Casey Hawkins

Osaka is arguably a mini Tokyo with more boisterous characters and street food stalls. The high-energy area of Dotonbori has long been associated with Kabuki theatre and magnificent food. The brightly lit canal is buzzing with tourists each night, taking photos in front of the running man billboard before spilling into nearby streets chocked full of izakayas (traditional pubs) and karaoke establishments. With neon lights and giant food sculptures hanging from each building, it’s hard to believe there’s a tranquil pocket hidden amongst it all housing one of Osaka’s most well-regarded temples.

Unlike most temples in Japan, Hozenji is situated right in the hustle and bustle of Osaka City. Taking up just a few square metres of cobble stone path, it’s easy to become distracted and walk straight past the small traditional gate marking its entrance. The soft glow of the paper lanterns and the old brass caldron starkly contrast the surrounding neon streetscape. With a bunch of locally renowned restaurants in the nearby alley “Hozenji Yokocho”, it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with the Osaka vibe and spend an evening.

Don’t be surprised to see at least a dozen others crammed into the space if you visit during the weekend. I went on a weekday which meant sharing the space with elderly people and a few suited business men. A large vibrant green structure caught my eye as soon as I walked into the open-air site. It was a large statue blanketed in fuzzy, green moss—making the figure underneath unrecognisable. For those curious, the sword-wielding, flame engulfed deity is named Fudo Myoo. When praying to Buddhist deities, it’s most typical to offer money or food gifts, which is why it’s common to see 5-yen coins, sake bottles and raw eggs covering the foot of the stone.

However, this unique moss-covered character has become an exception, with most people choosing to throw water on its head with a brass ladle. The odd practice allegedly began almost a century ago when an empty-handed lady visited the site. With nothing to offer, she scooped up some water and threw it on the statue. Later, news spread that her wish was granted, so others copied and a tradition emerged. With hundreds of people visiting each day, the statue remains damp and the moss thrives.

The statue was one of few structures in the area that survived the bombings during WW2. Despite the figure being known by Buddhists as the deity of fury, it became a cherished symbol of the area. When the war ended the site was rebuilt, including a charming traditional hand-pumped water well. The water from the well is used for spiritual cleansing as well as filling a large stone bowl sat at the foot of the statue.

Once you’ve lit your holy candle, read your fortune and spritzed the statue, it’s time to head back into the chaos. I found it fascinating to pass under the wooden tori gate one minute, then stare up at a giant robotic crab the next. It’s wacky, authentic and totally worth stopping by if you’re visiting Osaka during your Japan holiday!

Top Tips:

  • Visit at night, as the warm glow of the hanging lanterns attributes to the old worldly ambiance.
  • Snack on takoyaki (octopus) balls purchased from a street stall. They are said to originate from Osaka which is why you’ll see them sold everywhere.
  • There’s an incense pit located directly in front of the moss Buddha. Walk through the smoke as it’s believed to bring good health and prosperity.

 

Casey Hawkins grew up immersed in Australia’s sea, sun and surf culture. She first became a teacher because she was passionate about sharing ideas and experiences. Teaching has led her to explore some unique, remote locations and make friends with people from all walks of life. She is most passionate about learning and sharing their stories with others. Website: Nan’s Lucky Duck

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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