Looking for a list of the best shrines in Osaka? There are many! This is a very popular topic, so you\’ll find a lot of blog posts and articles with different recommendations. For the purpose of this post, I\’ll be sharing some I\’ve visited recently and I\’ll update as I continue to explore. The ones on this list have special personal meaning, so your experience may be different.
When I visited Japan growing up, there was so much my young eyes didn’t understand. As an adult, I can more fully appreciate the incredible spirituality that can be found everywhere, from busy city streets to quiet residential neighborhoods. Recently, I went on a soul-searching, solo adventure and visited some places that a student recommended. I\’m excited to share what I found!
Shrines vs Temples
Before you start exploring the best shrines in Osaka, let\’s cover a few basics. Most people who come to Japan use the terms “shrine” and “temple” interchangeably. This isn\’t appropriate, however. Shrines and temples are not the same, and it’s important to understand the difference.
Temples are associated with Buddhism, which is adopted from different countries and cultures. It’s not indigenous to Japan, and since we’re not talking about temples in this post, I won’t go into detail. If you’re curious and want to learn more, this post from Japan Guide offers a good overview!
Shrines are associated with Shintoism, a belief system that is native to Japan. As the website for Tokyo’s famed Meiji Shrine explains, “Shinto is Japan\’s ancient original religion, and it is deeply rooted in the way of Japanese life. Shinto has no founder, no holy book, and not even the concept of religious conversion, but Shinto places value in harmony with nature and virtues.” For more, please read this excellent guide to Shinto in Japan.
Terms to Know Before Visiting a Shrine
Seeing the word “jinja” everywhere? It means “shrine,” and basically means that you’re at a Shinto place of worship. Taisha (like Fushimi Inari Taisha) means “grand shrine.” There are more than 80,000 jinjas across Japan.
The word “kami” is used to describe the native deities or gods in Shinto. Each jinja has its own enshrined kami that are associated with specific powers, benefits, and/or blessings. Some people seek out certain shrines because they want to worship or pray to specific kami.
Almost every shrine has a booth where you can buy various items. One of the most popular is the omamori. They look like little fabric pouches and come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Each one is associated with a specific blessing such as “traffic safety,” “wishes come true,” or “school success.” Treat these special items with respect, do not open them, and do not throw them away. Most temples will accept omamori and dispose of them correctly.
You\’ll see wooden plaques in different shapes based on the shrines you visit. Worshippers can write their wishes or prayers on these plaques before they are burned in a ritual by the priests.
Shrines sell these fortune-telling papers that are said to predict the near future. Honestly, I don’t fully understand how these work so I tend to avoid them unless they are simple/easy to translate (like the ones on this list!). For more details, check out this easy explanation of Japanese omikuji.
Along with omamori, this is one of my favorite things about visiting a shrine. Goshuin are stamps or seals that are added to a special book. Traditionally, they are added by a shrine worker by hand, but due to the pandemic, some seals are given on a piece of paper that you have to print at home.
While I personally think you should buy the book at a favorite shrine, you can buy them elsewhere (like this softcover goshuin book and hardcover goshuin book), even on Amazon. Some people have a list of the best shrines in Osaka solely based on the types of goshuin they offer!
You may see signs for or hear people talk about an upcoming matsuri. This is the Japanese word for festival. These events are often held by local shrines and temples, but they can be secular also. Different regions have different matsuri, so if you’re planning a visit or moving to Japan, it’s worth doing some research to find events in your area! If you like music, you might enjoy the video for the song, “Matsuri” by popular Japanese artist, Fujii Kaze.
I’ve got a real love/hate relationship with the term “power spot,” which is used to describe a location that contains a lot of powerful, spiritual energy. On the one hand, it’s an accurate description. On the other hand, it kind of makes visiting these shrines feel like playing Pokemon Go. I’d much prefer “sacred spot” because it feels less commercial, but I don’t control the Universe. Thankfully.
