By day an energetic shopping district and by night a backstreet maze of quirky bars, Tenma is a lively Osaka neighborhood steeped in history. Get to know an authentic side of the city in this neighborhood known for a historical shrine, massive annual festival, and one-of-a-kind nightlife.
Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and Tenjin Matsuri
Tenma gets its name from a thousand-year-old shrine called Osaka Tenmangu, the heart of the bustling district. Osaka Tenmangu was founded in 949 for the deity of scholarship, Sugawara Michizane. Also known as Tenjin, Sugawara was a Heian era (794-1185 AD) scholar, poet, and politician. Shrines around Japan are dedicated to his legacy, but Osaka Tenmangu is his headquarters. Students often venture here to pray for good grades on their exams. The shrine is a peaceful and relaxing place to pray or enjoy the plum and cherry flowers blossoming every spring.
However, things get crazy once a year during the Tenjin Festival. The festival, celebrated annually on July 24 and 25, commemorates Tenjin, whose spirit is paraded around Tenma in a mikoshi (portable shrine). On day one, religious ceremonies are held at the shrine. Marching bands, fireworks, and a massive boat procession on the second day bring together spectators from around the nation. The festival draws hundreds of thousands, making it Osaka’s largest festival and one of the top three in all of Japan.
Endless shopping at Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street
In the 17th century, a small fruit and vegetable market was established to serve travelers making the pilgrimage to the ancient shrine. This became Tenjinbashi–suji, a thriving shopping center which now claims to be the longest shotengai (covered shopping street) in Japan. The 2.6 km (1.6 miles) stretch of shops is known for insanely good bargains. Mainly local businesses catering to residents line the road, making the vibe more old-fashioned than glitzy tourist traps like Namba and Shinsaibashi. Buy or rent a cheap kimono, test your haggling skills over unique souvenirs, or simply grab some street food and snack while you stroll, taking it all in.
Tenma after dark
At night, the nondescript back alleys near Tenma station become an exciting bar-filled labyrinth known as Ura-Tenma. The area directly outside the station’s north exit is populated with hole-in-the-wall eateries brimming with character. Tiny yakiniku, sushi, and tempura restaurants thrive next to dive bars with standing room only. Osaka’s salarymen and women flock here after work, making it a great place to eat like a local. Meander the winding, lantern-lit streets and pop into any spot that sparks your interest.
Kansai Rainbow Festa and more
Adjacent to Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street, the interactive exhibits at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living transport visitors back to the Edo era (1603-1867) with a life-size recreation of what Tenma looked like 200 years ago.