Namba Yasaka Shrine and its lion head in Osaka

He Namba Yasaka Shrine (難波八阪神社) It is a true haven of peace despite being a few minutes from the Namba Parks shopping center and the Dotombori area. In addition, it is one of the most curious and peculiar sanctuaries that you will find in Osaka. And unless you know where it is, you might as well pass it by!

Undoubtedly, what has made this sanctuary a popular place is its spectacular lion head lounge, which surprises locals and strangers. The hall, which functions as a stage for traditional performing arts, displays a lion's head with its mouth open to supposedly "eat" evil spirits.

Hall-stage in the shape of a lion's head of the Namba Yasaka Shrine
Hall-stage in the shape of a lion's head of the Namba Yasaka Shrine

Thus, a visit to the Namba Yasaka sanctuary will allow you to get rid of evil spirits and achieve success, victory and good fortune, especially in business or studies. Therefore, it is a very popular shrine at the beginning of April, when the fiscal year and the school year begin in Japan.

We visited this sanctuary in 2003 with friends and without good cameras. Luckily, we visited it again 20 years later, well equipped with photographic equipment to show it to you in all its splendor.

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A very Osaka shrine

There are many who think that Osaka is a city to visit for a few hours, simply to eat okonomiyaki either takoyaki. And, at most, take a walk watching the Dotombori or Shinsekai neon signs, for example.

However, we love Osaka because it offers much more. It is not only food and fun, but Osaka also offers unique architecture, such as the Umeda Sky Building or places of unique nature, such as the Osaka Castle Park, beautiful at many times of the year.

Osaka also has several temples and shrines of interest, such as the impressive Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine or the no less spectacular Shitenno-ji, which often go unnoticed by tourists.

The striking lion head stage of Yasaka Namba Shrine
The striking lion head stage of Yasaka Namba Shrine

And yes, Namba Yasaka Shrine is currently quite popular with tourists. It's still a little hidden gem of the city though. A gem that says a lot about Osaka, a city that we could define as extravagant, striking and provocative which in many cases combines the retro and the shabby with the more traditional. And even with the most modern.

Indeed, the Namba Yasaka Shrine, with its enormous lion head hall is exactly like that: extravagant, flashy and certainly provocative.

If sometimes walking through Osaka you can come to think that you are in a theme park (with those Dotombori and Shinsekai themed facades, for example), entering the Namba Yasaka shrine you will feel the same. It is, without a doubt, a very curious place.

Stage side, with plum blossoms
Stage side, with plum blossoms

Namba Yasaka Shrine stands on the former grounds of a large Buddhist temple complex. However, with the Meiji Restoration and the separation of Shinto and Buddhism, in 1872 the complex became a Shinto shrine in honor of the local deity of the Namba neighborhood.

Unfortunately, the area did not survive the bombing raids of World War II. Therefore, what you see today is a reconstruction from May 1974, when the stage in the shape of a lion's head was built, in honor of the guardian deity of the Namba neighborhood.

Namba Yasaka Shrine main hall
Namba Yasaka Shrine main hall

In the rest of the complex, you will see the main hall, with several beautiful traditional lamps. The curious thing is that, despite being the main room and its beautiful lamps, it goes much more unnoticed. Its architecture is obviously much more traditional than that of the lion's head hall.

You will also see small shrines dedicated to different deities (such as the Inari deity) and different monuments.

One of the most historic is the muzzle plug of one of the 8 guns of the battleship Mutsuwhich sank in Hiroshima Bay in 1943. The battleship appears to have suffered a violent internal explosion that had nothing to do with Allied bombing or attack.

Muzzle plug of a gun of the battleship Mutsu
Muzzle plug of a gun of the battleship Mutsu

This cannon plug or plug was rescued from the wreckage and the spirits of Colonel Captain Teruhisa Miyoshi and the rest of the 1021 officers and soldiers killed in the explosion are enshrined here.

You will also find several plum and cherry trees that, when they bloom, paint everything pink. This means that, especially among the locals, on these dates you find a little more people. But outside of these moments, and despite its certain popularity, the sanctuary remains a quiet place.

Detail of the lamps in the main hall
Detail of the lamps in the main hall

Shishiden, the stage in the shape of a lion's head

The lion head-shaped hall is 12 meters high, 11 meters wide and 7 meters deep. It is built in reinforced concrete on a steel and wood structure. And the exterior is finished with synthetic resin sprayed with copper powder, which gives it that characteristic color.

Since the hall functions as a stage for traditional performing arts, the lion's eyes are lights and the nose is a speaker. Here shows are performed kagura (Shinto dance ritual) and iaido (Japanese martial art) at New Year, as well as all kinds of folk dances such as the Shishimai or lion dance during its summer festival.

Stage, inside the lion's mouth
Stage, inside the lion's mouth

Additional Information

  • The sanctuary is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and admission is free.
  • He third sunday in january a tug-of-war competition is held (or sokatira) in honor of the deity Susanoo, enshrined in the sanctuary. The festival simulates a popular myth in the neighborhood that Susanoo killed a huge snake, managing to free the people of the Namba area.
  • The sanctuary also holds various events at New Year's, as well as its summer festival. You have more information in the website of the sanctuary.
Small shrines dedicated to the Inari deity
Small shrines dedicated to the Inari deity

What to see near Yasaka Namba Shrine

Yasaka Namba Shrine is in the center of Osaka, west of Namba Station. Therefore, there are many interesting tourist spots nearby. We mention some of them:

  • Amerika Mura: Osaka's "American Quarter", with dozens of stores specializing in sports shoes and California clothing. Ideal place to eat street food, too.
  • Dotombori: One of the nerve centers of the city of Osaka, full of neon signs, restaurants and bars.
  • Den Den Town: The "electronic" neighborhood of Osaka, much like Akihabara in Tokyo.
  • Imamiya Ebisu Shrine: Beautiful shrine to the north of Shinsekai, famous because the popular Ebisu Matsuri is held there.
  • shinsekai: With the famous Tsutenkaku tower, it is one of the most "retro" neighborhoods in Osaka. Ideal for eating skewers.
  • Tennoji: One of the neighborhoods that has changed the most in recent years, thanks to the development carried out around the station.
  • Abeno Harukas: Fantastic viewpoint over Osaka, right in one of Tennoji's developments.
  • Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shotengai: Shopping street full of shops specializing in the sale of kitchen items for restaurants, although they also have retail sales where we can buy machines to make takoyakiFor example.
Ema tablets from Namba Yasaka Shrine
Ema tablets from Namba Yasaka Shrine

How to get to Namba Yasaka

Namba Yasaka Shrine is less than a 10-minute walk from Namba Station. However, you can see how to get there using our overview map of Osaka, which you can integrate with your Google Maps.

On our Maps page to travel to Japan we tell you how to do it. Also, on this page you will see all the maps of Japan that we have created for you.

Maps to travel to Japan created by Japonismo

Osaka tourist map

All the points of interest that we mention in this post are marked on the general map of Osaka. This map also includes hotels, restaurants and other recommendations of interest.

Enjoy Osaka and discover all its corners!

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