Kouzu Shrine, located in the heart of Osaka City, is dedicated to the one of the most important people in Osaka’s history, Emperor Nintoku[仁徳天皇].The Ishiyama Honganji Buddhists and the creation of Osaka Castle greatly contributed to making Osaka an economic powerhouse. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without these two things, Osaka would not be what it is today. However, neither is as endeared in the hearts of the people of Osaka as Emperor Nintoku, who ruled Osaka long before the Honganji came, or the castle with its political power.
Who Was Nintoku?
The reign of Emperor Nintoku ranged from about 509 to 571 CE. Many emperors before, and after Nintoku frequently moved the capital’s location seemingly on the whim of whichever emperor was in power. Shiga or Nara were often popular locations and each time the capital moved, that meant new palaces would be built as well. It is unclear exactly why Nintoku choose Osaka as his capital. Nevertheless, Nintoku built his palace in the heart of Osaka and named it Takatsunomiya [高津宮].
Unfortunately there is little information about Emperor Nintoku since there was no proper records system in 5th century Japan.
The Rule of Nintoku
One famous story about him says that once Emperor Nintoku went out on his veranda high up in his palace, to observed the city below. When he looked down, he saw there was no smoke rising from the chimneys of the houses below. Realizing the people were poor and had nothing to cook, Emperor Nintoku exempted the people of Osaka from their taxes for three years. Naturally, this made Nintoku very popular with his people.
This popularity is even somewhat alive today. The first line of the official Osaka City song reads:
“Ever since Takatsu Palace, Osaka has prospered for generations, and smoke rises from our chimneys.”
However at that time the shrine was in what is present day Naniwanomiya Park. When Hideyoshi established his court in Osaka, he claimed the area around Naniwanomiya Park for himself. In doing so, he forced the shrine to move to its present location in Namba.
Kouzu Shrine is definitely one of the best hanami places in Osaka. When we visited the shrine in early April, tons of people were enjoying the flowers in and around the shrine.
Kouzu Shrine burned down in both the Siege of Osaka and WWII. After the war it was rebuilt in 1961. Kouzu Shrine enshrines not only Emperor Nintoku, but also many members of his family, namely his grandparents Emperor Chuai and Emperess Jingu.
This building (below) is the Tomitei. Kouzu Shrine has staged many Rakugo plays over the decades, and even now Rakugo plays and other traditional Osaka arts are performed in Tomitei.
If you are fond of the god Inari, there is a shrine for Inari in Kouzu, too. The shrine is called Takakura Inari [高倉稲荷神社] and is one of the most popular Inari shrines in Osaka.
Points of Interest
There are lots of plum trees behind the shrine. This most likely because of the poem Wani wrote for Emperor Nintoku’s coronation (read it here).
This is a particularly nice shrine to visit in the spring, since it offers a couple different kinds of flowers.
Information: Kouzu Shrine
1-1-29 Kozu, Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
20 minute on foot from Namba Station off Nankai/ Osaka Metro Midosuji or Sennichimae Line
10 minutes on foot Nipponbashi Station off Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line
One of the most famous shrine in Osaka, Ikutama Shrine, is located nearby. Make sure to visit there too!