Shitennoji Wasso is an event that celebrates the short reign of Osaka as the capital city of Japan (646-745). This was during the Nara Period and is sometimes referred to as the “Naniwa” period due to the palace location. The parade re-enacts early visits by court diplomats from 7th century Korea and China. Participants dressed as migrants from Korea and China dance, play music, and parade with ceremonial flags. Thousands of guests wearing the most decorative and unique attire, walk through the grounds of the temple. In addition, you can enjoy dancers carrying a floating dragon and traditional Japanese drummers as the finale. The annual festival starts on the Culture day weekend – this year being November 7th.
History of the Shitennoji Wasso Festival
During the 7th, Korean and Chinese diplomats traveled to Japan to have meetings with Prince Shotoku. With them, they brought new cultural identities and differences, which was new for Japan. Various different types of food, clothing and lifestyles made Osaka more culturally diverse and open to Eastern Asian countries.
The word “Wasso” is a Korean word, which translates to “come” in English. The meaning of the festival was to celebrate the welcoming of people from Korea and China into Japan. This concept came into fruition in 1990 as various business sponsors started up the festival. Furthermore, the concept developed into ‘Be proud of your culture’.
However, after a couple years of holding the festival passed, the sponsors decided to pull out, resulting in the event shutting down due to financial difficulties. As a result, this led to key cultural figures and companies in Osaka to raise their voice and show support for the Shitennoji Wasso festival. They wanted to Osaka to become more multicultural and end festivals only dedicated to the people of the city.
This led to the creation of NPO Osaka Wasso Cultural Exchange Association in 2003 – a group of volunteers to run the festival and an education system on spreading cultural awarness. Once it was re-opened the scale of the festival became just one-third of its original size. Nevertheless, it is still running to this day.
Shitennoji Temple Tennoji
Located in the Tennoji district, people say that the Shitennoji Temple to be the oldest temple in Japan. In 593, Prince Shotoku built the original temple. However nothing remains of the original building was continuously destroyed by fires and rebuilt.
The Shitenno are the four heavenly kings of Buddhism, which Shitennoji wanted to worship, leading to the creation of Shitennoji Temple Tennoji. In addition, a stone tori gate marks the entrance, which is the oldest if its kind, dating back to 1294. The original 6th century Kondo (Main Hall), five-story pagoda, Kodo (Lecture Hall), Taishiden Hall and corridor were all destroyed, so they built replicas post-World War II in 1965.
Shitennoji Temple is the headquarters of the Washu sect of Buddhism. In addition, they stored many national treasures, such as swords belonging to Prince Shotoku, at the temple ground’s Treasure House. The temple hosts two special events at the beginning of the Spring and Autumn equinox each year. Furthermore, on the 21st and 22nd of each month, there is a large flea market, selling all kinds of unique Japanese trinkets and goods.
The quiet and unassuming garden in the temple grounds is the perfect place to relax. Japan is famous for its zen gardens, however, this Gokuraku-jodo is actually a Buddhist Garden. A zen garden evokes the feeling of tranquility and peace. In contrast, a Buddhist garden promotes Buddhist principles of peace, serenity, goodness and respect for all living things. To summarize, there are several features which you can enjoy throughout the garden:
The Waterfall of Shaka (Dragon Gate Waterfall) – A small waterfall with a stone at the bottom pointing up. This represents a karp swimming up the waterfall in the hopes of turning into a dragon
The River of Hi – A small river that meanders it’s way through the garden.
The Waterfall of Yakushi – This waterfall symbolises Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha.
Hakkaku-Tei – A colorful 8-sided gazebo with the “The Pond of Paradise” in front of it.
Shitennoji Temple Tennoji Access Information Address : 1-11-18 Shitennoji, Tennoji-ku, Osaka, 543-0051 Opening Hours: 8:30 to 16:30 (until 16:00 from October through March) Tel: 06 06771 0066 Access : 10-15 minutes walk from Tennoji Station on the Midosuji Line Website : https://www.shitennoji.or.jp/
Watch a video of the Shitennoji Wasso Festival here!
The Shitennoji Wasso Festival is unique as it combines both Japanese and Korean cultures. Dancing, music, and food, it has everything a traditional Japanese festival has. Enjoy classic Japanese dishes as well as some Korean classics, and don’t miss the chance to try on a traditional folk costume!