Nestled in the vibrant city of Osaka, Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine is a beacon of spiritual and historical significance. Dedicated to the Inari deity, the shrine is deeply intertwined with local legends, cultural practices, and the spiritual life of the community. Join us as we delve into the fascinating heritage of Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine, exploring its storied past, unique traditions, and enduring significance in the heart of Osaka.

Millenial History

Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine’s origins trace back to 12 B.C.E., during Emperor Suinin’s reign, when it was dedicated to Shitateru Hime. A notable tradition links the shrine to Shotoku Taishi, Japan’s first regent. In 587, while battling the Mononobe clan over the acceptance of Buddhism, Shotoku planted a piece of white chestnut wood in the shrine’s ground, declaring, “If I will win, let this stick bring forth leaves”. Remarkably, the stick sprouted leaves, and Shotoku emerged victorious, solidifying Buddhism’s place in Japan.

Despite being destroyed by fire during a 1576 battle and later during the fall of Osaka Castle in 1615, Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine was repeatedly rebuilt. When Hideyoshi constructed Osaka Castle, the shrine became its protector, known then as Toyotsu (Abundant Bay) Inari Shrine. It also housed several Buddhist halls, including a renowned Kannon Hall, which became part of a local pilgrimage route celebrated in a Chikamatsu play.

The shrine faced numerous challenges, including another destructive fire in 1863. After being rebuilt in 1870, Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine gained the rank of village shrine and was elevated to a prefectural shrine in 1928. The shrine was completely destroyed in the 1945 bombing raids and was reconstructed in ferroconcrete in 1954.

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The shrine’s shop sells clay fox dolls, said to be able to look after your house while you are away, and to pray that the it will be a peaceful place. They also sell a very cute Goshuincho based on the Love Fox theme.

Ukanomitama and Inari

The son of Susanoo, Ukanomitama no kami, often simply called Ukanomitama, is associated with foodstuffs, particularly rice and other grains, as well as fertility, growth, rebirth, and productivity. In Shinto, grains are regarded as the essence of life, providing energy and nourishment from the Earth. Thus, Ukanomitama’s influence is believed to enable all life.

The Nihon Shoki recounts how Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, on Amaterasu Omikami‘s orders, visited Ukemochi no kami in Nakatsukuni, a land of reed plains. Ukemochi served various foods from his mouth, and within his body, millet, rice, barnyard millet, wheat, soybeans, cows, horses, silkworms, and other creatures were transformed. This deity is worshipped as the origin of grain seeds. According to the Kojiki, she is identified as Ogetsuhime, born from the union of Izanagi and Izanami, and Toyoukehime. Toyoukehime is enshrined at the Outer Shrine of Ise as the miketsukami (food goddess) of the Imperial Grand Shrine of Ise. Even today the connection to Ise is present at Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine, as it serves at the starting point of the Ise pilgrimage.

At most Inari shrines, the kami most commonly identified as Inari is Ukanomitama.

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Love Fox ema. Foxes, messengers of Inari, are said to stay with their partner and live happily ever after. Love Fox represents deeply-in-love fox couples forming a heart shape while cuddling. It signifies strong-ever-lasting love.

Inari worship was integrated into Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine during the late Heian period. By the Muromachi period (1392-1568), the shrine enshrined Inari Goko Daimyojin, or the “Inari of Five Happinesses”.

Being originally located in the Sannomaru area of Osaka Castle, Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine hall unusually faces west, a design choice said to symbolize the shrine’s role in overseeing Osaka’s economy. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who founded the city of Osaka, revered the Inari deity and established this shrine as the guardian deity of Osaka Castle. Many religious ceremonies at Osaka Castle were conducted by the priests of this shrine.

Since ancient times, Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine has been cherished by worshippers as Goko Inari Daimyojin. During the Edo period, locals referred to it as Motoinari due to its long history. Unlike many Inari shrines, it does not directly enshrine a branch of Fushimi Inari Taisha. The Inari god was particularly venerated here because Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a devout follower of Inari, relocated residents from Fushimi to Tamatsukuri.

From the Edo period until the end of World War II, foxes were a common sight around the shrine. Locals would leave offerings of fried tofu and rice with red beans along Inari-suji, the road connecting Osaka Castle and the shrine, while calling out “Nosengyo-ya!” which means “field alms here”.

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Shinyama Inari Shrine on the left and Manken Inari shrine on the right.

Exploring the Shrine Grounds

Manken Inari Shrine and Shinyama Inari Shrine

During the Tokugawa period, numerous Inari deities enshrined in various residences within Osaka Castle were consolidated into a single shrine by Toda Osumi. Manken Inari Shrine was then relocated to its current site during the Kyoho era.

In the 11th year of the Kansei era, Osaka Castle lord Matsudaira Terukazu established Shinyama Inari Shrine. Originally built in Shimizudani Higashino-cho, which was the castle lord’s residence, the shrine was later moved and enshrined at its current location in 1907.

Itsukushima Shrine

The deity enshrined at Itsukushima Shrine is Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto, a goddess born from the meeting of Amaterasu and Susanoo at the River Yasukawa in Heaven, where they made a vow to each other. The legend tells that when Amaterasu took Susanoo’s sword, broke it into three pieces, rinsed it in water, and breathed on it, her breath turned into mist, which dispersed and gave birth to Ichikishimahime. She is revered as a goddess of proud beauty, also known as Benten-sama.

Since ancient times, Ichikishimahime has been regarded as a miraculous god for safe land navigation. Within the temple grounds, there is a pond called Hakuryu Pond, known for the appearance of the white dragon Kannon statue. This pond is believed to be effective in prayers for rain. Originally, a Kannon hall stood next to the shrine, housing the Eleven-Headed Kannon statue created by Prince Shotoku.

Hideyori Toyotomi’s Placenta Tomb Daimyojin Shrine

This shrine is dedicated to the placenta, including the fetal membrane, that connected Toyotomi Hideyori to his mother, Yodo-dono. The deity associated with this shrine was relocated multiple times within Tamazukuri before being enshrined at its current location, with the support of local political, financial, and cultural leaders.

The shrine celebrates various types of “en” (ties of fate), such as family ties, parent-child bonds, romantic connections, relationships between master and servant, and work-related ties. The en no himo (string of fate) is crafted from Sanada cord, named after Sanada Yukimura, a military commander who served Toyotomi Hideyori. Visitors write their wishes on the string and tie it to the string of fate stand. The shrine is also believed to be effective in addressing children’s worries and alleviating nighttime crying.

The Plum Blossom God

During the Edo period, a stone Buddhist shrine, or Yakushi, stood on the north side of the shrine, where people prayed for protection from epidemics and disasters, recovery from illness, and longevity. This stone Yakushi was affectionately known as Ume Yakushi (Plum Blossom Shrine) due to the beautiful red plum blossoms that bloomed there.

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Statue of Toyotomi Hideyori, with the Naniwa-Tamatsukuri Museum and the Torii gate dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyori in 1603.

Connection to Magatama

An intriguing aspect of Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine is its use of the magatama curved jewel motif, replacing the usual wish-fulfilling jewel found at most Inari shrines. These curved jewels adorn the shrine’s lanterns, roof tiles, and amulets. A necklace of magatama graces the female fox statue at one of the sub-shrines beside the main sanctuary. The shrine also features a small museum, reminiscent of the jewel-crafting guild’s dwellings. This museum offers a detailed exhibit on the history and creation of magatama.

Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine stands as a testament to Osaka’s rich cultural tapestry, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Japan’s spiritual and historical journey.