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A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

Although the years have been hard on Shitennoji and few of the early structures stand to this day, the temple complex in Osaka is one of the earliest examples of a site of Buddhist worship in Japan. Located in the heart of the city's Tennoji Ward, the temple has become one of the hubs that life in the city rotates on. Its beautiful grounds welcome locals, pilgrims, and tourists alike.

  • Although there were sporadic visits from Buddhist monks during the 5th century, it was not until King Seong of Baekje, a Korean monarch, sent an envoy of monks, sutras, and images that the Japanese aristocracy began to take note of the new religion. Shitennoji was commissioned by the legendary Prince Shotoku shortly after he was appointed as a regent by Empress Suiko, and the plans were drawn up and construction led by a team of Korean carpenters.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    The Gokurakumon has become a symbol of the temple, as much as the pagoda. Most visitors will approach the temple from this direction. Also known as the Paradise Gate, one can imagine the effect that it must have had on pilgrims a millennia ago. The gate and the buildings of the outer complex suggest the awe that Shitennoji inspired in the 6th century.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    Conceived as a massive complex that could house a university and hospital, as well as lecture halls and shrines, the passage of time has claimed most of the original structures the fact that it stands today, after a millennia, is nearly unbelievable. The temple has become an island of peace in urban Osaka. The temple welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors and pilgrims every year, some coming to stroll the grounds and others arriving only for a glimpse of Gokurakujodo Garden at peak season.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    The temple is divided into an outer and inner complex. The inner complex is home to the Treasure House, Gokurakujodo Garden, and the temple's main hall, lecture hall, and the five story pagoda. Entry to the inner complex is 300 yen, but certain buildings, such as the Treasure House, home to artifacts of the temple, have their own entry fee.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    Although the mighty pagoda still stands in its original spot, visitors are looking at the sixth iteration of the tower. The surprising thing to note about the frequent reconstruction of the pagoda and other buildings on the grounds is that they have been undertaken by descendants of the Korean carpenters that Prince Shotoku first contracted to build the temple in the 6th century. The Kongo Gumi firm that formed after the temple’s commissioning stayed in business for over a thousand years, only recently filing for bankruptcy and being absorbed into the Takamatsu Construction Group.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    For locals, the temple’s main claim to fame apart from being the oldest temple in the city is the turtles. Some say that the turtles are the descendants of pet turtles purchased at festival markets in the city and abandoned by locals to the temple pond. Whatever the source of the reptiles, the turtles have become the chilled out, sunbathing mascots of Shitennoji.

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    A Golden Pavilion for a Faithful Prince: Shitennoji Temple

    Shitennoji is a must see when visiting Osaka, especially since it is so central to the city. The temple is a short walk from central stations like Tennoji Station, Osaka Abenobashi Station, Ebisucho Station, or Shitennoji mae Yuhigaoka Station depending on what line one finds themselves, any of these stations are under a ten minute walk from the temple. Admission to the inner complex is 300 yen, but other sites on the grounds, including the Treasure House and the stunning Gokurakujodo charge their own fees (500 yen and 300 yen, respectively).

    四天王寺
    Address
    大阪府大阪市天王寺区四天王寺1丁目
    Phone
    Tennoji
    Address
    Osaka Osakashi Tennouji-ku Hideinchou
    Phone
    Osaka Abenobashi
    Address
    Osaka Osakashi Abeno-ku Abenosuji 1-chome
    Phone
  • Ebisucho
    Address
    Osaka Osakashi Naniwa-ku Ebisunishi 2 chome
    Phone
    Shitennojimaeyuhigaoka
    Address
    Osaka Osakashi Tennouji-ku Rokumantaichou
    Phone
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