Historical Religious Buildings Tour (Self Guided), Osaka

Osaka is a very religious city that’s home to a lot of beautiful shrines and temples. Each is a true jewel, whether really old or quite new, and some are specific to this part of Japan. Take our Religious Walk to see the most fascinating places of worship in the city.
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Historical Religious Buildings Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Religious Buildings Tour
Guide Location: Japan » Osaka (See other walking tours in Osaka)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Namba Shrine
  • Ikasuri Shrine
  • Sukunahikona Shrine
  • United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church
  • Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
  • Horikawa Ebisu Shrine
  • Taiyuji Temple
  • Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine)
Namba Shrine

1) Namba Shrine (must see)

The popular Bankaru style of Puppet Theater was born in this shrine located in the Chuo ku area of Osaka City. The shrine hosts many important festivals through the year.

The Namba Shrine was built by the Emperor Hanzei in honor of his father the Emperor Nintoku. It stood near the site of the present Osaka Castle but was moved to its present location after Hideyoshi Toyotomi decided to build the castle on the site. The cult of Inari flourished in the city at the time and established a smaller shrine within the complex that became more popular than the main shrine. They also established the Inari Shrine Bunraku-za, the first theater where Bunraku puppet shows were held. In 1871, the Inari shrine and the theater were moved to Nishi-ku in Osaka City.

Today, the Namba shrine hosts the Ball of Cord festival in February where worshippers are given a five colored ball of string to pray for good health. The crest of the shrine is the iris and iris flowers are planted in the gardens of the shrine. An Iris festival is held in June when a ritual dance is performed. Crushed ice is given to worshippers during the Himoru festival held in summer and visitors can also view a traditional drum beating performance. A monument to the former Bunraku Theater is located outside the shrine.
Ikasuri Shrine

2) Ikasuri Shrine

The Ikasuri Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Osaka. It is popularly known as Zama san and five important deities are enshrined here.

The Ikasuri shrine is said to have been founded by the Empress Jingu who enshrined Ikasuri-no-kami here. The shrine was at the time located on the banks of the Yodo River. Some historians believe that it was first dedicated to the guardian deity of Settsu Nishinari-gun, the ancient name of Osaka. Toyotomi Hideyoshi is said to have relocated the shrine to its present site when he planned to build the Osaka Castle.

Today, the Ikasuri shrine is dedicated to five important Shinto deities or Kamis, Ikui, Sakui, Tsunagai, Hahiki and Hasuha. Worshippers come here to pray for the protection of their homes, safety during travel and safety on arrival. Over 200 hydrangea plants grow within the shrine and a hydrangea festival is hosted every June. The Toki shrine within the complex is unique and is made entirely of ceramics. While in other Japanese shrines, the lanterns are made of stone this shrine has ceramic lanterns. The Toki festival is held at the shrine on July 23rd annually. The Ikasuri Shrine today is surrounded by shops selling second hand goods and wholesale ceramics.
Sukunahikona Shrine

3) Sukunahikona Shrine

The Sukunahikona Shrine is located in Doshomachi, the pharmaceutical district of Osaka. It is dedicated to the Chinese God of medicine, Shinno and the Japanese God of Medicine, Sukunahikona.

The Sukunahikona Shrine was established in the 9th century. At first a shrine dedicated to Shinno was founded by the pharmacists who resided in Doshomachi. Soon a statue of Sukunahikona no Mikoto was brought here and enshrined from the Tenjin Shrine of Gojo in Kyoto. In1822, an epidemic of cholera swept through the city and the pharmacists made a medication using the bones of tigers. A combination of the medicine, prayer and wearing papier- mache amulets in the shape of Hariko or sacred tiger stopped the spread of the disease.

The Sukunahikona Shrine remains an important shrine where people come to pray for good health. Papier- mache tigers called Hariko are distributed to worshippers especially during its annual Shinno Festival held on the 22nd and 23rd of November. The festival is also called the Tome-no-matsuri or the last festival because it marks the end of all the religious events in Osaka. The major pharmaceutical firms in the area like Takeda, Shionogi, and Dainippon, still contribute to the maintenance of the shrine and it has remained the most important place of worship for pharmacists till date.
United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church

4) United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church

The United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church is a Protestant Christian Church located in the Chuo-ku area of Osaka. Since its foundation, the parish has contributed to education, medical services and Christian missionary activities in the city.

The United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church was established as a small congregation of about eleven parishioners in 1877. The Reverend Jo Nijima was the first pastor. He went to Kobe to learn English and became a Christian after being influenced by the teachings of the missionary Daniel Crosby Greene. After becoming pastor, Reverend Nijima established a school for girls and another well known school called the Plum Blossoms School.

The United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) Naniwa Church building was constructed by the Takenaka Corporation under the supervision of an American missionary named William Merrell Vories who came to Japan in 1905. Construction was completed in 1930. The building has a simple yet graceful structure. It has three floors, Gothic steeple windows with yellow green stained glass. The chapel has a friendly and relaxed environment designed to make common people feel at ease. The sanctuary on the 2nd floor has a halo of gentle colors created by the light coming through the stained glass windows.
Osaka Tenmangu Shrine

5) Osaka Tenmangu Shrine (must see)

The Osaka Tenmangu Shrine is the most famous of the Tenjin or Tenmangu Shrines that are found all over Japan. It hosts the Tenjin Matsuri which is regarded as the most spectacular festival in the city.

