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  • Writer's pictureEryn Gordon

Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine: The Story of Ohatsu and Tenjin's Doomed Love

Updated: Nov 3

Hand-written notes from the Tsuyunoten shrine in Osaka
Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine

Turn a corner and look down the alleyway. Instead of a street, you find a hidden oasis of moss and flowers. Look up and there are Torii gates you hadn't seen earlier. Look ahead and there are prayer ropes suspended from the ceiling with fresh spring water trickling through bamboo chutes.

Like most neighborhood shrines, they're located in the most unassuming places, usually wedged between buildings or down narrow pathways.

The same can be said for the unassuming Tsuyunoten Shrine in Osaka. This shrine holds a sad story about two star-crossed lovers and remains today as a sanctuary for couples. Keep reading for a history of Ohatsu and Tokubei, the inspiration behind Tsuyunoten, and where to find this shrine.

The Story of Ohatsu and Tokubei

A strone sculpture of Ohatsu and Tokubei, the doomed lovers in a famous Japanese play
Stone sculpture of Ohatsu and Tokubei

Trigger warning: suicide

In 1703, a double suicide among lovers took place in the shrine and inspired playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon to write The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (曾根崎心中). The play became an overnight success and is still regarded to this day as a classic piece in Japanese theater. While the story is sometimes compared to Romeo and Juliet, the stories are significantly different.

(Note that for brevity's sake, the below synopsis is super, super condensed. For a full outline of the plot broken down into its three scenes, check out the Wikipedia page here).

For the main characters Tokubei and Ohatsu, it was love at first sight. However, Tokubei, an apprentice for his uncle, is arranged for marriage with his aunt's niece. Tokubei strongly rejects the marriage arrangement against his uncle's wishes, enraging and dishonoring him. His uncle then fires Tokubei from his firm, demands he pays a debt owed to him and threatens to exile him from Osaka. After earning the money he owes his uncle, Tokubei lends it to his friend with the understanding he would be paid back in time to give the money to his uncle.

Except, his friend denies he was lent any money and accuses Tokubei of attempting extortion. Then his friend spreads that same rumor to Ohatsu and her colleagues. The friend boasts about how much trouble Tokubei is in and thinks he'll be executed.

Later in the evening, Ohatsu and Tokubei leave together for the forest and commit suicide under an unusual tree that is both pine and palm.

An ivy lined pathway inside of Osaka's shrine for lovers
Inside the shrine

The Shrine

Following Monzaemon's finest play, the Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine stands now as one of the most popular shrines in Osaka. Couples from all over the world make a pilgrimage here to bless their relationship and say a prayer.

Where to Find the Tsuyunoten Jinja Shrine

A street entrance that leads into a shrine in Osaka
Entrance into the shrine

Located in the Umeda district of Osaka, a five-minute walk from the Higashi-Umeda station will bring you here.

As mentioned earlier, this shrine is hidden in plain sight. You can find the Torii entrance gates between the sliver of two office buildings. Coming across it is one part chance and one part observation. If you're looking down at your phone the whole time, you won't see it.

What to Do at Tsuyunoten Shrine

Once you arrive at the shrine, you can start by rinsing your hands at the pool where fresh water pours from bamboo chutes.

Water pours into a stone well from bamboo chutes at a shrine in Osaka
Water pours from bamboo chutes

Then you can buy a wooden plaque for a few yen and write a message on it. You can also purchase good luck charms and a paper that, if rinsed under water, shows a secret fortune.

However, if you're not interested in spending money, you can walk around the shrine for free or say a prayer.

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