If you already read our post about Osaka attractions – day 1 – you have more to learn about Osaka attractions. We covered a lot of ground in one day in Osaka. The next day, we took the JR train to Tokyo and revisited some of our old haunts from when we lived in Tokyo. We now were preparing for our day 2 adventure to see more of Osaka. We were tired from our all-day trip to Tokyo on the previous day but still rose early to fit in a few more attractions in Osaka. Madeline and I were staying at the Hyatt Regency Osaka and had daily breakfast in the Regency Club. We were greeted nearly every day by Kana san who is a team leader. She always greeted us with a smile, asked how things were going, was there anything she could do to make our stay better, etc. It’s a terrific hotel and I highly recommend it. We felt like family members greeted us daily! You can check out our in-depth review of the Hyatt Regency Osaka here.
During our stay, she asked if we could have a picture with her, so we had lots of pictures with her and other members of the Regency Club team. This hotel exudes hospitality so I would highly recommend it to you if you are basing your tourist activities from Osaka.
We came to Osaka to use it as our base for a two week stay in Japan. Osaka has many interesting things to see but it is also very close to Kobe, Nara and Kyoto. If you are more adventurous, like us, you can travel further. We also added Tokyo, Kanazawa and Fukuoka which are all about 3 hours away from Osaka on the Shinkansen.
We had already completed a self-guided tour of Osaka already. You can read that post separately. This is day 2 and it was a bit more adventurous.
On many of our excursions outside of Osaka, we would take the Hyatt Regency shuttle bus to the JR station in Osaka. We did not need the Hyatt Regency shuttle bus this morning. Madeline and I walked over to the Nakafuto subway station. We needed to take the subway to Namba Station.
Since we were in Namba previously on our nightlife tour with Viator, we knew how to get there on the subway from the Hyatt Regency Osaka hotel. This big lion is what we wanted to see today as our first stop.
Since our hotel overlooks the water on all sides, the trip to the mainland is always a bit longer but it is very easy on the subway. We simply walked to Nakafuto station from the hotel and took two subway lines to Namba.
We primarily knew the Namba area for eating, drinking, shopping and karaoke. Shrines were not on the list, but we found a couple you should visit. We found the Tetsugenji Temple and decided that even though it was not on the itinerary, it was worth a stop.
Tetsugenji Buddhist Temple
1-chōme-10-30 Motomachi, Naniwa-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 556-0016, Japan
We saw this temple. It had no signage, and we could not get any closer than a fence.
This is one secretive temple. It has some beautiful images that ask to be photographed. There was no signage for the temple, but we knew the geolocation, so we did some research. The temple was created in 1670.
The Buddha looked interesting and seemed to have some red paint on him.
So, I took a closeup picture. Its original purpose of the temple was a missionary base, popularly referred to as the Tetsumetera. When it was built, it was created with lotus ponds, mulberry fields, and cotton fields in the temple complex.
We noticed what appeared to be a lotus flower on the top of the building and a large red Sanyo clock on the roof as well. A Sanyo clock seemed to be a bit odd on a temple. The lotus flower closeup shows that it was originally gold in color, but it has oxidized a bit so perhaps it was bronze originally?
The street view of the complex was interesting. I saw the big red clock and then what looked like some sort of octopus on the top.
However, when I took a closeup shot, it was a lotus flower.
A street view of the complex was even more interesting.
This temple is just one of those hidden gems you stumble upon when you are trying to find an attraction that is on your radar – or at least Google maps. We continued on to the Namba Yasaka Shrine.
Namba Yasaka Shrine
2-chome-9-19 Motomachi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, Japan, 556-0016
From the Tetsugenji Temple, it was only a few minutes away to our next destination. If we didn’t stop at the shrine, it would have been about an 8-minute walk from the Namba station to the Namba Yasaka shrine. Namba Yasaka is famous for the lion-shaped guardian, which stands out as a unique piece of architecture.
