Domyo-ji Tenmangu Shrine: 800 Beautiful Ume Trees!

In February, the very first spring flowers start to bloom. The most famous and iconic of these flowers are plum blossoms, or ume. While Osaka might not be everyone’s first thought when it comes to ume, Osaka offers many places where you can enjoy the ume blossoms. Some of the most famous ones are: Osaka Castle Park, Kozen Park, Hiraoka Shrine, and Domyo-ji Tenmangu Shrine [道明寺天満宮]. Domyo-ji Tenmangu Shrine in particular has 800 trees and 80 different kinds of ume trees!

 

History of Domyo-ji

Long ago, this region was governed by Nomi no Sukune [野見宿祢], the father of sumo and 13th head priest of Izumo Taisha.

statue of Nomi no Sukune in Izumo Taisha Museum
Nomi no Sukune

Later, Sukune’s descendants, the Haji clan, built Haji Shrine [土師神社] for their divine ancestor, Amenohohi no Mikoto [天穂日命]. A few more centuries later, they built Haji Temple right next to Haji Shrine.

Izumo Taisha: Meeting Place of The Gods

Michizane and Domyo-ji Tenmangu

The Haji clan eventually changed their family name to Sugawara, the clan of Sugawara no Michizane. In fact, Michizane’s aunt lived in Haji Temple. Just after the emperor banished Michizane from his beloved Kyoto, he stopped by Haji Temple to see his aunt one last time. When dawn broke on the morning of his departure, a rooster crowed. Quickly, Michizane penned what became of his most famous poems:

 鳴けばこそ 別れも憂けれ 鶏の音の なからん里の 暁もがな
Because rooster cries, I must leave. If only I could live in a land with no roosters.

After Michizane died, he joined the gods in Haji Shrine and the name of shrine became Domyo-ji Tenmangu. Haji temple also eventually became Domyo-ji Temple, enshrining a Kwannon statue made by Michizane made by himself. Domyo-ji Temple and Domyo-ji Tenmangu were once shared the same land, but during the Meiji Period, the government forced them to separate.

 

Getting to Domyo-ji Tenmangu

Getting to Domyo-ji Tenmnagu is very easy. Take express for Kwachinagano or Yoshino from Abeno-bashi Station on the Kintetsu Minami Osaka Line. After only 20 minutes or so, you will arrive at Domyo-ji Station. The Kintetsu Minami Osaka Line is only available at Abenobashi, not from Namba or Tsuruhashi.

Domyo-ji Tenmangu Shrine is only a 5 minute walk from the station.

 

Shrine Grounds

This shrine is particularly famous for its beautiful ume garden. We also visited the shrine in the spring of 2017 and the sakura were very pretty then too.

torii of Domyo-ji Tenmangu covered in sakura blossoms
Domyo-ji Tenmangu

Right next to the torii, Haji Shrine, the original shrine of Domyo-ji Tenmangu. Nomi no Sukune and several other gods are housed in Haji Shrine.

stone torri of Haji Shrine at Domyo-ji Tenmangu
Haji Shrine

After the main torii, you will see the haiden and behind the haiden is the honden. Inside the honden Amenohohi, Sugawara no Michizane and Michizane’s aunt, Kakujyuni are enshrined.

Haiden of Domyo-ji Tenmangu
Haiden built in 1745

The Nogaku stage at the shrine is also one of the oldest in Osaka! Remember, Shinto shrines have a long tradition of holding Noh plays!

wooden noh stage
Nogaku, built in 1815

Ume Garden

The plum garden is located right behind of the honden. Every year the shrine hosts a small ume festival when the flowers are at their peek.

Rows of flowering Japanese plum blossoms with Japanese shrine in background
Ume garden
pink red and white Japanese plum blossoms at Domyo-ji Tenmangu
Ume garden
red Japanese plum blossoms with wooden shinto shrine in background
Haji Shrine is pretty too…

Domyo-ji Temple

Next to Domoyo-ji Tenmnagu is Domoyo-ji Temple.

Domyo-ji Temple with rows of pink sakura trees
Domyo-ji Temple during sakura season

Domoyo-ji enshrines the eleven faced Kwannnon statue made by Sugwara no Michizane. The statue is usually not visible to the public, but on the 18th and 25th of every month, the temple allows visitors to see the statue.

Japanese tmeple with combed rock gardens and blooming sakura
Temple grounds of Domyo-ji Temple
prayer alter of Domyo-ji Temple with sakura tree
Domyo-ji Temple

Sakura-mochi

One of the most popular traditional Japanese sweets out there is sakura mochi. Sakura mochi are filled with anko (sweet adzuki paste) and wrapped in a brined sakura leaf. These treats do in fact have some of the sweet floral smell of sakura, though the color is a dye.

two light pink sakura mochi wrapped in a brined sakura leaves
Sakura mochi // Domyo-ji

We Osakans call this kind of mochi sakura mochi, but interestingly people in Kanto call this Domyo-ji or even Kansai-style sakura mochi. Of course they have their own sakura mochi but their sakura mochi evendoesn’t look like the Kansai version of sakura mochi.

Why do they call it Domyo-ji? Actually, the special powder used to make sakura mochi, domyo-ji powder, originated in Domoyo-ji Temple. Domoyo-ji powder is a ground dried mochi rice called, hoshi [糒]. Originally hoshi was staple food for warriors because it lasts long and is very light. Today, hoshi is predominately used as Domoyo-ji powder to make Japanese confectioneries.

Domyo-ji Tenmangu Shrine

Address 1-16-40 Domyoji, Fujiidera,
Osaka Prefecture 〒 583-0012
Website http://www.domyojitenmangu.com/
Hours of Operation Mon-Sun
9:00-16:30
Admission Fee General Admission: Free
Admission to Ume Festival: 500 yen

Domyo-ji Tenmangu is a really pretty shrine to visit in the early spring. It is an especially popular place for photographers of all skills levels when the ume are in full bloom. Because it is a not sitting right in the middle of Osaka City, the crowds feel manageable. Definitely a great spot!

Coming next time,
Osaka’s cheesecake war: Rikuro Ojisan vs Pablo!

The adventure continues…

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