There are many shrines to Tenjin, the god of study all over Japan. These “Tenmangu” shrines are very popular in part because they naturally attract many high school students who wish to pass university entrance exams. Of all the Tenmangu shrines in Osaka, Osaka Tenmangu Shrine is the most famous.
The History of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
Osaka Tenmangu stands on the grounds of what used to be Daishogun Shrine.
When Emperor Kotoku built Naniwa Palace in 650 C.E., Daishogun Shrine was built to protect the palace for evil spirits.
On his way to Dazaifu, Michizane visited Daishogun Shrine. Then, after his death, seven glittering pine trees grew around the shrine. Upon hearing about this unusual occurrence, Emperor Murakami built Osaka Tenmangu around Daishogun Shrine in 949 C.E.
Inside the main gate of Osaka Tenmangu is an elaborate carving of the Chinese zodiac. Look closely to the side facing west. In ancient maps the western direction [酉] is classically represented with a chicken. Here however, there is clearly a phoenix facing west and not a chicken. In fact, if you pay attention to any Tenmangu Shrine in Japan you will notice this trend.The reason for the switch; it seem Michizane hated chickens.
For as much as Michizane hated chickens, he loved cows. Michizane thought cows were very distinguished and noble animal, but there is yet another reason you will find cows in Tenmangu Shrines.
After his death, a cart arrived to transport Michizane’s remains from Dazaifu however, the cow lay down and refused to budge. Everyone saw this as a sign that Michizane’s spirit was a peace in Dazaifu.
Sugawara no Michizane also loved plum blossoms, so the crest of any Tenmangu shrine is always a plum and there is usually at least one plum tree in all Tenmangu shrines.
Tenmangu’s plum crest
Tenmangu’s honden completely burnt down during the Oshio Heihachiro Rebellion of 1837, but was rebuilt after 1845.
This gate (above), called Toryumon Gate [登竜門], is said to bring you good luck. During several festivals throughout the year, the shrine will open the gate and allow visitors to pass through. The toro next to the gate was made in 1613.
Osaka Tenmangu built the senden in order to honor Ebisu during certain times of the year. The most notable is during Tooka Ebisu when Tenmangu also participates in the festivities and is one of the many shrines you should try to visit during the festival.
Behind Osaka Tenmangu is Hoshiai Pond [星合池]. This is pond is a local en-musubi spot. If a man and a woman meet on Hoshiai Bridge, they will be able to form a lasting relationship. There is also an udon restaurant near the pond that is popular when hopeful students come to Osaka Tenmangu.
Information: Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
|2-1-8, Tenjinbashi, Kita Ward, Osaka Prefecture|
|5 minutes from Osaka Tenmangu off JR Tozai Line or from Minamimorimachi Station off Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line|
|My recommendation is to head to Tenjinbashi-Suji 6 Chome Station and walk down Tenjinbashi Suji Shoutengai, the longest shopping street in Japan, to Osaka Tenmangu.|
It will probably take an hour or so from Ten-Roku Station to walk to Temnagu Shrine, but I think you can enjoy a more authentic Osakan atmosphere on this shopping street since many tourists either do not know about it, or choose not to visit this shopping street.