Shitennoji is believed to be the oldest state-sponsored Buddhist temple of Japan, one of the seven temples built by the legendary prince Shotoku Taishi. The total surface area of Shitennoji is 110,000 square meters and even though the whole area is commonly referred to as Shitennoji, the most accurate definition would refer primarily to the central building on the temple grounds.
The temple itself has a rich and long history, on par with Asuka-dera Temple featured in Nihon-Shoki, the earliest written chronicles of Japan.
The five-story pagoda, the golden hall and the lecture hall are all lined up in one line, with white gravel spread out throughout the temple grounds. Under normal circumstances an entrance fee is required to visit the temple, however for select temple festivities like the days commemorating Kobo Daishi or Shotoku Taishi, as well as spring and autumn equinox festivals visitors can enter the main hall for free. The main temple garden located in the easter part of the temple is said to have been built by the 2nd shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty, Tokugawa Hidetada and is classified as an important cultural property. The garden is divided into two sections, the Amitabha’s Pure Land garden and the Fudaraku garden, quite different from one another but each impressive in its own way. The gardens were created to help believers learn the ways of Buddha and reach salvation in the Pure Land. Even today they attract countless visitors from both Japan and abroad. The Pure Land garden was off-limits to the general public until the early 21st century, however it can be now visited for a modest entry fee.
Even though the Shitennoji Temple alone is a sight to behold, the area in which it is located is famous for its many excellent tourist attractions. Apart from Tennoji Park and the ZOO, there is no shortage of shopping malls, restaurants and more.
Blessings of Shitennoji
Shitennoji Temple bestows various blessings upon its visitors, including but not limited to passing exams and tests, safety of your children and grandchildren, thriving business, wealth and prosperity, healing and recuperation, finding your ideal partner, having a long-lasting happy relationship, warding off disasters and diseases and many more.
Praying to Prince Shotoku directly to have your wish granted is very popular among the temple visitors.
The Pure Land gate of the temple is arguably one of the most prominent physical manifestations of good fortune and is generally seen as a good omen. Its official name is the Saidaimon - great western gate and it was rebuilt after the war due to generous donations by
the founder of Panasonic - Matsushita Konosuke. It is believed that by turning the Dharma wheel adorning the gate clockwise, whilst chanting a specific sutra one will be led to enlightenment. The architectural style chosen by Prince Shotoku is based on the principle of four halls, with each hall fulfilling a specific function. The first hall is the main temple hall designated for worship, whereas the second and third halls focus on medicine and patients, resembling a modern day pharmacy and a hospital. The fourth hall could be defined as an equivalent of a social welfare facility. This very concept was deemed by Prince Shotoku as something the world was lacking yet in desperate need of and is preserved until present day. Every month on the 22nd temple visitors can see a special painting depicting the life of Prince Shotoku.
The Central Garan of Shitennoji refers to the main central buildings comprising Shitennoji, located in the heart of the temple, namely the five story pagoda, the lecture hall and the main hall. To access the area a modest entrance fee is required, however it is highly recommended to stop by here on your visit.
Surrounded by corridors, the central gate, the five story pagoda, the golden hall and the lecture hall are lined up in succession in a very unique style, characteristic for Shitennoji Temple. The pagoda has been ravaged by fires multiple times and subsequently rebuilt throughout history, with the current pagoda being its 8th iteration.
The golden hall, or the main hall houses the principal deity Kannon with the four heavenly kings surrounding the statue. A statue of Amida Buddha and eleven-faced Kannon are on display in the lecture hall. Beyond the main hall lies the Rokujiraisando Hall dedicated to the Buddha of medicine and healing, Yakushi Nyorai surrounded by the four heavenly kings. The name of the hall roughly translates to “the hall of six hourly worships” and is a reference to the prayers to various Buddhas held here multiple times per day. At the entrance to the hall there is a statue of Binzuru installed, that is believed to heal physical ailments of visitors if rubbed. The Omokar-Jizo statue is yet another interesting feature of the temple, if you try to lift the statue of this Bodhisattva and it feels light, then your wish will be granted. However if the statue feels heavy in your hands, your wish might not come true anytime in the near future. At the Ganzandaishido Hall visitors can earn the blessing of warding off misfortune as well as a blessing of passing tests and exams, attracting countless students on the 3rd day of each month when the monthly festivities in the hall are held. The Daishido Hall is dedicated to the famous monk Kukai and enables its visitors to complete the whole Shikoku pilgrimage course of 88 temples right there on the spot. At the Hoteido Hall visitors can earn the blessing of flourishing business or protection of their offspring, by rubbing the gilded statue of the plump monk Hotei. In the vicinity you can find the Daikokudo Hall, home to the three-faced Daikokuten statue that is believed to grant wishes regardless of genre.
