A Pilgrimage for Lovers: Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine

Osaka has changed a lot since the Edo Period, but some of the places that served as the settings for Chikamatsu’s bunraku pieces are still around. The most famous one is Tsuyunoten Shrine, affectionately called Ohatsu Tenjin [お初天神]. In The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, Tokubei and Ohatsu kill themselves in this shrine. After the debut of the famous bunraku play, The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, it became a “pilgrimage for lovers” and attracts individuals and couples seeking eternal love and those wishing brigther future with their special lover. 

 

The History of Ohatsu Tenjin

The history of this shrine is rather a mystery. According to the shrine’s records, Ohatsu Tenjin was built around the time of the ancient Yasoshima Matsuri. Though this is just one source, additional sources do support that this shrine did exist centuries ago.

How the shrine got its name official name,Tsuyunoten [露天神社], is another mystery. A popular theory is that the shrine’s name comes from a poem written by Sugawara no Michizane.

Tsuyu to Chiru / Namida was sode ni / Kuchini keri/ Miyako no koto wo omoi izureba

“When I come to think of Kyoto, I cry so much that my tears look as if they are dewdrops.” 

It wasn’t until a tragic lovers suicide occurred in the shrine in 1703. This tragedy inspired budding playwright Chikamasu Monzaemon, to write a bunraku play called “Sonezaki Shinju”. The play became an overnight hit and today is considered one of the best examples of Japanese theater. Due to the massive popularity of this play this shrine is more commonly known as Ohatsu Tenjin, named after one of the play’s main protagonists, Ohatsu.

The real and fictional occurrences of tragic love in this shrine make it a pilgrimage for couples, and those seeking love.

 

Getting to Ohatsu Tenjin

Ohatsu Tenjin is a short walk from Umeda Station. From the Umeda Midosuji Line, use the south exitand walk towards Whity Umeda East Mall (an underground shopping street). Go up the stairs and use exit 7-65 and you will be right in front of Ohatsu Tenjin Shopping Street.

entrance of the ohtasu tenjin shopping street in Osaka which has a large bunraku doll on the front

Ohatsu Tenjin Shopping Street

Once you enter the shopping street finding the shrine is down a small street on your right hand side. Don’t worry, there are plenty of signs that will help you find the shrine.

entrance to Ohatsu Tenjin and stone steps leading up to shrine framed by shrine banners

Entrance of Ohatsu Tenjin via the Ohtasu Shopping Street

Shrine Grounds

Ohatsu Tenjin is a small shrine now, but it used to be much bigger during Edo Period. Sadly, the destruction of WWII also left much of the shrine in ruin. In order to raise enough money to rebuild the shrine, most of its land was sold off. The shrine is so small it is almost like a surprise when you find it. 

Tsuyunoten Jinja. Location for The Love Suicides of Sonezaki.

Ohatsu Tenjin enshrines a number of different gods: Okuninushi, Sukunahikona, Amaterasu, Toyouke and Sugawara no Michizane.

Of course, many young people visit this shrine to pray for love after all, Ohatsu Tenjin is a very popular “enmusubi” shrine. Enmusubi the Japanese belief that there is a connection that ties all people together, especially lovers. 

Ohatsu Tenjin shinto shrine with visitors coming and going

Ohatsu Tenjin

heart and spade shaped racks where paper wishes are tied and decorated with romantic motifs

References to the love expressed in the play are everywhere.

Ema at Ohatsu Tenjin

two small stone statues of the fictional characters ohatsu and tokubei

Ohatsu and Tokubei statues at Ohatsu Tenjin

Shrines throughout Japan sell fortunes called omikuji. The omikuji are not especially unique, but they do have the most interesting way of dispensing them! 

There is also a quick overview of the play at the shrine.

information board explaining the origins of Ohatsy Tenjin Shrine with colorful characters

Sozenzaki Shinju-abridged.

In a nut shell, a man by the name of Tokubei is in love with the courtesan Ohatsu. Through a series of unfortunate events, he loans his friend a large sum of money. When Tokubei requests the money back, his friend publicly accuses Tokubei of extortion. Since there is no way to prove his innocence, Tokubei knows he faces either exile or death. Tokubei and his lover Ohatsu deiced to commit suicide, as this is now the only way they can stay together. 

statues of famous chikamutsu characters ohatsu and tokubei and a fake cherry blossom tree

Ohatsu and Tokubei

Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine

Address Sonezaki 2-5-4, Kita-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, Japan 〒530-0057
Website http://www.tuyutenjin.com/en/
Admission Free
Hours of Operation Dawn to Dusk, Mon-Sun

Ohatsu Tenjin is an interesting little shrine! It’s a fun place to stop by, either alone or with someone else.

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