To get there, at least by train, you need to make at least one stop. Catching the subway line to Namba station, you then change over to the Nankai Main Line, and then about 10 mins later you get off at... well you guessed it... the Sumiyoshi Taisha Station. Be careful as express trains don't stop there.
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Approaching the shrine, you will come across a very small number of shops selling goods - where we bought some traditional bekkouame candy. It was surprisingly quiet (perhaps because it was a Thursday)... a distinct contrast to the subways in Osaka which even around 11am-ish were packed sardine tight).
The approach to the shrine passes under a stone torii, guarded by a pair of guardian komainu...lion dogs. A fairly understated entrance.
One of the things that sets Sumiyoshi Taisha apart from other shrines is the Taiko-bashi, the curved vermilion bridge that was famous even in the time of Murasaki Shikibu, who authored one of (if not) the first novels in the world, known as the Tale of Genji.
|Taiko Bashi with komainu|
One of the things that surprised me was that you can actually cross the bridge... most other things like this that I've seen are well and truly blocked off from real use. Here's T-chan... looking wistfully out, wondering what the future of parenthood had in store for us... either that, or she was wondering how we would cope when we stop walking between 10 and 20 km a day (thanks to our trusty pedometer, which we now had a love hate relationship with). I suspect relief would be the way she would describe it.
The fourth spirit at the shrine is that of the Empress Jingū (who lived in the 3rd century AD, and according to Wikipedia made it to the ripe old age of 100)... actually, she was officially taken off the list of Japanese sovereigns during the Meiji era - perhaps due to her questionable historical accuracy (i.e. she may have been entirely fictional). That didn't stop her portrait being added to the Japanese currency in 1883 even though no picture of her existed (and hence she took on a very Western appearance... perhaps as the artist responsible was an Italian). Needless to say, her status is somewhat mysterious... even though she was credited with leading the Japanese armies across the seas to successfully invade Korea. History is always so... malleable.
Not sure if this is typical - but the honden shown here are all numbered... not named... so the one on the left is #3...belonging to Uwatsutsuo-no-mikoto (you need to research that... they don't tell you).
|Interior entrance of honden|
Here's the reverse view of the 3rd and 4th honden...which clearly shows the gabled design, crossed beams, raised floor, and thatched hinoki cypress bark roof
Shinto has a reverence for nature that is inextricably tied up with the concept of the spirits (kami) manifestation in the objects of the real world. That's why objects such as mountains, rivers, and even trees can become sacred. The shimenrwa (rope) identifies the boundary between the normal world and the sacred... just in case you missed it.
Within one of the shrine's buildings we found this odd arrangement... complete with maneki neko (waving good luck cats). I have to admit that we kinda felt a little disappointed that in the heart of Shinto belief in the Kansai district, in the holiest of holies, we would find an almost cliche tourist shrine. Still...this shrine is famous for worship for the coming rice festival, and I understand that this sub-shrine is for that purpose.
Some of the smaller shrine buildings show an interesting fusion of the Japanese raised floor architecture with the Chinese influenced roof design. Haven't been able to work out what these buildings are for as they don't rate in the official shrine building list. I'm kinda hoping that they weren't toilets...
Every year on the 14th June, an ancient Shinto dance is held, known as Otaue-shinji, which accompanies a rice-planting ceremony – a prayer for good harvests in the coming year. Alas...6 months too late... or is that 6 months too early? Either way, it's a nice shrine that's worth visiting... and quite different from the Buddhist-centric view that is common in Kyōto.