Travelling in Japan during the summer might not be the best and brightest idea one could have, especially for someone coming from a colder and much drier climate like myself. The heat and humidity are truly on a scale of their own. Not even a week had passed since my arrival and I had already encountered someone passing out on the street due to the weather.
But luckily summer in Japan does also come with its perks, one being the summer festivals, also known as Matsuri. A great opportunity to enjoy and experience life like a local.
I attended my first matsuri in Osaka on the 25th of July. Tenjin Matsuri is one of the three large festivals in Japan and after hours of walking and looking around I had only seen a fraction of it. If there would be one word to describe it, that would be ‘endless’. Endless crowds of people, endless lines of food tents, endless flashes of fireworks in the night sky and endless bottles of sports drinks consumed (mostly by me) to combat the heat.
I started my day by watching the land procession (or from a outsiders point of view a parade) starting from Tenmangu Shrine. This went on for about two hours and afterwards it was time to hit the food stands. I got myself some takoyaki, a bacon and egg taiyaki with cheese and some bebi katsutera. Feeling (very) full I waited along the river for the procession to pass by again and the lighting of the bonfire on the boat in the middle of the river.
Last but not least was time to find a good spot to see the fireworks. I followed the crowds towards the Sakuranomiya Bridge. And after being told off by a policeman not to stop on the right side of the bridge at all whatsoever, I got to the other side of the bridge that was more… allowed. The fireworks started around 19.30 and went on much longer than my patience. After about an hour or so I had seen enough and taken my fair share of unfocused pictures. It was time to head back, which was easier said than done.
While I knew where my station was and how to get there, it was so crowded on the streets with everyone watching the fireworks that it was actually impossible to move half the time. And after squeezing through the crows and feeling like a sardine, just to arrive at the station that had lines of people waiting just to get into the station, let alone the train itself. Luckily this was Japan and they know what organizing means, so the station exits were divided based on your destination. My direction was the less crowded one (thank god) and it was a fairly comfortable ride home.
I can’t say I necessarily wish to attend a matsuri of this size again, simply because of the amount of people, but smaller ones definitely. This time I didn’t wear my yukata either after being warned by a japanese friend I had met earlier and I was happy I didn’t. Though there were lots of people in their yukatas I don’t think I would have survived the day in one. So there’s something left for next time!