If you are a seasoned traveller in Japan, you will realize that two different places may share the same name. For example 日本橋 can be found in both Tokyo and Osaka - you can differentiate them by pronounciation. Travellers who have been to Kyoto will know of the more famous Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社 in Gion, Kyoto, so the one here in Osaka is known as Namba Yasaka Shrine 難波八阪神社.
On the first visit, it looked just like a typical small neighbourhood shrine, but standing right in there beyond the tori gate is something so unreal as if it came out from an episode of Naruto.
Frankly speaking, it is a small temple - 15 minutes will suffice to walk the grounds and take ample pictures. However this is what makes it unique - 獅子舞台, an enormous lion head shaped stage , measuring 12 m high, 11 m wide and 10 m deep. I have visited the temple many times but will still marvel at this wondrous sight no less.
It may be eclipsed in size by other other shrines, but it does hold a few major festivals annually. Being a nearby resident, I had the good fortune of witnessing them in the past 2 years, so if you happen to be staying in Daikokucho, do keep a lookout for street posters about upcoming festivals.
On the 3rd Sunday of January, the annual tug-of-war event is held. This is based on the myth that the shrine deity Susano-o-no-mikoto killed a giant snake that plagued the local people. The ritual is Osaka city’s first designated intangible folk cultural property.
In the morning, locals and shrine volunteers will gather at the temple grounds and begin preparations. They will set the rope in place and before having the tug-of-war, everyone seemed to be touching the rope for good luck. The tug-of-war is more of a token ritual rather than a competition - after all nearly all at either end are made up of grey-haired men and not hot blooded youths.
The shrine volunteers will then set off around the neigbourhood carrying the huge rope. Everyone is welcome to join in the procession, in fact one can be just a random tourist. For me, it is heartening to see genuine community bonding and togetherness in such an event. It is so much different back in my home country, where local politicians take the limelight at grassroot events and core volunteers are running the event for their own enjoyment and benefit.