The lion’s head stage was built in 1975 and looks like something you might find in a Disney park. It’s about 40 feet tall and 25 feet deep. The Japanese believed that the wide-opened mouth of the lion swallows up evil spirits of worshippers and calls for victory and success. Many people visit the shrine during exam time or the start and end of the financial year to hope for a better year.
The lion head is the main draw for the temple but from the street, you only see a simple stone torii showing you the way.
Neither of us are very good at selfies but I wanted to get the lion and us in the same frame. You can tell that I’m not an expert in this area.
There was a small cemetery on the grounds as well that was respectfully solemn. We then left to go to Hozenji Temple.
1-chome-2-16 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan 542-0076
This temple was difficult to find, at least for us. If you put it into Google Maps, we could get close, but the cellular coverage is difficult with so many buildings all around us. We asked a local and they pointed, and we were there. We knew we were close!
There was a small Buddha nearby. I’m not sure if it’s related to Hozenji or not. You see the pretty flowers that surround it and the coin offerings in the water. I’m sure that readers of the blog might see what appears to be a swastika. No, this is not a symbol of Nazi Germany.
For the history majors or students of religion, you can appreciate the symbols significance right away. Although the Swastika is often synonymous with the Nazi movement of the 20th century, the Swastika was widely used in ancient times as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire, or life. One of the oldest known Swastikas was painted in a paleolithic cave at least 10,000 years ago. Nazis were not around then.
The word Swastika come from the Sanskrit, and it means “that which is associated with well-being.” Its meaning is one of luck, well-being. It has been used consistently around the world, even in the U.S. as a good-luck charm, especially by early aviators.
The Swastika was utilized in ancient Mesopotamia coinage and appeared in early Christian and Byzantium art. In China, about 2000 years ago, when Buddhism was brought to China from India, the Chinese also used the Swastika. The Swastika is considered to be a Chinese character with the reading of WAN in Mandarin Chinese and MAN in Japanese.
In North America, the Swastika was a symbol used by the Navajos. A Swastika still continues today to be an extensively used sign in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. You will find a Swastika often tattooed on monks in Tibet. The Dalai Lama's throne is always decorated with four Swastikas.
In India people mark their cows, fields, homes, shrines with the Swastika, a sign of good luck and fertility to symbolize night, magic, purity, and the destructive goddess Kali. In Buddhism, a Swastika represents resignation. It is usually found in the images of Buddha on his chest, palms, soles of feet.
The more we travel, the more we learn.
Hozenji is very small – just about the size of your apartment. However, it’s well-known and well-loved. It is most famous for its moss-covered statue of Fudo Myo-o, a wrathful god known as a Dharmapala who a protector and defender of the law is. We have seen other Dharmapalas, and many have stern faces, appearing angry.
Fudo Myo-o is thought to help prevent disasters and fight off enemies, as well as assist in matchmaking and bring luck in business. The first thing we noticed is that there was moss growing all over him and his attendants. When visitors pray to the Fudo Myo-o statue, they throw water on him and the two attendants, a man and a woman believed to be a couple. This has caused moss to grow on all three statues, giving them a magical appearance.
If you are coming for an exceptionally large building, this won’t be your place. However, we saw so many people that were reverent toward this temple and were praying and anointing with water. It’s a special place and is definitely worth your time.
We were ready to move on and take the subway to our next stop – Shitennoji Temple. On our way, we saw this place. It looks like a bar with music as the focus. We see the Beatles, a likely unlicensed picture of the Rolling Stones logo and a Fanny Mae reference similar to the Fanny May candy store in Chicago that Madeline and I knew well when we lived near Chicago.
Maggie mae is a Beatles song whereas Maggie May is more famous as a Rod Stewart song. The Federal National Mortgage Association is commonly known as Fannie Mae. I was done guessing what they meant by this sign. The Japanese treatment of the English language is an enigma and I’m glad for it. Things have to sound right to the Japanese and I’m sure all of this made sense. Who am I to judge? Onward to the Shitennoji temple!
