Sakai Festival – Osaka’s Local Civic Festival!

What is the Sakai Festival?

The Sakai Festival takes place just south of the centre of Osaka, in Sakai city. It’s the largest festival of Sakai City that involves various performers, food from across the globe, and traditional Japanese ceremonies. People from Osaka celebrate the deep history of the city and how it has grown to become the city we know of today. From local Japanese traditions to international migrants, everything is on show in a spectacular festival.

Sakai Festival : Parade
Photo Credit: alexxis at Flickr

History of the Sakai Festival

The origin of the Sakai Festival ties in with the Sumiyoshi Matsuri, over 400 years ago. This is one of the most loved Summer festivals along with the Tenjin Matsuri and Aizen Matsuri. The Sumiyoshi festival is beautifully depicted on a folding screen, which features Sakai City. In the depiction, you can see various international merchants, gun manufacturing, and elaborate architecture.

Sakai Festival Events

The festival’s main events are the Pre-parade Party, Grand Parade, Grand Tea Ceremony, and Namban Markets, and are held in the Civic Square in front of the Sakai City Office and the area around the Sakai Ginza Shopping Arcade.

Pre-parade party

Firstly, the pre parade takes place on the Saturday before the parade at the Sakai Civic Hall. The parade includes local performers, entertainers, comedians, and a host of local street food.

Sakai Festival : Street Food
Photo Credit: calltheambulance at Flickr

Namban Market

The Namban markets takes place in Xavier Park and recreates the culture of Saka’s prosperous merchants in the Middle Ages. The name “Namban” means “southern barbarian” and is the name given to the early Portugese people who arrived in Japan in the 16th century. The markets features local products for sale, including traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi), knives, and textiles. Furthermore, there are food stalls offering foods from around the world as well as local performers.

Grand Parade

On Sunday, the main event takes place, which you can not miss! Performers wearing traditional Japanese clothing from previous periods of Japanese history are all on show. The festival celebrates the Japanese civil war period and the international trading period. Here, you can enjoy clothing from the samurai era as well as various merchants’ clothing. Historically, Sakai City was a large international trading city, which the parade magnificently displays. Furthermore, Sakai is the first city that made Japanese guns, which they mark by harquebusiers (cavalry) firing gunshots throughout the parade.
The parade starts at 11:00 am in front of the Kumamo Elementary School and stretches across the 1 km of Oshoji St until Ichi Elementary School. The grande parade consists of by over 7,000 participants, wearing folk costumes from around the world as well as various performers and dancers. Finally, at around 17:00, the last performance is a Futon-daiko performance. These are like small portable shrines that weigh around 1 to 2 tons, that takes around 40 people to carry. You can marvel at the beauty of the Futon-dako structure as well as the energy of those carrying it. Like the Danjiri used in the Kishiwada Danjiri festival, the Futon Daiko has a long history, and has been an important part of the Japanese festival scene for many centuries.
Photo Credit: Nupe at Flickr – Traditional Futon Daiko

Grand Tea Ceremony

The last event is a traditional tea ceremony that is in honor of the historical figure, Sen-no-Rikyu. Two simultaneous tea ceremonies take place at Daisen Park, and the other at Nanshu-ji temple. At Daisen Park, university and kindergarten students, together with the sencha association, host an open-air tea ceremony. Inside the park, there are two Sakai Tea Rooms, one called Obaian and one called Shinan.  These are national registered tangible cultural properties, which connects through a tea garden.

Secondly, at Nanshu-ji temple, three schools of tea ceremony that descend from Sen-no-Rikyu’s style takes place. Sen-no-Rikyu is a historical figure of Japan and especially Sakai City. During the 16th century, Sakai City was booming as a trading based city. Although his parents were wealthy trade merchants, Sen-no-Rikyu decided to learn the ways of traditional tea ceremony. At the age of 17, he started learning from his masters and gradually incorporated his own ways and further Zen concepts. Rikyu found the beauty in nature and simplicity, which made significant movements through Japanese culture. 

Sakai Festival : Tea Ceremony
Photo Credit: Sidney Reilly at Flickr – Sen-No-Rikyu’s Tea house

Food Stalls

Finally, there are abundance of food stalls lining the surrounding streets. Traditional local Osaka food is available, such as takoyaki and yakisoba. It is a fantastic way to enjoy klocal cuisine with the local festivities making it the perfect Japanese experience.

Watch a video on the Sakai Festival here


Dates: Every third weekend in October every year.
Place: Civic Square in front of the Sakai City Office, Oshoji Symbol Road
Address: Sakai-ku, Sakai-shi, Osaka
Official Website

Access: Due to the grand parade, traffic around the area is strictly controlled so several roads will be closed. Public transportation is advised with the nearest stations being the Sakai Station and Sakai Higashi station.


Overall, the Sakai Festival is a fantastic way to see some of the history of Osaka. Although just outside Osaka’s city centre, the parade and performance are well worth seeing! Finally, the tea ceremonies are well worth a watch and give a fascinating insight into how locals celebrate their heritage.


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