Those seeking to ward off diseases and heal their ailments flock to the Mantouin Hall, where you can find a sacred wooden statue that is believed to bring you relief if you pat it in the same spot that is troubling you with a special wooden mallet. For prosperity as well as safety of your offspring be sure to visit the Kiyujima-benten Hall, for general safety as well as improvement of own skills the Bansho Hall, or the Kamei Fudoson Hall for warding off misfortune and granting of your wishes. Gooson Hall bestows the blessing of speedy recuperation and Koshindo Hall improves your luck whilst protecting you from misfortune. With a total precinct area well over 100,000 square meters, it’s not an overstatement to say that you would need almost a whole day to enjoy Shitennoji to its fullest.
Gardens of Shitennoji - Hodoraku
Hodaraku and Pure Land gardens are the two main gardens at Shitennoji. The Hodoraku garden features a pond and is believed to have been constructed in the wake of reconstructions of the Hojo abbot’s quarters as ordered by Tokugawa Hidetada. Small artificial hills and rivers, precisely placed stones, gravel and trees, the garden was designed in such a fashion that all elements are placed in perfect harmony with each other. The view of the garden from the Hojo is splendid and highly recommended especially when the gravel is being raked into the iconic wave-like patterns. Even the western-style building in the garden blends in perfectly into the scenery. The garden itself is however a second incarnation and was built after fires swept through the temple in the early Meiji Period. It is based on a Buddhist metaphor of one road and two rivers, which states that the white road to enlightenment is beset on both sides by a river of fire and water, representing greed and wrath. The garden faithfully brings this metaphor to life, with the Pure Land of the Jodo sect and the ultimate destination beyond the white road being represented by a Lotus pond.
Gardens of Shitennoji - Jodo Pure Land Garden
Also known as the Paradise Garden, the Jodo Pure Land Garden takes its inspiration from the Buddhist proverb of two rivers surrounding a white road. As mentioned above, these represent greed and wrath, with the white road between representing the path to salvation and thus reminding the followers to be careful not to step into and be swept away by either river. Whoever walks on the pristine white gravel shall find his path to the Pure Land - or paradise as believed by Jodo followers. Even if you get captivated by anything along the path and lose your way, as long as you are able to return to the white path you should be able to reach salvation. The lush and stunning garden is supposed to represent the long life filled with various pleasures and distractions and is designed in such a fashion as to draw your attention to its many charms. Stopping to enjoy the view also represents your journey through life, as you may be stopped in your tracks for various reasons. Among the many charms of the gardens there are small rivers and waterfalls blending seamlessly into the scenery, including the Gautama Buddha waterfall that appears in your sight only at a certain angle. This is to represent the fact that sometimes a change of view both in literal and metaphorical sense is indispensable, as well as observing everything from various angles with an open mind. Even though every one of us is unique just like the paths we take, ultimately we all can walk the path to, and reach paradise. The garden truly makes you contemplate the Buddhist teachings as you walk its path.
In the vicinity
Shitennoji on its own is a great spot to visit, but there are also many interesting sites in its vicinity, including sites for the whole family like the Tennoji Zoo and park, Abechika underground shopping mall or the Osaka City Museum of FIne Arts. The Zoo is very popular among the locals despite its rather compact size of 11 hectares as it offers a chance to see the animals from just about the right distance. Among the more than 200 species of animals, the polar bear stands out the most and has been designated the symbol of the Zoo. On the other hand, the Abechika underground mall connects to multiple stations like the Abenobashi terminal and features a wide array of shops focused on everything from fashion to food, divided into sections by respective genres. The Tennoji Park features playgrounds for children, restaurants and cafes as well as wide grass lawns to play on. On its grounds you can also find the Osaka City Fine Arts Museum with a vast collection of over 8000 exhibits.
In the direct vicinity of Shitennoji you can also find other fascinating temples and shrines like the Isshinji, Aizendo Shomanin Temple, Ikutama Jinja, Horikoshi Jinja and many more.
Among them Isshinji is a truly unique and famous temple as its statues incorporate the ashes of tens of thousands of believers. Ikutama Jinja is also quite prominent as it is one of the highest ranked shrines according to the ancient Engi-Shiki imperial regulation. Aizendo Shomanin, famous for its sacred tree, is often sought out by those who seek to find that special someone in their life or create strong bonds with others. Horikoshi Jinja on the other hand is hailed as one of the seven shrines under the governance of Shitennoji and is believed to grant its visitors a single wish in their lifetime. Lastly, Zofukuji Temple is the final resting place of the Susukida Kanesuke who fell during the siege of Osaka Castle, attracting countless visitors who wish to pay their respects at his grave. For a more contemporary experience we recommend visiting the nearby Kintetsu Department Store, with a wide selection of various shops, restaurants and more.
Venue Name: Shitennoji
Business Hours: 8:30 - 16:00
Phone Number: 06-6771-0066
Address: 〒543-0051 Osaka, Tennoji Ward, Shitennoji 1-chome 11
Access: 5 minutes from Shitennoji-mae Yuhi-ga-oka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line
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