Namba Yasaka Shrine
This secret shrine is Osaka in a nutshell.
While the Namba area is known for many things; eating, drinking, shopping and karaoke to name a few – shrines and temples aren’t exactly at the top of the list. However, explore just a bit beyond the noise and neon and you’ll discover something that’s dazzling in an altogether different way.
A mere 8-minute walk from busy Nankai station, the Namba Yasaka shrine is the home of the Namba’s guardian deity and part of a once flourishing complex of Buddhist temples that were burned down in wartime air raids.
Namba Yasaka is famous for its lion-shaped stage, which stands out as a unique piece of architecture, especially compared with the austere temple beside it. It’s not hard to draw a parallel with Osaka’s kaleidoscopic mix of traditional, retro, modern and futuristic, distilled at this secret shrine smack in the center of the city’s bawdiest entertainment district.
The lion’s head stage was built in 1975 and has a delightfully retro feel, as striking as something you might find in Las Vegas or a theme park. It stands 12 meters tall and 7 meters deep. It’s believed that the huge lion’s mouth swallows evil spirits and thus brings good luck, especially for those looking to do well in school and business. Because of this many people visit the shrine during exam time or the start and end of the financial year.
The 3rd Sunday of January marks the shrine’s annual festival, during which a huge tug-of-war competition is held. This is to simulate the myth that the shrine’s deity once killed a giant snake that brought peace to the people of what is now the Namba area. The ritual is Osaka city’s first designated intangible folk cultural property.