Toka Ebisu Festival is an event held every year in Osaka from the 9th to the 11th of January. It is part of the new year's celebration of visiting a shrine. For this occasion, the purpose is to pray for commercial success. This is a major event in Osaka that is interesting to take part in if you happen to be there!
The Toka Ebisu Festival consists of the Edo-era tradition of going to a shrine on the 10th (the 10th of the month is "toka" in Japanese) of January and praying for business success to Ebisu, the patron deity of commerce. This tradition is especially strong in the Kansai region and mainly Osaka because the city was historically a merchant's town. Other similar traditions exist throughout Japan but the one that is the most impressive is the gathering at Imamiya Ebisu Shrine.
Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
The shrine is not the most impressive for its aesthetics but it has a lot of history and significance. It was first established around the year 600. Among other Shinto gods is enshrined Ebisu, the deity believed to be responsible for commercial prosperity. This diety was so important to the people of Osaka that even the famous Ebisu bridge over the Dotonbori River was specifically made to allow people to access the shrine easily. People of Osaka affectionately call the diety Ebessan. Every year, during the Toka Ebisu Festival, nearly one million people visit the shrine.
What Do People Do?
People visit the shrine's premises to pray for a prosperous year and express gratitude for the year that has passed. Series of lanterns light the site which creates an enchanting atmosphere. There are countless ornaments that can be purchased that are blessed good-luck charms for business prosperity.
A type of charm you can purchase dedicated to the diety Ebisu.
Shrine maidens called "miko", give out ornamented bamboo branches to the visitors. These branches are supposed to bring good commercial fortune as well. The miko of the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine are known as fuku-musume, which literally translates to good fortune daughters. The competition to become one is said to be quite fierce. Obviously, they seem to be selected mainly for their beauty. They are one of the highlights of the festival and get profusely photographed.