On January 9-11, many Japanese shrines host the Toka Ebisu festival, especially in the Kansai region and at Imamiya Ebisu shrine in Osaka. The latter is no doubt the most popular on this occasion and over a million people come here to pray for good fortune and prosperity every year. The festival itself is set on Jan. 10, after “Ebisu Eve” on the 9th and followed by “the last chance of good fortune” on the 11th. The famous Ebisu bridge, which steps over the Dotonbori river, was originally built for pilgrims visiting the shrine. Ebisu – or Ebessan in the Kansai dialect – is the tutelar deity of business and fishing.
The people joining in the festival decorate a bamboo branch with amulets. The ritual dance called kagura aims at purifying the branches. They are very popular as lucky charms for prosperity. This tradition dates back to the Edo period (17th to 19th centuries) when Osaka became a successful commercial city.
On Jan. 10, there is a lucky parade during which 600 figures from the city, geisha and fuku-musume (lucky maidens) distribute amulets to passers-by. At the same time, there is a market in the morning selling sea breams which is usually served during the festivities. There are also stalls selling lucky charms such as daruma and maneki-neko.