Osaka has changed a lot since the Edo Period, but some of the places that served as the settings for Chikamatsu’s bunraku pieces are still around. The most famous one is Tsuyunoten Shrine, affectionately called Ohatsu Tenjin [お初天神]. In The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, Tokubei and Ohatsu kill themselves in this shrine. After the debut of the famous bunraku play, The Love Suicides of Sonezaki, it became a “pilgrimage for lovers” and attracts individuals and couples seeking eternal love.
The History of Tsuyunoten Tenjin
How the shrine got its name official name,Tsuyunoten [露天神社], is a mystery. A popular theory is that the shrine’s name comes from a poem written by Sugawara no Michizane.
Tsuyu to Chiru / Namida was sode ni / Kuchini keri/ Miyako no koto wo omoi izureba
“When I come to think of Kyoto, I cry so much that my tears look as if they are dewdrops.”
It wasn’t until a tragic lovers suicide occurred in the shrine in 1703. This tragedy inspired budding playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon, to write a bunraku play called “Sonezaki Shinju”.
The play became an overnight hit and today is considered one of the best examples of Japanese theater. Due to the massive popularity of this play this shrine is more commonly known as Ohatsu Tenjin, named after one of the play’s main protagonists, Ohatsu.
Shrine Grounds of Tsuyunoten Shrine
Tsuyunoten Shrine is a short walk from Umeda Station. From the Umeda Midosuji Line, go down the Ohatsu Tenjin Shopping Street and it takes only 10-15 minutes.
Tsuyunoten Shrine is a small shrine now, but it used to be much bigger during Edo Period. Sadly, the destruction of WWII also left much of the shrine in ruin. In order to raise enough money to rebuild the shrine, most of its land was sold off. The shrine is so small it is almost like a surprise when you find it.
Tsuyunoten Shrine enshrines a number of different gods: Okuninushi, Sukunahikona, Amaterasu, Toyouke and Sugawara no Michizane.
Of course, many young people visit this shrine to pray for love after all, Ohatsu Tenjin is a very popular “enmusubi” shrine. Enmusubi the Japanese belief that there is a connection that ties all people together, especially lovers.
There is also a quick overview of the play at the shrine.
In a nut shell, a man by the name of Tokubei is in love with the courtesan Ohatsu. Through a series of unfortunate events, he loans his friend a large sum of money. When Tokubei requests the money back, his friend publicly accuses Tokubei of extortion. Since there is no way to prove his innocence, Tokubei knows he faces either exile or death. Tokubei and his lover Ohatsu deiced to commit suicide, as this is now the only way they can stay together.