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.
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 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.
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
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
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!