1-chome-1-11-18 Shitennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, Japan 543-0051
It was a fairly straightforward subway ride on the Midosuji line from Namba to Tennoji. It is a bit of a walk back north to find Shitennoji, but Google Maps was helpful as were the yellow signs in the subway for the right exit. Onward to the temple.
Like so many walks toward an attraction, we’d see other things that were on our list but still were interesting. Here is another small shrine next to a parking lot. We peeked in but did not understand the significance. We wish we knew a bit more about reading Kanji but sadly this is beyond the scope of this blog and our ability.
As we approached the temple, we couldn’t miss the two guardians. The gates at Shitennoji Temple are guarded by wooden statues known as Nio or Benevolent Kings. Two Nio are there to guard and protect the temple from evil spirits and demons but also human robbers. Most of Nio that we have seen are made out of wood and are usually housed in their own gate houses to protect them from the weather. We’ve seen them at many temples all over Japan.
The open-mouthed one on the right with his hand down is making the "a" sound and is known as "agyo" and the closed-mouth one on the left is making the "n" sound and is called "ungyo". These are the first and last syllables in Japanese and symbolize beginning and end, birth and death, equivalent to the alpha and omega in Greco-European culture.
On the left, in blue, stands Ungyo, or Naraen Kongo, named for the cosmic sounds of “un” or “om” meaning death; this guardian is a closed mouth figure to shelter and keep in good spirits. The “om’ sound is the end or death. On the right, in red, stands Agyo or Misshaku Kongo, named for the cosmic sounds of “ah” or birth or beginning. The gritted teeth and aggressive expression of this opened mouth guardian figure deters demons and individuals with malicious intent from the gates. These guardians commonly have a very masculine portrayal, appearing furious or malevolent with great strength. However, they are very benign deities.
With the first and last syllables in Japanese the sounds are equivalent to the alpha and omega in Greco-European culture.
For many English speakers, the name of this temple might sound a bit odd, but the history of the place will put the name in context. Shitennoji Temple is Japan’s oldest official temple, founded in 593 by the prince Shotoku Taishi. He was a major figure in Japanese history who played a leading role in introducing Buddhism to Japan. He named the temple after the shitenno. These were four heavenly kings of Buddhist tradition who guard the world from evil. The prince had prayed to these kings during a time of war, and when the war was over he had the temple built to give thanks.
Once we were safely past the Nio, we could see more of the large pagoda.
There is another structure protected by large wooden doors in the complex. This was not something we could visit but it was beautiful.
Another temple building at Shitennoji Temple Osaka Japan
There were beautiful buildings everywhere with colorful foliage.
Though this temple complex has a long history, many of the original buildings were destroyed by fire and rebuilt several times. The outer temple grounds are free to enter, and we took plenty of photographs.
Admission to the inner precinct, the Gokuraku-jodo Garden and the treasure house is a modest fee. The five-storied pagoda can be entered and ascended and in the Main Hall (Kondo) you can see Prince Shotoku enshrined as a statue of Kannon.
This is a splendid temple, and you can spend a long time walking along the grounds. As we exited to our next stop, Issshingi Temple, Madeline photographed what appeared to be a monk outside the temple grounds.
Shinran Shonin – Monk – Jodo Shishu Buddhism
We were not expecting to see this statue as we toured the grounds and headed toward the exit. However, he is difficult to miss. The statue is of a Buddhist monk named Shinran Shonin. Shinran was born in Hino, now Kyoto, at the close of Heian period and lived during the Kamakura period. He was the founder of Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism and also a follower of the prince. We found out later that statues of Shinran are present at the temples established by Prince Shotoku.
Shinran Shonin lived between 1173 and 1263 as a Buddhist Monk of Japan who was a disciple of Genku Honen who founded the Jodo Shinshu (True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism). When we were in Kyoto, we saw the two main temples Higashi Honganji and Nishi Honganji Temples which, together, are the world headquarters of the Jodo Shinshu.
