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Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Osaka Tenmangū: The Shrine in the City to Adore Plum Blossom

In Osaka‘s city center, the Ōsaka Tenmangū Shrine (大阪天満宮) is a convenient spot to adore the plum blossoms. Close to Japan’s longest shopping arcade, Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street (天神橋筋商店街), around 100 plums were planted for the god enshrined, Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真). Because Michizane is worshipped as the God of Learning (学問の神様), many students would visit Ōsaka Tenmangū before their exams.

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Ōsaka Tenmangū’s History

The origin of Ōsaka Tenmangū can be traced back to when Michizane was demoted due to unjust allegations. Before he departed for Dazaifu in Kyushu, he prayed for a safe journey at a small shrine called Daishogun-sha (大将軍社). Around 50 years after Michizane passed away in Dazaifu, seven pines grew in front of the Daishogun-sha. Moreover, the treetops were glowing every night.

The Japanese emperor at the time (Emperor Murakami (村上天皇)) soon heard about the event. Thus, in 949, he went to the Daishogun-sha to venerate Michizane. A shrine was then ordered to be erected for Michizane.

Refer to our Dazaifu Tenmangū article to learn more about Michizane’s life story.

The Must-Sees at Ōsaka Tenmangū

Omote Dimon Gate (表大門)

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As you walk through the shrine’s front gate, Omote Dimon, look up for the giant Shimenawa rope (注連縄) and the finely carved compass (方位盤). The compass is divided into twelve sections, just like a clock. Each section has a zodiac carved on it. Since Michizane disliked chickens, a phoenix replaced the rooster.

Apparently, Michizane didn’t always hate chickens. The hatred came from his sad life experience. Michizane didn’t want to leave his aunt, so on the day he departed for Dazaifu, the rooster crow angered him because it sounded like the roosters rushed him.

Kokudo Shrine (黒土祠)

There is a small shrine at your right after you walk past the gate. The shrine enshrines the God of the Water, Mii no Kami (御井神). The water from the emerald-colored fountain is one of the Top Four Osaka Water Sources in the Edo period.

Tip: If you want to get some sacred water from the fountain, visit Ōsaka Tenmangū between 9 am and 5 pm on the 1st, 10th, or 25th of the month. You can draw water from the sacred fountain after purchasing a water bottle from the shrine office.

Nade-ushi Statue (撫で牛)

Like other Tenmangūs in Japan, you will find a Nade-ushi statue close to the purification fountain. It is said that stroking the cow statue will bring you the blessing of good health on the body part you touched. So, take the opportunity to make your body healthier!

Because so many pilgrims stroke the cow statue, parts of the statue are extra shrining!

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The Tōryūmon Gate (登竜門)

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You will find the Tōryūmon Gate on both sides of the main worship hall. The gates are only opened during a ritual called Honden Tōrinuke Shinji (本殿通り抜け神事). The 10-day event is held between mid-January and March. It is to pray for success in passing exams, finding employment, and career advancement.

To participate in the Honden Tōrinuke Shinji, you need to pay 3,000 yen. You will receive a Success Amulet (合格守) and an admission ticket to Ōsaka Tenmangū’s main worship hall.

Hoshiai Pond (星合の池)

There is a pond on the north end of Ōsaka Tenmangū. It is said that if you meet your partner on the bridge (Hoshiai Bridge, 星合橋) crossing the pond, you will be destined for a lifetime due to the star’s mysterious power. In the Edo period, the bridge was a popular spot for young men and girls to meet.

A simple ritual that can be performed at Hoshiai Pond is coin-throwing. You will find a box of coins around the Hoshiai Bridge called Negai-dama (願い玉). The coins come in six colors:

  • Red: good relationship
  • Yellow: business success
  • White: good health and speedy recovery from illness
  • Blue: success in art-related matters
  • Green: academic success
  • Golden: all kinds of wishes will come true

So, what is the target for the Negai-dama? Look for the six-colored plum blossom in the Hoshiai Pond. If the coin you throw lands on the part of the plum blossom that is the same color, god will bestow the relevant blessing on you.

Note that you have up to three attempts each time.

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Ōsaka Tenmangū Plum Festival

There are around 100 plum blossoms in Ōsaka Tenmangū. The Temma Tenjin Plum Festival (てんま天神梅まつり) and the Bonbai and Sword Exhibition (盆梅と刀剣展) are held from mid-February to the beginning of March each year. Besides the plum trees in the precinct, you can also adore around 50 plum blossom bonsais in the tatami mat-covered room.

During the festival, local specialty fairs and markets with different themes (such as plum wine and antiques) are held in the spacious precinct. A 40-minute Special Shrine Tour was also held on weekends and public holidays at 1:30 pm or 3 pm during the festival period.

  • In 2024, the the Bonbai and Sword Exhibition was held from 9:30 am to 4:40 pm from the 10th of February to the 3rd of March.
    • The last admission was at 4 pm.
  • The admission fee was 700 yen for senior high school students and older and 400 yen for junior high school students and younger.

Osaka Tenmangū’s Tenjin Festival (天神祭)

All Tenmangū shrines in Japan hold the Tenjin Festival, and the Tenjin Festival held by Osaka Tenmangū is counted as Japan’s Three Biggest Festivals (the other two are the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Kanda Festival in Tokyo).

The Tenjin Festival has a long festival period from late June to the 25th of July. Various events and rituals are held during the month-long period. The climax of Osaka Tenmangū’s Tenjin Festival is the fireworks at the Ō River (大川) when about 5,000 fireworks are set off to the dark sky.

Ōsaka Tenmangū’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • Ōsaka Tenmangū is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • Ōsaka Tenmangū is a 5-minute walk from JR Ōsaka Temmangū Station (大阪天満宮駅) and Osaka Metro’s Minami-Morimachi Station (南森町駅).

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