Osaka’s Shomanin Aizendo

On the Uemachi Plateau are hundreds of shrines and temples, many dating back hundreds or even a thousand years, such as Shitenno-ji Temple, Ikutama Shrine, and Kozu Shrine. Among these really old and historic temples, Shoman-in Aizen-do, or affectionately Aizen-san. This temple is not only is quite famous but is dear to the people of Osaka.

 

The History of Aizen-san

Aizen-san dates back to 593 C.E. when Prince Shotoku first built Shitenno-ji Temple. Prince Shotoku also built seven shrines to protect Shitenno-ji, called Shichi-Gu [七宮], along with four additional temples meant to provide various forms of social welfare known as Shiko-In [四箇院]. The Shiko-in were responsible for the following:

Kyoden-in:        Teaching the studies of Buddhism

Seyaku-in:        Growing medicinal plants and helping the sick

Ryobyo-in:        Taking care of the sick with no families

Hiden-in:           Taking care of the poor and orphans

The seyaku-in from among these temples was known as Shoman-in [勝鬘院] and was the precursor of Aizen-san. As the temple gradually became more it popular, it was later known as Aizen-do[愛染堂] for the deity, Aizen Myouou [愛染明王], that is enshrined there.

 

Getting to Aizen-san

Though Aizen-san is a famous temple in Osaka, it can be a bit hard to find.

The most direct route to get there is to ride the Tanimachi Line to Shitennoji Yuhigaoka Station and take exit 4. Once you get to the surface, cross the street and head south in the direction of Osaka Seiko High School.

However, my recommendation is to walk from Namba or Uehommachi Station to Aizen-san. From either station, walk west towards Ikutama Shrine and then go south down Tanimachi Street [谷町筋]. It will take around 20-30 minutes to get to Aizen-san, but by taking this route you will be able to enjoy the historic atmosphere of Osaka’s little known temple district.

Aizen-san is also not far away from Shitenno-ji Temple, so it is convenient to drop by Aizen-san after visiting Shitenno-ji.
 

Temple Grounds

Gate of Aizen-san

Aizen-do burned down during the Ishiyama War, between the Ishiyama Honganji and Nobunaga. Many years later, Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shogun of the Edo Period rebuilt the temple.

Aizen-do hondo

Aizen-do’s hondo enshrines Aizen Myouou, who turns your worldly desires into the self-realizations.

Unfortunately you can only see Aizen-myouou on special occasions, like Aizen Matsuri or O-shogatsu.

Prayer

Aizen-do has a unique way of praying. First, you have to get one of their special pieces of paper near the collection box and write down your hopes and wishes. Then, hold the paper with your hands, lifting them the higher than your nose, and chant “Un, Shicchi, Sowaka” seven times before depositing your paper and money in the collection box.

Aizen Katsura

On the temple grounds just ajar of the entrance, is a tree called Aizen Katsura [愛染かつら]. As you can see, Chinese trumpet vines drape around this large katsura tree. People think the way the vines wrap around the tree is reminiscent of a lovers’ embrace. The tree is therefore a symbol of en-musubi, a concept now almost exclusively associated with romantic destiny.

Another popular en-musubi spot in Aizen-san is this small well called Aizome no Reisui [愛染の霊水]. People believe the natural water from this well holds spiritual qualities and that when consumed, will help a person find true love.

Tahoto [多宝塔]

The most historically important thing on the temple grounds is the pagoda just behind the hondo. This pagoda is the oldest building in Osaka City. The pagoda burnt down during the Ishayama War, but Hideyoshi rebuilt the pagoda in 1597. Since then, it has never remained intact, unlike many other buildings in Osaka.

Aizen-san’s pagoda, or tahouto, the oldest structure in Osaka City

Inside the pagoda is a statue of a very rare 12 armed Buddha called Dainichi-Daishou-Kongo-Son [大日大勝金剛尊]. The statue was commissioned by Hideyoshi and enshrined in the pagoda in when it was restored in 1597. Throughout most of the year, the doors of the pagoda remains tightly closed and only open during Aizen Matsuri.

Aizen Matsuri is the oldest summer festival in Osaka. The festival takes place June 30th through July 2nd every year. Together with Tenjin Matsuri and Sumiyoshi Matsuri, Aizen Matsuri is one of the three big summer festivals in Osaka.

 

Aizen-do Shoman-in

Address 5-36, Yuhigaokacho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture,〒543-0075
Website http://aizendo.com/
Admission Fee Free
Hours of Operation Open Daily
9:00-16:30

Speaking of Aizen Matsuri…

Coming next time,
Summer is here. Time for Aizen Matsuri

The adventure continues…

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