Shitenno-ji’s inner area called the garan, is certainly the highlight of the temple, but there are many other places to see besides the garan in Shitenno-ji. Today, we are going to explore several famous spots in Shitenno-ji that can go unnoticed by many visitors. Fortunately, all of these places, except the garden, are free of charge!
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Shintenno-ji Temple: Outer Grounds Iconic Buildings
The Rokuji-do got its name because monks held memorial mass six times a day in this building. The building itself was built in 1623 and moved from the other temple. The dieties in the Rokuji-do are the statues of Yakushinyorai [薬師如来坐像] and Shitenno[四天王像]
Even though it is not inside the garan, the Rokuji-do is one of the main buildings in Shitenno-ji and many ceremonies take place here. One famous event is Doyadoya, a traditional festival in Osaka, held in the early January. And yes, they are basically naked.
In front of the Rokuji-do, is the famous pond, Kame no Ike [亀の池]. As the name suggests, there are dozens of turtles in the pond!
Today, the Eirei-do enshrines the souls of those who died in WWII, but it used to house the biggest bell in East Asia.
The bell was made to commemorate the 1,300 years since Prince Shotoku’s death in 622. During WWII, the government ordered the bell melted down in order to use the metal for the war.
Though the bell is completely gone, a popular souvenir is a bell shape manju, called Tsurigane Manju. The shop by the same name, is located very close to Shitenno-ji’s west Torii gate.
Shorei-in, also called Taishi-den, enshrines the soul of Prince Shotoku. Statues of the prince as a young boy are in the front and the back of the building, but unfortunately, they are only visible to the public on special occasions.
If you are lucky enough to come to Shitenno-ji on the 22nd of any given month, and walk behind the Seirei-in. There you will find the secret little shrine for Mononobe no Moriya, the Moriya-do. Mononobe no Moriya fought against the prince Shotoku and Soga clan as to whether Japan should accept Buddhism or not.
When you visit the Seirei-in, be sure to check out the Tora no Mon [虎ノ門] and the Neko no Mon [猫ノ門]. Both of these gates have very unique carvings. The tiger wards of bad spirits, while the cat wards off mice.
The Hotei-do is the little temple right next to Shitenno-ji’s west gate. As the name suggest, this little temple enshrines Hotei, one of the Seven Happy Gods, but also famous for breast milk.
It is quite curious as to what connection Hotei has to breast milk, but it is probably because this temple originally enshrined Prince Shotoku’s wet nurse.
Shitenno-ji Temple’s Hidden Garden
Gokuraku Jodo Garden [極楽浄土の庭]
A little not well known secret about Shitenno-ji is it has a beautiful garden! The garden is located in the far corner of the temple, and is therefore a little inconspicuous However, during sakura season the garden is especially lovely. As a matter of fact, I think it’s one of the nicest places in the city during cherry blossom season, especially since its not crowded.
The theme of the garden is based on the Chinese Buddhist story “The Two Rivers and the White Path”. The path in the garden is between the two rivers, the Mizu no Kawa [水の川] and the Hi no Kawa [火の川], which represent greed and hatred, respectively. The path between these two rivers is symbolic of the path to enter heaven (Gokuraku-jodo), and is only visible to those who seek it.
Coming next time,
Step up your game at a full-course takoyaki restaurant! Takomasa Chikusuitei
The adventure continues…