The sprawling picturesque grounds of Sumiyoshi Taisha look plucked straight from a storybook. Also known as Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, it’s one of the most famous in Osaka and the site of many of the nation’s most important religious rites and traditions.
Founded in the third century, the saga of the shrine stretches over a thousand years. It is steeped in history —it was mentioned in Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), the world’s oldest novel.
A brief history of Sumiyoshi Taisha
Sumiyoshi Taisha is a Shinto shrine that embodies Japan’s ancient animistic religion. Three prominent Shinto deities are enshrined here, including the spirit of legendary Okinagatarashihime no Mikoto, known as Empress Jingu. The Sumiyoshi deities protect sailors and fishermen—though now landlocked, the shrine once faced the sea. There are over 2,000 Sumiyoshi shrines scattered across Japan, but Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most important, acting as the headquarters of the seafaring Sumiyoshi tradition.
The architectural style is famed for its rarity and beauty. Draped in striking vermillion, the shrine buildings encapsulate an ancient Japanese architecture called Sumiyoshi-zukuri which came about before influences from countries like China and Korea blended with the local culture.
A beautiful bridge called Sori-hashi is one of the most gorgeous features of the shrine. It’s nicknamed Taiko-bashi because when the curved structure reflects on the water below, it forms a round shape reminiscent of a drum.
A site of religious pilgrimage
During hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year), Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most visited of all Osaka’s shrines. Tens of thousands of people flock here over the first few days of January as an act of religious pilgrimage. Food stalls and gaming booths are scattered among the grounds as people pray for good luck and draw their omikuji (paper fortune) for the year. It’s an incredible experience despite being extremely crowded.
Every summer, the Otaue Rice Planting Festival draws visitors to the shrine to pray for an abundant harvest through ritual rice planting and elaborate dances.