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天王寺

Tennôji is a ward in southern Osaka, Japan, and Tennoji Station is a stop on JR (Osaka Loop Line, Yamatoji Line, and Hanwa Line), the Osaka City Subway (Midosuji and Tanimachi lines), the Hankai Tramway, and Kintetsu.

Its name literally means "Temple of the Heavenly Kings," and comes from a Buddhist temple in the dead center of the ward, called Shitennôji, the Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings. In 538 AD, Prince Shotoku prayed to the Four Heavenly Kings of Buddhist mythology to help his Soga clan in defeating the pro-Shinto Mononobe clan. Shotoku's forces won, and he had Shitennoji built as an offering to the Kings. It was perhaps the beginning of the city of Osaka: back then, Japanese culture was centered around the little city of Asuka, and Nara and Kyoto hadn't even reached pipe dream status. The construction of Shitennoji set the Osaka Plain's urbanization into motion, and a thousand years later, it was the largest city in the world.

Shitennoji is set off to the side of Tennoji Park, a 2km long green belt separating the urbanized portion of Tennoji Ward from Nippombashi to the west. At the south end of Tennoji Park is the city's zoo and art museum. The north end is occupied by Ikutama Shrine, which is said to have originally been built by Emperor Jimmu, the founder of Japan in Shinto mythology. Whoever its creator was, the original temple was moved by Toyotomi Hideyoshi: he wanted to build Osaka Castle over where it stood. Ikutama has stood at its current home since 1583, and is now one of the most revered sites of the Shinto religion.

On the other hand, the ten-story Kintetsu Department Store, just a couple of blocks away from Tennoji Station in Abeno Ward, is a great place to get coffee and shop for things you can't afford. The co-existence of absurdly holy places and lavish capitalist places is one of the things that makes me a fan of Tennoji. And Japan in general, for that matter.

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