A community-run display set up in 1988, the fireworks are as popular as ever. The display usually takes place on the first Saturday of August, just make sure you get there early to guarantee a good vantage point.
20:00 – 21:00, Aug 6
Kishiwada Port Festival
Another excellent Osaka fireworks display that takes place in the Kishiwada Port area. In little over 10 minutes, 1,500 rockets are shot into the sky, drenching it with all the colours of the rainbow. Well worth checking out.
20:00 – 21:00, Jul 30
Osaka Latin Dance Festival
One of Osaka’s more international festivals, the Osaka Latin Dance Festival is a great opportunity to soak up some South American culture. Taking place at Vida Latina in Itachibori, one of the city’s premier salsa clubs, the event attracts a host of professional and amateur dancers, all eager to strut their stuff in the various showcases, competitions and workshops. Bands and DJs are also invited to perform, making the whole event an unforgettable musical experience. This year Osaka Latin Dance Festival will be held from September 22nd to the 25th.
090 8574 3272
Aloha Summer Festival
A three-day Hawaiian extravaganza, right here in Osaka! The Aloha Summer Festival, held between May 27 and 29, is a celebration of Hawaiian culture, showcasing the island’s traditional dancing, food and much, much more. There’s plenty to discover and it’s a whole lot of fun.
If you’re in town for one of Osaka’s many fantastic festivals, chances are you’re going to need somewhere to stay. If so, Compathy Magazine has you covered:
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