Monk Shinran was born in 1173 in the village of Hino, near Uji, south of Kyoto. At the age of nine, he became a disciple of Buddhism within the Tendai domination. His teacher, Genku Honen, gave him spiritual advice in that each life is regarded as precious and equal and will be saved by the compassion of Amida Buddha through the Jodo Shinshu form of Buddhism. Shinran devoted himself to living and deepening his awareness of the Jodo Shinshu teachings throughout his life.
Since Monk Shinran was a follower of Prince Shotoku, it made sense that he was welcoming us to the temple grounds in honor of the prince. The picture above is the Prince made by an artist from his time.
As we walked on the sidewalk of the street leading to Isshinji Temple, it surprised us to see a smaller version of Monk Shinran standing in front of a store selling items related to the temple. It appeared to be a souvenir shop of sorts, but the Monk was welcoming us again.
2-chome-8-69 Osaka, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, Japan 543-0062
This wasn’t a planned visit in our itinerary, but we’ve learned that when you are in Japan, you might discover a temple that you weren’t planning to see. This one was hard to miss on our way to Tsetenkaku Tower. It’s a large complex but we were both drawn to these sculptures.
Founded in the 12th century, the Isshinji Temple has a lot of history, though rebuilt following the destruction of Osaka during the closing years of World War II, like most other temples and shrines in the city.
The temple surprised us because it was quite modern and built with iron, concrete and steel. It didn’t look like any of the temples we had visited previously. The bronze looking gate is ornate with female figures. The gate and other structures were designed by the current head priest who is also an architect.
This is a statue of Kannon at the temple. Kannon is not a Buddha, but she is a Bodhisattva who is a being who is able to achieve Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for people that suffer. Kannon is extremely popular in Japan, mostly because of she is believed to answer people’s prayers. Many miracles are attributed to her, and many temples are named after her. So, we were not surprised to see her.
Since we were only a short walk from the Shitennoji Temple, it surprised us to see the plaque in English. Hohnen Shonin was the teacher of the monk Shinran Shonin who we just saw. Small world! Perhaps this is why Shinran Shonin’s statue was so close by?
The temple was founded in 1185. With the modern architecture today, we wondered why there were so many visitors. They apparently do not come for the unusual architecture. Instead, they come because it is home to the remains of millions of Osaka residents' ancestors, specifically something called Okutsu Butsu, which translates as "Bone Buddha". The first known example of an Okutsu Butsu is a large statue of Jizo at a temple in Kanagawa which was manufactured in 1700 by a priest who combined crushed bones with clay to sculpt the statue.
By the late 19th century, Isshinji was running out of space to store the urns of ashes brought to the temple and came up with a modern version of Okutsu Butsu. The remains of the departed are combined with a type of resin and the resulting mixture was originally cast as a statue of Amida.
Since that time, six statues were completed by the time of the latter stages of World War II when the temple was totally destroyed by US aerial bombing. Fragments of the six were collected and with more ashes the seventh was completed in 1948. Since then, a further six have been completed with each statue using the ashes of about 200,000 people, so with the ashes of more than a million ancestors making up the statues it is not surprising that so many people visit the temple nowadays. I found it quite an interesting way to appreciate ancestral remains. There are graveyards spread all over the world but here you have over 2.6 million Osaka people represented within 13 statues.
Across the street we noticed another interesting building called the Sanzenbutsudo with a concrete facade. We were told that it housed the golden statues. Eventually there will be 3,000 of them, hence the name Sanzenbutsudo which means 3,000 Buddhas Hall. We took a photo but did not venture in.
We were originally going to take the subway to Tsutenkaku Tower, but we realized we could walk to it just as easily. It would have been a longer walk back to Tennoji station than it was to press on. Google Maps said it was about 15 minutes and it was a bit less. We had good looks at the tower all along the route.
