Osaka’s More Than Food and Tourism! A Look into Its Mystical Shrines and Temples
Most people think of Osaka as a lively city full of festivities and good food, but it also has a more solemn and quiet side that consists of shrines so old they stretch back to the time of Japan's first Emperor, as well as temples buzzing with spiritual energy. Owing to the compact size of Osaka City, all of the shrines and temples we are about to mention can be travelled to within a day. So, how about paying these mystical sites a visit the next time you're in Osaka?
Oct 04 2019 (Jul 17 2020)
This shrine is so beloved by the people of Osaka that the suffix -san (normally used only when addressing other people politely) is often added to it. Sumiyoshi-san is the perfect spot for those for those looking for a wish to be fulfilled. Every year at the start of January, the shrine is consistently buzzing with worshippers out for their traditional first prayer of the year, which is proof of the potential power and energy people see in it.
Founded in the year 211, it lies within Namba and enshrines the god of all industries. Moreover, as it enshrines Princess Ogitanarashi (Empress Jingu, a legendary figure who was believed to have ruled Japan in ancient times), the shrine is said to have a deep connection with many women.
The arched bridge at Sumiyoshi is synonymous with the shrine and is nicknamed the "Taiko Bridge" (original name: Sori-bashi). The bridge pier was said to have been a donation by Yodogimi, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Prior to approaching the shrine, visitors had to cross this bridge in order to be cleansed of their sins and liberated from their desires.
If you come to pray here on the first day of the dragon of each month in a custom known as "Hattatsu-mairi", it is said that you can receive even more spiritual energy than usual. We also recommend visiting the various subordinate shrines in the area - it'll surely excite you! For example, you can pray for a successful business at Nankun Shrine, pray to the diety of art and beauty at Azasawa Shrine, and visit the Omokaru Stone at Ootoshi Shrine which is rumored to make your wishes come true.
Tsuyu no Ten Shrine
Tsuyu no Ten Shrine is dedicated to local deities of Sonezaki and Umeda, and is located in northern Osaka, past the restaurant lined streets of Higashi Umeda. It is known to many by its other name, "Ohatsu Tenjin". In 1703, a double suicide occurred on the grounds of this shrine. This became the inspiration for a Japanese puppet theatre play written by Chikamtasu Monzaemon known as the "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki". The heroine of this play was named Ohatsu, which gave rise to the nickname Ohatsu Tenjin for the shrine. The shrine is beloved by those looking for a fulfilling love, taken with the story of Ohatsu.
There are those who always seem to be unlucky in love. The deities enshrined in this mystical spot may be able to protect your sensitive heart.
A must-visit when touring sites which hold a spiritual energy in Osaka is Shitennoji Temple. This temple was founded by Prince Shotoku more than 1,400 years ago, and despite being situated in the urban core of Osaka City, it is located on a massive 110,000 sq.m. site containing the monastery, a house for blessed spirits, and a treasure hall. At the building Gochiko-in on this site, they practice Zen meditation at 6:30 in the morning. While this may seem early, Shitennoji is easily accessible from the hotels and hostels in central Osaka, so why not experience the cleansing spirituality of the early morning?
Shitennoji Temple is said to have been the site where the folk faith known as Koshin first appeared in Japan, and has thus become a site of pilgrimage for its adherents. If you visit the on-site Koshin-do Hall on specific days important to the faith, then it is said that one of your wishes shall be fulfilled, so save something special to pray for at this temple. Once you have finished your prayers, you should pay a visit to the Garden of the Pure Land. This traditional Japanese garden is so quiet and peaceful that it will make you forget that you are in the middle of a big city. It is equally charming during the cherry blossom season.
In northwestern Osaka you will find the Mino Waterfall, which is located inside the Meiji no Mori Mino Quasi-National Park. This fall is the perfect spot for those looking for serenity and a refreshing calm. Mino Park is located on an expansive mountain with an area of 83.8 hectares, and offers up some beautiful scenery with the coming of the new growth in spring and when the fall leaves are in their full majesty. While breathing in the fresh air of the park, make sure to stop in front of the 33 meter high Mino Waterfall, where the mist-like spray of the falling water will wash over you. This level of comfort simply begs to be experienced first-hand.
One reason to recommend this waterfall is how easy it is to get here. It takes just one hour to get here by either train or car from Umeda Station, one of Osaka's major transport hubs. The road that goes from the station to the waterfall is dubbed "Waterfall Road" and is famous as a hiking trail. Along this trail, nearer to the station side, you will find a cafe where you can have a spot of lunch, a perfect combination to a slice of forest-bathing.
Currently, as a result of landslides, one part of the Waterfall Road is closed, so you won't be able to walk directly to the Mino Waterfall. However, the road to it remains open, meaning that you are still able to drive to it.
Mt. Kongo is the highest peak in Osaka and has long been worshipped and beloved by a large number of people. It is located on the border between the prefectures of Osaka and Nara, situated between Osaka's Chihaya Akasaka Village and Gose City in Nara, and towers 1,125 meters above the Kongo-Ikoma-Kisen Quasi-National Park.
The summit is easily accessed by using the ropeway to get to a point close to the top of the mountain and then subsequently walking the remaining 3 km on the mountain path. This means that you can comfortably complete your trip in one day without too much planning. What will await you is a view of the Osaka Plains, and that combined with the clear mountain air will give you the feeling of being surrounded by the deities of the mountain. The reason that so many hikers come back to this spot is surely a testament to the power that can be gleaned from it.
