Sumiyoshi festival is one of the greatest summer festivals in Osaka city, and the last of them. It is held over four days in and around the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine. This shrine is one of the oldest in Japan, third only to the Ise and Izumo shrines, and as such has a distinctly Japanese architecture that only it and these two others use. This shrine is the headquarters of around 2000 other Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, the gods of which protect the nation, protect sea voyages and promote waka, a style of Japanese poetry that uses 31 syllables (as opposed to the 17 used in a haiku).
It starts by washing and purifying with sea water from on Umi no hi (Sea Day). The highlight of the festival however is the ‘Nagoshi Harai Shinji’ a ritual wherein when participants (women and children) walk through ‘Chinowa (a ring made of straw)’ dressed in Muromachi period costumes to exorcise evil spirits. It takes place on 31st July.
On the last day, there is a procession of ‘mikoshi’. Mikoshi are kind of palanquin for Shinto spirits, and are used the move them between shrines and other locations. The procession heads towards the neighbouring city of Sakai, with many people following or watching along the way, crossing over the Yamato river via an arched bridge to visit the Shukuin Tongu Shrine.
If you are in Osaka over the summer, why not try out a truly authentic Japanese festival? They are always fun with plenty of food, drink and merriment.