Best Shrines in Osaka for Love and Healing
So, when my student suggested three of these four shrines, I didn’t do any research. I wanted to be surprised. They simply said I should check out Nunose Jinja, Himejima Jinja, and Tsuyu no Tenjinja without much explanation. While I mapping out my route, I spotted Sumiyoshi Taisha and added that one myself.
It turns out, several of these shrines are good for love and matchmaking. If you’re single (and looking), mending a broken heart, or maybe even trying to love yourself a little better, these are fun places to visit. Overall, though, shrines in general can be good for contemplation and reflection when you’re trying to heal and move forward. It was a great day for me!
- Location: Minami-Osaka Area (map)
- Date Established: Built in the early Edo period and restored in 1983
- Why people visit: Nunose Jinja is famous for its unique omikuji. The messages, designed by artist Hiroko Ichihara, are simple but impactful.
There were so many things that were fun about visiting Nunose Jinja. I\’m glad it was my first shrine of the day. The train I took down to Nunose Station was old-fashioned and the route was quiet. It felt a bit like I was going back in time. Then, the walk to the shrine was also lovely. Far from the city, the laid-back atmosphere really set the tone for my visit.
- Location: Sumiyoshi/Tezukayama Area (map)
- Date Established: 211
- Why people visit: People often visit Sumiyoshi Taisha to pray for health and prosperity.
It’s easy to understand why Sumiyoshi Taisha is considered one of the best shrines in Osaka. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, there’s a lot to explore, and you can really feel the history. There’s a little area where you’ll see people searching for power stones. If you find all three (there are instructions on-site), you can buy a little pouch to keep them safe. If you make a wish and it comes true, bring the stones back to the shrine and give thanks!
- Location: Bentencho/Osaka Bay Area (map)
- Date Established: Unknown, but there are 10 stone lanterns in the precincts from the 5th year of Shoho (1648) to the end of the Edo period.
- Why people visit: Himejima Shrine is popular with people who want a second chance. This definitely appealed to me!
The sun seemed so bright and the sky was so clear when I visited Himejima Jinja. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful moment to pray for a fresh start. Recently, because I was afraid of my feelings, I made a mistake that I truly regret. I don’t know if I’ll get a second chance, but it was worth asking. I can definitely understand why people visit Himejima! Aside from that, this shrine had a really cool vibe and the ema, which are normally wooden plaques where you can write wishes, are actually scallop shells!
Tsuyu no Tenjinja
- Location: Umeda Area
- Date Established: Unknown, but the shrine\’s Naniwa Yasoshima festival can be traced back to the third year of the Kasho era (the year 850)
- Why people visit: Popular among those who are seeking love.
As mentioned, Tsuyu no Tenjinja is one of the shrines a student suggested I visit. I didn’t know what to expect but nothing could have prepared me for what I found. The story brought tears to my eyes! In 1703, star-crossed lovers, the geisha Ohatsu and the apprentice trader Tokubei died by suicide within the boundaries of the jinja as a pledge to their eternal love. As such, many refer to the shrine as Ohatsu Tenjin in tribute to the heroine of this tragic love story.
According to the official website, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the couple’s suicide, a parishioner donated 1 million yen in Ohatsu’s name. Other donors were inspired to do the same, and in April 2004, the funds were used to build a beautiful bronze statue. This outpouring of love and support is a clear sign that this is one of the best shrines in Osaka.
When I first arrived at the shrine, it was mid-afternoon and very quiet. Briefly, I left to find an ATM and by the time I returned, it was pretty busy. There was a buzz in the air while singles made wishes and couples made promises. When I approached the booth to collect a goshuin, it felt like the worker was waiting for me!
Even though there were many people around, he came out and helped me choose my omikuji and goshuin. He felt like a really happy person, and despite the language barrier, we shared quite a few laughs. The interaction gave me a really warm feeling and I’d love to visit Tsuyu no Tenjinja again. It was a great way to end my day!