The Osaka Tenmangu Shrine was built in 949 by the Emperor Murakami. The main shrine is dedicated to the noted scholar and warrior Sugawara no Michizane. The purpose of building the shrine was to comfort Michizane’s spirits. He is the principal deity and is worshipped as the God of scholarship and fine arts. Other important deities like Surata no Mikoto are also enshrined here. The original shrine was destroyed by fires and many subsequent structures were also burned. The present hall and gate were constructed in 1845.

The Osaka Tenmangu Shrine plays host in July annually to the popular festival in Japan, the Tenjin Matsuri. It is famous for a boating event with 14 dolls that were made around 1690. They have been preserved and declared as Important Ethnological Artifacts of Osaka Prefecture. During the festival traditional Japanese performing arts displays like Kagura Music performances and the staging of Bunkaru Puppet plays take place in different parts of Osaka. A parade consisting of about 3000 people dressed in traditional court costumes marches carrying portable shrines to the Tenmabashi Bridge and sails upstream in 100 boats amidst spectacular firework displays.
Horikawa Ebisu Shrine

6) Horikawa Ebisu Shrine

The Horikawa Ebisu Shrine is dedicated to the Shinto deity, Hiruko. The locals call it the Kita no Ebassan or Ebisu Shrine of the North while the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine is located in the South of Osaka City.

The Horikawa Ebisu Shrine is believed to have been founded in the 6th century. Tomi-no-Muraji Yoshio is said to have picked a ball after a divine revelation in a reedy marsh in Naniwa, the old name for Osaka. He enshrined it in Tomishima, Namba as an important holy spirit. The shrine was moved to its present location in the 1300s. It was completely destroyed by the bombardment of World War II. The present structure is the result of a reconstruction in 1963.

The Horikawa Ebisu Shrine hosts an important three day festival called the Toka Ebisu annually between January 9th and 11th. It is dedicated to Ebisu, the deity of commerce and worshippers come to pray for prosperity in the coming year. They buy Kicho-zasa which is a bamboo branch with models of a sea bream called Tai, a Japanese gold coin called Koban and a rice bag made of straw called the Kome-Dawara, the symbols of a flourishing business. A popular shrine within the complex is the Enoki Shrine popularly called the Danjiri Inari. It is believed that people hear lively Danjiri Music when their prayers at the shrine are about to be answered.
Taiyuji Temple

7) Taiyuji Temple

The Taiyuji Temple is located in the busy Kita-ku area of Osaka. It is a Buddhist temple and an oasis of calm amidst the bustling city surrounded by high rise buildings.

The Taiyuji Temple is dedicated to the Singon sect of Buddhism. It was founded by Kukai in 821 and the principal deity is the thousand armed Goddess, Kannon. The statue of the deity was a present by the Emperor Saga. His son expanded the temple and had a full scale Buddhist temple built surrounded by beautiful gardens. The temple burned down during the battle between Hideyoshi Toyotomi and the Tokugawa Shoguns. The temple complex was rebuilt during the Edo period and again destroyed during the World War II bombardments. The present building is a postwar construction.

The statue of the Goddess Kannon and that of the Deity Fudoumyouou escaped damage and remain enshrined in the Taiyuji Temple. A stone pagoda in the grounds is said to be the grave of a concubine of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Lady Yodo who committed suicide after his defeat in the battle against the shoguns. A historical event that took place here was the beginning of the democratic movement of Japan. Itagaki Taisuke and his followers met here in 1880 before launching the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement nationwide that resulted in forcing the Meiji Government to establish a National Diet or parliament and a Constitution.
Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine)

8) Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine)

The Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine) is located in the Kita Ward of the city of Osaka. It became famous because of a Bunraku Puppet play called Sonezaki Shinju.

The Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine) was built over 1,100 years ago. It was dedicated to the deity, Ohatsu-Tenjin who is the protector of the Sonezaki and Shinju areas of the city. In 1703, two young lovers who were not destined to be together committed suicide in the forest of the shrine. Monzaemon Chikamatsu wrote the Bunraku play Sonezaki Shinju based on the incident and the story brought him instant fame. The main character Ohatsu left a moving impression on audiences and the shrine became a symbol of everlasting love.

Visitors walk through the Ohatsu Tenjin Street which is a covered arcade to reach the Tsuyunoten Shrine (Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine). The shrine is surrounded by busy shopping streets and some old houses. The shrine has a main hall or Haiden where Shinto rites are performed and a smaller one called the Tamatsuinari Jinja. A memorial tower is located on the site of the suicide that became the subject of the Sonezaki Shinzu. It has become a place where young couples pay homage to the lovers who had a tragic death. A flea market that attracts bargain hunters is held here on the first Friday of every month.

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