Osaka–Sumiyoshi Shrine

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17 October 2011

The Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine in Osaka is one of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines. Exactly how old is uncertain. Its origins are lost in the mists of prehistory, before the introduction of writing

It enshrines three sea gods called the Sumiyoshi sanjin, plus the legendary Empress Jingu who supposedly led a successful invasion of Korea which established a long-lived Japanese colony. (There is no support for this in Korean or Chinese records. The reality might have been something more like a pirate raid.)

The shrine originally faced the harbor but due to nineteenth century “land reclamation” it is now surrounded by city streets and buildings. For centuries every time an emperor sent a delegation to China or a fleet to invade Korea he would go to the shrine to pray for a safe voyage. Later shipping magnates came to make offerings for the safety of their ships.

More recently the kami have branched out and they now sponsor long and happy marriages.

The bridge inside the entrance is very steep, but you can cross it if you walk along the edge of the path near the railings. The center is reserved for deities.

The mikos wear distinctive pine tree headdresses.

The shrine features an ancient architectural style called Sumiyoshi-zukuri.

There are a number of very large “1000 year old” camphor trees, rather reminiscent of the tree in My Neighbor Totoro.

Perhaps they served as inspiration?

This is the oldest library in Osaka. It is not specifically for holy books. In ancient times books were so precious that it seemed natural to keep them in a shrine.

The projecting roof beams on this building have horizontally cut ends which traditionally indicates the presence of a female diety.

The vertical cuts on the ends below indicate the residence of a male diety.

All posts from this trip.

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