If you are in Umeda, perhaps take a break from shopping and head to Tsuyunoten 露天神社. This may seem like a small inconspicuous shrine, but Tsuyunoten Jinja , or Ohatsu Tenjin which it is more commonly known as, is famous for a tragic love story which is still being featured in plays today.
In 1703, Tokubei, a merchant's apprentice and Ohatsu, a courtesan, committed suicide here. They were denied the freedom to love due to societal norms and hence decided that they were not to be denied living together in the afterlife.
On the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month. there is a flea market at the shrine, which I have yet to check out. There are 2 festivals that you can look out for, if you are coming to Osaka in February or July.
Setsubun marks the end of spring and summer based on the lunar calendar, but has now come to mean the the day before the first day of spring only, usually occuring on the 3rd of February. On this day. the Japanese scatter roasted soy beans at home and outside to ward off goblins and usher in happiness. Usually neighbourhood shrines do hold Setsubun events on a smaller scale, but the one at Tsuyunoten is packed with both locals and tourists.
I reached Tsuyunoten at about 5.45 pm, and it was already very crowded. There was this guy going around posing for photographs and many children were happy to see him, but some younger ones were frightened by the tengu mask.
At about 6 pm. the most anticipated event began - packets of beans were scattered from the second floor of the building, while the crowd below excitedly made attempts to catch them. This went on for about 10 minutes, as the staff tried their best to keep everyone happy, while I observed some Japanese were good natured to pass on extra packets that they have collected to others who were still empty handed.
After the bean-scattering event had ended, some visitors left the shrine, but most remained on the grounds while I heard an announcement that mentioned another upcoming event that evening.
Following the lead of some photographers, I waited around an area that had been fenced off for some kind of ritual and sure enough, about 15 minutes later a group of priests entered this zone.
After they had offered prayers facing the altar, all eyes were on the only one with a bow and arrow. He shot 3 arrows - the first one skywards, the next one to the ground, and the final one at an oni target. Things then really got heated up as the bonfire was lit, and fed with old amulets that had been returned to the shrine. Many of us standing right at the perimeter were overwhelmed momentarily by smoke and ash.
The evening drew to a close as visitors were invited to go around the bonfire seemingly in a ritual to dispel away bad luck. I suppose such an elaborate event will only be seen at shrines of similar scale, so this is something not to be missed if you happen to be in Osaka on Feb 3.
2 Summer Festival
July is a great time to visit as summer festivals are held across Japan. I did not visit Tsuyunoten, but from what I have watched on Youtube, I'd say that it is similar to what other shrines have - a 2 day event which includes a day parade through the neigbourhood. As dates may vary from year to year, do make a quick search online for お初天神夏祭り .