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.
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’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 new year days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Information: Aizen-do Shoman-in
5-36 Yuhigaokacho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka
The closest station is Shitennoji Yuhigaoka Station of Osaka Metro Subway Line.Take exit 4 and once you get to the surface, cross the street and head south in the direction of Osaka Seiko High School.
From Namba or Uehonmachi station, walk towards Ikutama Shrine and then go south down Tanimachi Street. 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.