The trail to Katsuragi Shrine at the top of the mountain is home to a "Couple's Cedar" tree with a stone before it into which a message has been inscribed about the love between man and wife. Why not try climbing to the top of the mountain with your significant other and pray that the relationship will continue forever? You can climb Mt. Kongo no matter what the season. In winter, if you pack warm and equip crampons, you'll be able to successfully climb it.
Depending on the conditions, you may be able to see the sight of frost-covered trees. An encounter with beautiful scenery can move the soul, so this good fortune will surely boost your energy.
Shipporyuji Temple (Mt. Inunaki)
Shipporyuji Temple is said to have been established by the famous Japanese mystic En no Gyoja. The diety enshrined here is a secret Buddha withheld from public view known as "Kurikara Dairyu Fudo Myo-o", the god of fulfilling wishes and granting clemency. The temple is also home to the main dojo of the Inunaki school, meaning that many devotees can be found here.
In order to get to the main building of the temple, you will need to traverse a 30 minute-long path on foot. However, you are sure to be calmed by breathing in the refreshing mountain air. Beyond the main hall, you will find the Gyoja no Taki (Waterfall of the Pilgrims). This waterfall is known to possess mystical powers, and you may just meet some devotees standing underneath its stream as a form of spiritual training.
Ishikiri Tsurugiya Shrine
Affectionately called "Ishiriki-san", this shrine is located in eastern Osaka, in the Ikoma Sanroku area. The pathway leading up to the main shrine is a shopping street teeming with fortune telling shops. Those with an interest in fortunes and the like are sure to be excited by a visit.
The shrine sees many visitors who come to pray and chant for the removal of growths and tumors, a blessing that the enshrined diety Denbo is believed to offer. It is also known for the custom of "One Hundred Visits", wherein worshippers are expected to return to the entrance after praying at the main shrine and repeat the process a hundred times. Of course, there is no strict obligation to do this; rather, what is important is to pray sincerely so that your prayer will reach the enshrined diety.
By the way, within the premises, it is believed that there is a diety who will grant you only one wish in your whole life.
Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
The origins of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine date back to the Nara period (710 - 794). During this period, the ruler of the time, Emperor Kotoku, declared that Naniwa (known as Osaka today) would be the new capital of Japan. Following this declaration, he established a palace there under the name of "Naniwa Nagara Toyosaki Palace" and appointed this shrine (previously named Daishogun Shrine) to act as the protector of the northwest region of this newly established capital. This shrine would eventually enshrine the poet and scholar Sugawara no Michizane, who visited it on his way to Dazaifu (a small city in Kyushu that once served as the administrative center of the entire Kyushu region) during the Heian period (794 - 1185).
Many people, including Sugawara no Michizane, believe this shrine has the power to help you achieve success and victory. Even today, it gets many visitors who hope to receive its blessings for an upcoming competition or exam.
The Tenjin Festival, one of the three main festivals of the Japanese summer, is centered around Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. Many people have an image of summer festivals being places for young people to gather, but during this particular festival, practices with more than 1,000 years of history are carried out. For example, there's the Rikutogyo where a portable shrine is carried around town by many people and the Hokonagashi ritual, where a lance is washed down the river in front of the shrine to determine where to bring the enshrined diety later on in the festival.
Another festival called the Tenma Tenshin Ume Matsuri is held here in the early spring. If you visit the bonsai exhibition during this time, the scent of high-quality plums will engulf you and gently reinvigorate your spirit.
Namba Shrine is located in Osaka's central business district of Hommachi. While you may not expect to see a shrine in the middle of such a busy street, you will find it inconspicuously situated amongst the taller modern buildings. It was created around the same time as the establishment of Shibagaki Palace, when the current ruler Emperor Hanzei wished to enshrine his late father Emperor Nintoku.
There is a sacred camphor tree on the grounds of the shrine that boasts over 400 years of history. Why not take a break from your travels through the busy city to take a look at this sacred tree? To the west of this shrine is an inari shrine (shrine dedicated to the god of prosperity Inari), which has come to be known as "The Inari-san of Bakuro-machi" by local merchants.
Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
This shrine, lovingly dubbed "Ebe-san", is another mystical spot that's home to a diety of luck. It has a long history and was said to have been enshrined to protect the western region of Shitennoji Temple after it was established by Prince Shotoku.
The deity enshrined here is known as Ebisu and he is depicted with a big smile, holding a sea bream under his left arm and a fishing rod in his right hand. He is said to bring fortune in from the sea and is the deity of the fishing industry. As Osaka began to develop as a merchant town, many people came to pray here for the prosperity of their business. It is particularly busy during the Toka Ebisu Festival, which takes place in January and is all about worshipping Ebisu. The desire to be blessed with fortune and money is something that doesn't seem to have changed through the ages.
Bask in the Spiritual Energy of Your Trip by Staying at a Luxury Hotel
For some people, these spiritual spots are just regular places. For others, they see something more. After reading this article, if you thought that any of these spots were more spiritually impressive than anything you could've imagined, make sure to visit them for yourself! You are sure to refresh both your mind and body by visiting these sites with a solemn and open mind.
For such a spiritually cleansing trip, why not make the most of it by staying in a higher quality form of accommodation? Such accommodations are perfect for basking in the spiritual energy you receive from your travels. The insights and precious experiences gleaned from such a trip are sure to enrich your life as you move forward.
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
By the way, you can book a hotel through Relux (run by SPIRA) by clicking here!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.