Tsunashiki Ten Shrine dates to 822, when the 52nd emperor, Saga, spent a night at Kamiyama, where the shrine is located. Saga died the following year, and in 843 as an act of mourning his son, Minamoto Toru, built seven halls in the neighbouring Taiyū Temple, and a shrine, the Kamino Daijingu, where his father was enshrined. This in due course became the current Tsunashiki Ten Shrine, which is the only shrine in the country where Emperor Saga is a principal deity.
The other principal deity of this shrine is Sugawara Michizane. In 901, while on his way from Kyoto to exile in Kyushu Sugawara was passing through Osaka Bay when he noticed red plum blossoms in full bloom on the shore. They brought to his mind a poem composed during the reign of Emperor Nintoku (reigned 313-399) which, roughly translated, reads “This flower which blooms in Naniwatsu sleeps through winter blooms again in Spring”. Naniwatsu was a small port in Osaka Bay. To get a better view of the blossoms he strung out the mooring line from the ship in a circle and used this as an impromptu seat to view the blossoms. Mooring line is ” tomo-tsuna” (艫綱) in Japanese, string out is “shiku” (敷く), and the shrine takes its name “Tsunashiki, 綱敷” from a combination of these two expressions.
Emperor Saga 嵯峨天皇
From Merged Shrines
Kitano Inari Shrine 喜多埜稲荷神社
Hakuryu Sha 白龍社
Annual Festival: July 15
Divine Favours (御利益 Goriyaku)
Peace & Abundant Crops (平安豊饒, Heian Hojo)
Improvement in calligraphy skills (Hippo Jotatsu, 法上達)
Success in an entrance exam (Gokaku Kigan, 合格祈願)
Protection against false charges (Enzai Kyusai, 冤罪救済)
Before Sugawara left for Kyushu the family of one of his followers was instructed to stay there and wait for him to return. The family was given the surname Shirae, and were presented with a self portrait of Sugawara and the mooring rope on which he had sat. It is said that all the Tsunashiki Shrine buildings were built to face west, the direction in which Sugiwara travelled from Osaka to Kyushu. The Shirae family settled in the neighbourhood and after Sugawara’s death in 903 they built a small shrine under a red plum tree and named it Umezuka Tenmangu. This is said to be the predecessor of the current Otabisha shrine in Chayamachi.
In 993 Sugawara was pardoned and posthumously given a higher status by the Imperial Court a new shrine, Kamino Daijin-Gu神野太神宮, where Sugawara was the primary Kami, was built. Umezuka Tenmangu was incorporated into the new shrine and was named Otabisha. Later, reflecting the fact that the main shrine honouring Sugawara was Kitano Tenman-Gu in Kyoto, Kamino Daijin-Gu also came to be known as Kitano Tenjin.
During the Warring States Period the shrine was repeatedly destroyed by fire but after one such event in 1461 seven pine trees miraculously sprang up overnight. In recognition of this auspicious event the shrine was rebuilt and soon became known throughout Osaka as a shrine of great spiritual significance. Moreover, the plum blossoms at Umezuka beloved of Sugawara and his followers came to be seen as spiritual trees in the Tenjin faith and their very branches were said to contain mysterious powers.
Coming into the Edo Period the shrine’s proximity to what was then the Saigoku Highway linking Kyoto with Shimonoseki meant that samurai from the western provinces visited and supported it. In particular there are records of the feudal lords of the Saiki domain in Bungo Province and the Choshu Domain donating items such as swords and horses to the shrine. Moreover, the shrine served as a gateway from the Saigoku Highway to the city of Osaka and facilities such as cattle inns and tea houses for travellers and pleasure seekers sprung up.
In the Meij Period, the opening of Osaka Station saw what had been a rural area become rapidly urbanised. As a result of this Otabisha was moved to what is now Chaya-machi, and the administration of Ha Shrine in nearby Kakuda-cho was transferred to Tsunashiki Ten Shrine.
During the second US bombing of Osaka on June 1, 1945 the shrine was burnt to the ground, but amazingly the mooring rope on which Sugawara sat to view the plum blossoms and the self portrait he presented to the Shirae family escaped damage. The current shrine buildings date to July 15, 1956.
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