These heart-shaped 'ema' (wooden boards where wishes are written), depict Ohatsu and Tokubei and hang in memory of their story (Photo: Saskia Gilmour)

Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine

A lover's sanctuary in central Osaka

These heart-shaped 'ema' (wooden boards where wishes are written), depict Ohatsu and Tokubei and hang in memory of their story (Photo: Saskia Gilmour)
Saskia Gilmour   - 3 min read

Officially called 'Tsuyuno Tenjinsha', the name 'Ohatsu Tenjin' as its known today is evidence of the shrine's romantic past. This story, of two star-crossed lovers, with destinies intertwined, is the reason why so many lovers and young couples continue to be drawn here until this day.

The story is Japan's very own 'Romeo and Juliet'. However, in true Japanese style, the romance is between a prostitute, Ohatsu, and the owner of a soy sauce store, Tokubei. Just like in Shakespeare's play, the romance comes to a tragic end, with the lovers committing suicide at the forests of Tsuyuno Tenjinsha.

Ohatsu and Tokubei's story was brought to fame by Japanese dramatist, Chikamatsu Monzaemon, who developed a bunraku play (Japanese puppet theatre) based on the event. As a result of this story of true love, the shrine has gained popularity with young lovers and couples, the name 'Ohatsu Tenjin' in memory of the story's female protagonist. The lover's story can also be read in detail at the shrine, with information provided in Japanese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Korean, and English.

A variety of orthodox charms can be purchased at the shrine, and also charms especially for couples and marriage. You can also purchase various 'ema' (wooden boards where you write your wishes), in heart shapes, depicting the story's protagonists. More recently, there are also ema in which you are invited to drawn your own face of beauty, and make prayers for a 'true beauty'.

Though Ohatsu and Tokubei's story is what brought the shrine to fame, the shrine also has a rich and distinguished history spanning more than 1,300 years. Along with the nearby Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, Ohatsu Tenjin is one of Osaka's most valuable Shinto relics. It is one of the most significant community sites of the Kita and Umeda areas of Osaka, and is venerated as the protector for the area. The shrine is known to regularly hold events and festivals, including the Mame Make Matsuri (bean throwing festival), Reitaisei Festival (summer festival), and the Naniwa Yaoshima Festival. Ohatsu Tenjin also hosts a flea market on the first Friday of each month. Taking on a retro vibe, 30-40 stalls gather to market wares of great quality and range.

Ohatsu Tenjin is also coupled by the Ohatsutenjin-dori Shopping Arcade. With an energetic atmosphere, the area is the ideal sightseeing, shopping, eating, and playing area. There are a dynamic range of shops, restaurants, and bars, being a popular place both day and night. One karaoke club also has a selection of 'cosplay' costumes, for the most passionate of 'otaku' (the word for Japanese anime and manga fans), for a vibe reminiscent of Nipponbashi's Otaku Street.

Ohatsu Tenjin is probably the most accessible shrine and market area in the Kita and Umeda area. Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine is easily accessible from Higashi Umeda, Nishi Umeda, and JR Kitashinchi and Osaka stations, being just a 5-10 minute walk from each.

Saskia Gilmour

Saskia Gilmour @saskia.gilmour

Saskia is an obsessive compulsive traveler with Japan as her #1 preferred destination. Her appreciation for Japan's unique culture was cultivated through several years of studying the language during high school and also an otaku phase about which she prefers to no longer speak.