Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Osaka
Population
8,804,806

Shitenno-ji Temple

One of Japan's oldest temples where you'll find the cutest pond of turtles and occasionally naked men.

  • Doya Doya Festival Dates: Jan. 14, 2020
  • 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
In the heart of the urban jungle that is Osaka lies a scenic Buddhist temple that claims to be the oldest in Japan. Shitenno-ji Temple, located in the Tennoji neighborhood, is a quiet spiritual refuge with a tranquil turtle-filled pond, annual naked men festival, and the tallest building in Japan, Abeno Harukas, as its backdrop.

Shitennoji Temple Turtles in Osaka, Japan

Photo by: heather marie Turtles!

The overused but not unfounded cliche that Japan offers a unique juxtaposition of traditional and modern wherever you turn is on full display at this ancient holy site.

Shitenno-ji Temple grounds

Shitenno-ji was established in 593 AD by Prince Shotoku, an early and devout supporter of the budding Buddhist religion which had just spread to Japan from China at the time. While its claim to be Japan’s oldest temple is tough to prove, it is indisputably the first to ever have been built by the state.

Shitenno-ji temple in Osaka, Japan

Shitennoji’s five-storied pagoda.

Shitenno-ji is dedicated to the shitenno, four kings of the Buddhist faith who guard the world against evil. Each king also represents a cardinal direction and on the temple grounds, you’ll find a torii (gate) facing each one.

The grounds are grand, with many temple buildings, a pond, garden, and cemetery. It’s normally peaceful and sparsely populated, but the atmosphere becomes lively during festivals and events.

A major feature is a five-storied pagoda in which Prince Shotoku is enshrined as a statue of Kannon, a bodhisattva sometimes called the “Lord of Compassion” or “Goddess of Mercy.” The pagoda can be entered from the Main Hall, however, photography is not allowed inside.

Shitennoji Temple Osaka Japan

The temple is generally peaceful, except for during the monthly flea market and rowdy festivals.

The Gokurakujodo Garden onsite was designed to resemble the Buddhist Paradise. The lush garden is spacious, with walkways, streams, a pond, and plenty of cherry trees for cherry blossom season.

Also on the temple grounds stands the Treasure House, which displays paintings, scriptures, and sacred temple artifacts, many of which are registered National Treasures.

Several buildings on the temple grounds have burned down throughout the years—some several times each. Yet, they all have been carefully reconstructed to stay true to the original 6th-century design.

Doya Doya Festival

Doya Doya Festival Osaka at Shitennoi Temple

Photo by: Roger Walch Oh, Japan.

Things get pretty wacky during the annual Doya Doya Festival on January 14. Celebrating the end of 14 days of worship following New Year’s Day, hundreds of men and boys are doused in freezing water as they complete for paper charms.

The atmosphere is lively with friendly competition as the mostly-naked males shout “doya, doya” as they scramble all over each other. Naturally, the event draws large crowds, so arrive in the morning if you want to get a good spot.

Shitenno-ji Flea Market

Shitenno-ji Temple Flea Market

Photo by: rainywalk Now that’s vintage.

On the 21 and 22 of every month, the temple hosts a flea market. This lively market features food stalls as well as booths selling ceramics, crafts, clothing, and odds and ends.

Many of the goods on offer are antiques, often 100 years old or more, so this is the place to go shopping if you’re into weird, one-of-a-kind finds. With about 300 stalls, each selling something more unique than the next, it’s undoubtedly one of the best places for authentic souvenir shopping in Osaka. Who needs a takoyaki keychain when you can get real Japanese antiques!

Things To Know

Hours and fees

The Shitennoji Temple grounds are open daily 365 days a year from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (until 4 pm from Oct. through March). The temple grounds are free to enter, however, you have to pay to enter certain areas. Chushin Garan (the inner precinct), the Gokurakujodo Garden, and the Treasure House each cost between ¥300 and ¥500 to enter.

How To Get There

Address

1-chōme-11 Shitennōji, Tennōji-ku, Osaka, 543-0051, Japan

By train

Shitennoji is a short walk from Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station on the Tanimachi Subway Line.

It can also be accessed from JR Tennoji Station on the JR Loop Line in about a 15-minute walk.

Where To Stay

Intercity Tennoji apartment
  • Tennoji-ku Shitennoji 1-14-25 Osaka-Shi, Osaka 543-0051
  • 7.9/10
  • 0.2 km
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Bijou Suites Shiki
  • Tennoji-ku, Shitennoji 1-1-7 Osaka-Shi, Osaka 543-0051
  • 8.7/10
  • 0.2 km
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QQ Guest House
  • Tennoji-ku Shitennoji 1-14-17 Osaka-Shi, Osaka 543-0051
  • 7.1/10
  • 0.2 km
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ST Apartment in Tennoji
  • Osaka-Shi, Osaka 543-0051
  • 0.2 km
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