Osaka is not generally thought of when prioritizing temples visits. Her neighbor Kyoto, which hosts several thousands of them, rather plays this role of the traditional flagship for the whole Kansai area, if not Japan altogether. However, the concrete metropolis hides some nice surprises and Namba Yasaka Shrine is certainly one of them.
Not quite known, it hides within the alleyways of Nanba district. Not necessarily easy to find without a map, it however keeps the inimitable atmosphere of small religious buildings in residential areas.
For Osaka's Yasaka has not always been that discreet but quite unusual sanctuary as it stands today. Once flourishing vast temple, it was largely narrowed during the Meiji Restoration in 1868, which separated Shinto from Buddhism. Damaged by World War 2 bombings and rebuilt afterwards, he then received what now makes its little fame: Ema-Den, a giant lion head shaped building.
Spanning over 12 meters high and 11 wide, this 獅子舞台 Shishibutai mask distills an impressive figure, which keeps between its teeth a rather classic meditation place. For the anecdote, the giant lion was not built until 1975. It sees two processions pass every year: on the third Sunday of January, inspired by the myth of Susano, and mid-December "Naniwa-Gion".
The rest of the small complex hosts some tiny shrines dedicated to other deities such as Inari. Among the vegetation, some beautiful specimens of sakura allow visitors to admire beautiful cherry blossoms during bloom in spring.
How to get to Namba Yasaka-jinja
By train / subway -- Namba-Osaka station then 5-10 minute walk
By taxi -- Address : 2-9-19 Motomachi Naniwa-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 556-0016 / 〒556-0016 大阪市浪速区元町二丁目九番十九号 (Tél. +81 6-6641-1149)
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 278)
How long / when to visit
Average visit duration: 15 to 30 minutes