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Best Historic Locations in Osaka

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Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of the most famous shrines in Japan—so much so that shrines with similar names can be found all over the country. This shrine has a very long history and is widely venerated as the home of the guardian deity of sailors. Passing under the enormous archway gate, you come to the taiko bashi, or "drum bridge," for which the shrine is especially renowned. The bridge gets packed with masses of people on New Year's Day and other celebrations. Events are staged at the shrine all year round; New Year's and summer festivals are the most important ones.

Osaka Tenmangu Shrine was built in 949AD in memory of Sugawara no Michizane, a 10th century scholar. He is worshiped as the god of wisdom and fine art across Japan. The legend says that a few rivals of Michizane conspired against him which made him exile from the court. He couldn't bear his fate and died after two years of misery. A shrine was built in the beginning of the 10th century to appease his soul. Every year, millions of students visit this shrine to pray for their excellence in academics. Osaka Tenmangu Shrine is the place where the Tenjin Matsuri begins.

Once surrounded by verdant forests and now a part of one of the busiest avenues in the city of Kobe, the Ikuta Shrine is well known for possibly being one of the oldest Shinto Shrines in the country. Painted in bright red, the shrine was built in the 3rd Century CE by Japanese Empress Jingu. Dedicated to Wakahirume Kami, the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani took place around the shrine’s environs. A sight to behold when suffused with the colors of autumn, the red colored shrine is ornamented with serene duck ponds and small gardens nearby.

Perched atop a hill, the five-tiered, gold ornamented Osaka Castle towers at a majestic 55 meters (180.446 feet) above the modern city of Osaka. The castle complex is housed within the beautiful Osaka Castle Park, a popular cherry, plum, and chrysanthemum blossom viewing site. The castle's current facade owes its design to Hideyoshi Toyotomi and was restored to its original glory in 1995. The main tower houses the Osaka Castle Museum which offers a fascinating glimpse of the castle's past. Points of interest include the gates like Otemon Gate and Sakuramon Gate which are some of the key features that have survived from the original construction period.

Shitenno-ji Temple is one of the oldest temples in Japan. The original buildings were constructed over 1,400 years ago at the behest of Prince Shotoku. The temple is especially known for the arrangement of its buildings in a straight north-south line - an arrangement that has come to be known as 'Shitenno-ji-style temple layout'. The outstanding symmetrical balance of Shitenno-ji's architecture has been greatly admired over the centuries. The temple was destroyed several times, but has always been rebuilt and restored to its glory. Revered by devout worshipers and admired for its impeccable architecture, the Shitenno-ji Temple exudes a peaceful charm that is captivating.

The zoo is located in Tennoji Park, southwest of the Shitenno-ji Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. The park also has a circular garden called Keitakuen. The Tennoji Zoo, opened in 1915, houses 1,401 animals, including koalas, pandas, kiwis, reptiles, birds, mammals and a Tasmanian devil, which you cannot find in any other zoo in Japan. There is also a separate bird sanctuary, a reptile house that duplicates a natural environment and a hippopotamus. Pamphlets in English will help you find your way around this wonderful facility. Admission is free for junior high school students and younger than that.

An enormous key-hole shaped tomb, the Daisenryo Kofun or Emperor Nintoku's Tomb is believed to be the final resting place of this ancient king. The tomb is enormous in size, measuring around 1500 feet (457.2 meters) in length and 1000 feet (304.8 meters) in width. The sides are lined with burial mounds of the king's family as well. The peculiar shape represents royalty and it forms part of the larger Mozu Kofungun Tumulus Cluster Complex.

Tucked amid the rippling hills of the Wakayama Prefecture just south of Osaka and southwest of Tokyo, Mount Koya is a sacred spiritual retreat and one of Japan's most treasured centers for the Buddhist faith. Monks clad in saffron robes offer prayers by the flickering light of butter lamps, their chants intermingling with the sounds of birdsong, babbling water and trees rustling in the wind. This is the birthplace of the Shingon Buddhism, founded by the revered monk Kūkai, also known as Kobo Daishi, in 819 CE. The mountain-top community has since grown to include over 100 temples and monasteries. There's also a university that offers courses in religious studies and lodging for pilgrims. Centered around the mausoleum of Kūkai, Okunoin Cemetery is one of Japan's largest and most scenic, a woodland crowded by a cornucopia of gravestones. Not far from here, Kongobuji is one of Mount Koya's most sacred temples, replete with religious artwork and artifacts. The complex also encompasses the Banryutei, Japan's largest rock garden, while the Danjo Garan is the site of the towering pagoda of Konpon Daito. A masterpiece of traditional architecture, landscape design and natural wonder, Mount Koya is forever wrapped in an aura of serenity and calm, undisturbed and unburdened by the frenetic pace of city life.

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