Osaka Tenmangu Shrine

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.

Perhaps most interestingly though is that Tenjin was once a real person by the name Sugawara no Michizane [菅原道真]. Who was Michizane? Read more about him in the link below.

Sugawara no Michizane, Japan’s Most Famous Scholar

 

The History of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine

Osaka Tenmangu stands on the grounds of what used to be Daishogun Shrine.

Daishogun Shrine still stands in Osaka Tenmangu

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.

 

Getting to Osaka Tenmangu Shrine

The closest station to Osaka Tenmangu is Minami-morimachi Station off the Tanimachi Subway Line. The JR Osaka Tenmangu Station off the JR Tozai Line is also nearby. Since the Tanimachi Line goes to Umeda and Tennoji, two of the biggest stations in Osaka, I think it would be more convenient to take Tanimachi Line. However, my recommendation is to head to Tenjinbashi-Suji 6 Chome Station (locally called Ten-Roku) 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.

 

Shrine Grounds

Osaka Tenmangu shrine on a clear day
Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, Main Gate

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.

Not a chicken

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.

Tenmangu cow

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

February is a great time to visit Osaka Tenmangu Shrine to see all the lovely plum trees in bloom!

Read more about Japan’s love of plum blossoms here.

The Plum Blossoms of Kozen Koen in Sakai, Osaka

Tenmangu’s honden completely burnt down during the Oshio Heihachiro Rebellion of 1837, but was rebuilt after 1845.

Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, honden
Toryumon Gate

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.

 

Smaller Shrines

Ebisu Senden

Ebisu Senden. A senden temporary shrine, meaning the god honored at the senden is only present during certain times of the year.

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. 

Hoshiai Pond

Hoshiai Pond

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.

 

Osaka Tenmangu Shrine

Address 2 Chome-1-8, Tenjinbashi,
Kita Ward, Osaka Prefecture,
〒530-0041
 
Phone Number 06-6353-0025
Hours of Operation Open 7 days a week
Dawn to Dusk
Admission Free

Coming next time,
It’s time for Tenjin Matsuri!

The adventure continues…

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