Ikutama Shrine, The Heart of Osaka

Sumiyoshi Taisha, with its abundantly rich history has always been one of the most famous shrines in Osaka. While it is very easy to get from Osaka City to Sumiyoshi Taisha today, this was not at all the case in the Edo Period when there were no trains. So then, which shrine did the people living in Osaka go to on a regular basis? The answer is Ikutama Shrine [生国魂神社]. This big shrine nestled in the middle of Osaka in not often mentioned in guide books, but Ikutama Shrine has been loved by Osakans for long time. 


The History of Ikutama Shrine

The origins of Ikutama Shrine are a little bit of a mystery. Ikutama Shrine was originally built near what is now Osaka Castle. Supposedly, Japan’s first emperor, Emperor Jinmu, built the shrine after he came to Osaka from Kyushu. However, neither of the the gods enshrined in Ikutama Shrine, Ikushima no Kami and Tarushima no Kami, are mentioned in either the Nihon Shoki or Kojiki. Moreover these gods do not have a lot of shrines in Japan. 

One of the few things known about these gods is that they were the central deities of the ancient Yasoshima Matsuri [八十島祭]. Records seem to indicate that this festival took place in Ikutama Shrine on the following year after the coronation a new emperor. In this festival, the new emperor would travel all the way from wherever the current capital was to Osaka. Once in Osaka, the emperor would be blessed by several gods, including Ikushi no Kami and Tarushima no Kami. Unfortunately there is very little information about Yasoshima Matsuri, especially since the festival suddenly stopped after the Kamakura Period, even though it was more than 400 hundred years old!  


Getting To Ikutama Shrine

The closest stations to Ikutama Shrine are Ueonmachi Station and Tanimachi 9-chome Station. Ikutama Shrine is just a 10 minute walk from either of these stations. If you are feeling up to it, you could also walk to Ikutama Shrine from Namba Station, which really isn’t that far either and will probably only take 20 minutes. From Namba, all you need to do is go along Sennichi-Mae Street and turn right at Tanimachi-Street. 

Shrine Grounds

large torii of Ikutama Shrine with cherry blossoms
Shrine entrance

lion guardian statue of Ikutama shrine in front of a blooming cherry blossom tree

Interestingly, the president and founder of Suntory, Torii Shinjiro is the donor of Ikutama’s torii.

stone pole displaying the name of Suntory's founder
Back of Ikutama’s torii bares Torii’s name
haiden of Japanese shrine with green roof and two trees
Ikutama haiden

side of Ikutama shrine with pink peach blossoms

Architerutre of Ikutama Shrine

The honden burned down during WWII and then rebuilt in 1956. The honden has its own exclusive architectural style called ikutama zukuri. Ikutama zukuri is marked by its unique roof structure. The most striking feature of this style is that the roof connects both the honden and haiden.

roofs of ikutama zukuri on a cloudy day
Ikutama zukuri
ema showing ikutama-zukuri architecture
Ikutama zukuri 

Smaller Shrines

board of all the small shrine found at Ikutama Shrine
List of all shrines

Ikutama Shrine contains 11 small shrines to prominent deities, such as the Sumiyoshi gods or Sugawaru no Michizane. Just by visiting Ikutama Shrine you can pay your respects to, as well as receive the blessings of, many different gods. I think this is in part what makes Ikutama such a popular shrine with the people of Osaka—it is very convenient.  

many small Japanese shrine lined up next to each other
From left to right: Jyouruin-Jinjya, Yazukuri-Jinjya, Fuigo-Jinjya, Shirohoko-Jinjya,

Because it is not far away from the central Osaka area, a lot of people have visited this shrine throughout the years and many of things have happened here as well. Not only did the infamous Chikamatsu Monzaemon use Ikutama Shrine as the setting for his play Ikutama Shinju, but Yonezawa Hikohachi [米沢彦八] started rakugo, a style of comedic storytelling, in Ikutama Shrine. 

large stone monument for Yonezawa Hikohachi
Yonezawa Hikohachi Monument

shrine ema featuring two bunraku puppets

One of the more interesting small shrines is Shingino Shrine. This shrine is also known as Yodo-dono Shrine because Hideyoshi’s wife, Yodo-dono, frequently visited this shrine during her life.

Small red and black Japanese shrine
Shigino Shrine.

Statues of Famous Writers

There are also a number of monuments and statues throughout Ikutama Shrine dedicated to some of Japan most famous and influential writers, some of whom just so happen to be native Osakans.

Such as:

The famous writer Ihara Saikaku [井原西鶴].

statue of Ihara Saikaku
Ihara Saikaku, creator of “floating world” imagery

As well as Oda Sakunosuke [織田作之助], one of the most famous writers in Osaka whose masterpiece, “Meoto Zenzai” is much loved by the people of Osaka.

statue of famous Japanese author Oda Sakunosuke
Statue of Oda Sakunosuke

As you are exiting the shrine take note of the long sloped street in front of you. It is the first of Tennoji’s famous seven slopes: Shingon-zaka.

*Check here for more on the Seven Slopes of Tennoji

entrance of Japanese shrine with red and black coloring in and cherry blossoms

stone steps leading down a slope and nearby apartments

Ikutama Shrine

Address Ikutamacho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture,
Website https://ikutamajinja.jp/
Hours of Operation Monday-Sunday: 9:00-15:00
No Holidays
Admission Free

All in all, Ikutama Shrine a fascinating shrine that tells many stories about Osaka. Some of these stories are about the city’s history and some are about its rich art and culture. It is in essence, the heart of the city.

Coming next time,
Sumiyoshi Taisha’s Good Luck Festival, Hattatsu-san

The adventure continues…

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