One of the three major summer festivals of Osaka, and also the first of the season, Aizen Matsuri represents the start of summer for me. Summer used to bring swathes of illness to Japan, and summer festivals started as purification ceremonies to ward off sickness, this festival is said to be the oldest – practiced since 593 between June 30th and July 2nd.
The festival begins early afternoon on the 30th with the Hoe palanquin parade, starting from opposite Tennoji station. Twelve Aizen girls are selected by contest to parade the 1.5km from Tennoji to Aizendo in brightly decorated Hoe palanquin’s(some carried, some with wheels), all the while chanting:
Here comes Aizen, Ho, eh, kah, go,
Pretty girls, Ho, eh, kah, go,
Good business, Ho, eh, kah, go
Also joining the parade, helping to carry the Hoe palaquin’s are around 40 women who are studying Fashion at Osaka Yuhigaoka Gakuen.
Upon arriving at Aizendo, the Aizen girls and lifted and their Hoe palaquin’s and shaken, almost to the point of falling out! This is to ward off any evil from the past six months.
Into the evening, the Aizen girls welcome people into the shrine and encourage them to buy an Aizen katsura hana mamori(愛染かつら花守り) – a lucky charm protection flower decorated with charms. A large one is ¥2000, and a small ¥1000. Hello Kitty limited items are available too, plus the first 100 visitors each day wearing Yukata get a free gift!
A couple of special pink Hoe palaquin’s are set up for ladies to try sitting in, also makes for a nice free photo spot! They look very cramped though!
During the festival, special viewings of Aizen-Myoo are permitted. Enshrined in the two-storey pagoda on the grounds, Aizen-Myoo is the god of good matchmaking and happy marriages, so lots of couples come to pray. The only other time of year Aizen-Myoo is available for viewing is the new year holiday, making it a rare opportunity.
This guy randomly took a photo of us, so I insisted on taking one in return!
And of course there’s tons of delicious festival food too!
Celebrations continue at Aizen-do well into the night, enjoy the atmosphere, play some festival games or check out the small entertainment stage which has music, traditional dancing and weird comedy performances.
Welcome to summer!
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