住吉大社 Sumiyoshi Taisha

Last weekend we went to visit Sumiyoshi Taisha (Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine).

Sumiyoshi Taisha is a shrine complex of great antiquity, just on the other side of the Yamato River in Osaka city. It was supposedly founded by the Empress Jingu at the start of the third century.

The shrine buildings are very elegant in the traditional Japanese style, but not so austere as those of Ise Grand Shrine.

One of the best-known features of Sumiyoshi shrine is a very steep taiko-bashi (drum bridge – the bridge forms the upper half of a circle, its reflection the lower half, so the overall shape is like a drum).

There was a couple getting married in traditional Japanese costume. They kindly allowed me to take their photo.

The wooden building in which the wedding ceremony takes place is open at the front, so people in the courtyard can see.

We also saw a young mother who had brought her baby to the shrine for a ceremony called o-miyamairi. This is a blessing that the baby receives at the age of 30 days.

Note on the word of the day:

大社 taisha literally means “big shrine”, or “grand shrine”. Several of the most important shrines around Japan dating from the Heian period are referred to in this way.

The Empress Jingu is said to have reigned for 60 years following the death of her husband in 209. The question of whether she led an invading army to Korea remains sensitive and controversial to this day. The tradition is that she founded the shrine at the location of her return from Korea.

Although Sumiyoshi Taisha is now many miles from the sea, it was once on the seashore. The shoreline on the western side of the shrine was known as a place to watch the sun set over the ocean; a favoured example of the Japanese pine and sand seashore scenery. The oldest lighthouse in Japan was built there at the end of the Kamakura period (so, about 700 years old; not quite as old as our own Hook Head lighthouse). It is still there, standing incongruously amid the buildings of the modern city.

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