Spring is Sumo season in Osaka, and one of the six major tournaments held throughout Japan occurs at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium in March. Film buffs should keep an eye out for the Osaka Asian Film Festival, an excellent collection of films from Japan’s international neighbours. The cherry blossom viewing festivals at the end of March herald the beginning of school and a new fiscal year starting in April: the Japan Mint Bureau’s cherry blossom walk has been running for more than 120 years and is the crown jewel of the area. The weather in May and June bring flowers with them: rose garden viewing opens in Nagai Botanical Gardens, Nakanoshima Park, Utsubo Park and Tsurumi Ryoukuchi Park, and if you’ve had enough of that, Irises await you at the Shirokita Gardens.
The traditional spectacle of O-Taue Shinji (a rice planting ceremony) at Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine in June has been designated an important intangible folk heritage, and not to be missed if you’re into history and culture. A more lively and fun festival in the same month is the Aizen Festival at Shoman-in Temple, where women clad in summer yukata are paraded on long palanquins to the delight of yearning bachelors. July brings Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri Festival with it—a mammoth of an event, and one of the biggest in Japan. Deities from the nearby shrine are paraded up and down the river and everyone drinks, eats and has a great time, with the night ending in fireworks.
Over 20 years in existence, Dance Delight, an annual street dance competition, attracts competitors from overseas to the stage to compete for the grand prize. The seasonal moon viewing festivals in September are best viewed at either Osaka Tenmangu and Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrines, where the event have become spectacle. The world Super Junior Tennis Championships are held at the Utsubo Tennis Center in October, and the Osaka Marathon held later the same month, with the course going right through the city past a number of great scenic spots. The Japanese maple trees burst into colour at the end of November, with visitors flocking to Minoh Falls, one of the best places to see them.
Short days and chilly evenings in December would normally have people staying indoors, but in Osaka everyone heads out to see the various Illuminations around the city; a good example being the Osaka Hikari Renaissance Festival which brings light to the Nakanoshima and Midosuji Areas. Everyone heads to their local shrine on January 1st to make their first prayers for the year, some from 12:00 midnight, and trains run all night on new years to ferry people across the city. For something more light hearted, check out the Doya-Doya festival, a unique festival where men clad in only loincloths wrestle to grab banknotes said to bring good luck as they are splashed with cold water. The Plum Blossom Viewing at Osaka Castle Park marks the end of winter.