I encourage everyone to take the time to visit this hidden away Japanese garden in the center of Osaka City. It really is a quiet sanctuary in the middle of the very urban Tennoji area. The Japanese Garden in Shitennoji Temple is called the Gokuraku-Jodo Garden, or the Garden of Paradise.
This is not a Zen garden but it is a Buddhist Garden. There are many different sects of Buddhism and Shitennoji temple, where this garden lies, is the headquarters of the Washu sect of Buddhism.
Shitennoji Temple is one of Japan’s oldest temple’s in Osaka and it houses a unique Japanese garden called “Gokuraku-Jodo Garden” and also a dry rock garden called the “Fudaraku Garden.” Shitennoji Temple is the first and only temple ever built by the state in 593 by Prince Shotoku. He is credited with being the person responsible for spreading Buddhism throughout Japan.
The temple buildings were burned down several times throughout history, even as recently as the Second World War, but they were always rebuilt in a way that reflected the original design. Therefore, you can still see Prince Shotoku’s original temples and architecture in nearby places like Nara, but this is a replica of the original.
Pure Land Buddhism, which Washu is associated with, promises its devotees a spot in the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha, or Pure Land. Hence they call this the “Pure Land Garden” and it was built to resemble and symbolize that Buddhist paradise.
The Waterfall of Shaka
This style of waterfall is called a Ryumon-baku, or Dragon Gate Waterfall. The stone at the bottom of the waterfall point up represents a carp jumping/swimming up the waterfall in hopes of turning into a dragon. The ancient tale from China says that if the carp (originally a sturgeon, but they didn’t exist in Japan) can manage to swim up the falls against the powerful current then they could pass through the Dragon’s Gate at the top of the falls. They could then become a dragon. The Ryumon-baku tale symbolizes the difficulty of reaching enlightenment.
"The River of Hi" trickles it's way from the Ryumon-baku style waterfall to the "The Pond of Ruriko." The boulders and grasses planted along the stream do a great job of creating a very natural "S" curving stream along the path.
The Waterfall of Yakushi symbolizes Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. Yakushi was greatly worshipped in the Heian period, first in the aristocracy and then spreading to other classes of society. Yakushi symbolizes the healing aspect of Buddha.
The "Amida – Sanzon Seki" are the 3 boulders protruding from the pond to symbolize Amida and paradise.
In the background you can see to tea houses in the Japanese garden; "The Rinchi-Tei Tearoom" and the "Seityu-Tei Tearoom."
A colorful 8-sided gazebo with the "The Pond of Paradise" in front of it.
Within the Japanese garden at Shitennoji Temple: Gokuraku-Jodo Garden also has a unique Japanese rock garden called "Fudaraku Garden." If you are interested in rock gardens then check out this article called "Japanese Rock Garden: Fudaraku Garden in Osaka" I wrote specifically on this style of Japanese rock garden.
Shitennoji Temple Opening Hours
8:30 to 16:30 (until 16:00 from October through March).
Frequent closures, particularly during the first ten days of many months.
Shitennoji Temple Japanese Garden Admission Fee:
Shitennoji Temple Flea Market (Daishi-e/Taishi-e)
This is one of the best temple flea markets in Osaka and you can find some really interesting things here. Antiques, kimono fabric, pottery etc. can all be found here and often with a price you can negotiate. Osakans love to barter so give it a try. There are about 300 stands set up for the 2 days each month they are open. Date: 21 and 22 of every month Open hours: 8:30 a.m. - all day Address: 1-11-18 Shitennoji Tennoji-ku Osaka-city