1-chome-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, Japan 556-0002
The tower is fondly known as the Eiffel Tower of Osaka but there was no clear resemblance to us. Tsutenkaku is a new structure, rebuilt after World War II. The original Tsutenkaku was built in 1912, and it shocked the people of that era; with a height of 200 feet. The name, Tsutenkaku, translates into Sky Route Tower. At the time, it was the tallest structure in the East. The locals considered Tsutenkaku the Eiffel Tower of Osaka. But in 1943 a fire broke out in the tower, and it was dismantled to supply steel to the wartime economy. The current Tsutenkaku was erected in 1956. It was designed and built by the architect Tachu Naito, who also coincidentally designed the Tokyo Tower.
We loved seeing the Tokyo Tower when we lived in Japan, so we wanted to be sure we saw this tower. The photo above was taken by our son, Jason, who previously worked tirelessly on this blog and other ones.
The Tsutenkaku tower was originally linked to the Shinsekai market in 1912 and it was a very large tourist attraction. Imagine having the tallest building in the East with a tramway? It must have been awe inspiring.
1-chome-21-12 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, Japan 556-0002
Shinsekai is a colorful area to the west of Tennoji Park packed with shops and restaurants, but it is best known for its proximity to the iconic Tsutenkaku Tower. The area opened originally in 1912 along with the tower. Shinsekai means “New World” and because of its modern image the area quickly became a popular tourist attraction.
The district created the Luna Park amusement park which was modeled on the original Luna Park in New York’s Coney Island. The entire world was changing, and Eiffel led the effort in architecture, but New York and Osaka felt the vibrations and moved to a similar beat.
Most people come to Shinsekai to shop and to see the Tsutenkaku Tower. We were no different. Madeline and I had one more stop to go, and we took the subway back to the Osaka JR station.
We used our Pasco cards to take the Midsosuji line to Osaka Station which took about 25 minutes.
Umeda Sky Building
1-chome-1-87 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka, Japan 531-6023
For our final stop of the day, we wanted to see the Umeda Sky Building and it was only a short walk from the Osaka JR Station
The Umeda Sky Building is a shiny high-rise structure of glass and steel with a very large open window allowing you to see through it. Designed by Hiroshi Hara, the Japanese architect who also designed Kyoto Station, and completed in 1993, the 567-foot-tall building comprises two separate towers joined at the top by a ring-like observation deck. In 2008, the British publisher Dorling Kindersley included the Umeda Sky Building in a “Top 20” list of world buildings that also included the legendary Taj Mahal in India, and Spain’s Sagrada Familia.
The building is multi-purpose with offices, stores, and restaurants. Tourists mainly come for the observation deck named “Kuchu-Teien” or “Floating Garden Observatory.” I’m not sure why they called it a garden because it has no flowers or trees. However, you do get a 360-degree panoramic view of Osaka from the open deck. To access the deck, you enter the East tower and go to the 3rd floor and take an elevator to the 35th floor. The elevator has windows so you can enjoy exterior views along the way.
From the 35th floor you transfer to an escalator which carries you across to the 39th floor of the West Tower. This is where you’ll find a ticket office where you pay 1,000-yen before going up two more floors to the open roof top “Sky Walk.” You will literally be outside so be sure to protect anything that might fly away like unsecured sunglasses, a hat, etc.
It’s a great photo opportunity of the city and worth the short walk and modest fee.
Both Madeline and I were tired from all the walking. It was about a 7-hour day, and we skipped lunch because we had a big breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Osaka
We walked back to the Osaka JR station, and we found our friendly Hyatt Regency bus driver.
We were looking forward to a glass of wine at the Regency Club at the Hyatt Regency Osaka.Enter your text here...
Sunset was approaching and we had a successful day touring. We hope you enjoyed our busy day in Osaka and maybe you’ll try something like it when you visit.