Would you like to step aside from the common tourist routes and explore a temple that will definitely be a surprise to you? Would you like to do this while staying in Osaka?
Then Katsuō-ji Temple (勝尾寺) is the one for you.
Situated in the north of Osaka City, it is a great place to explore away from the crowds, which will leave anyone in awe for sure. Being a bit off the beaten track also means that there are not a lot of options to get there, but that doesn’t mean that it is difficult to get there.
So, after all, what makes Katuō-ji so different from other temples? One word: Daruma (達磨).
A little bit of backstory: according to the legend, there used to be a monk whose aim in life was to achieve pure enlightenment through meditation, a state where “one ceases from seeing with the eyes and begins seeing with the mind”. He eventually achieved his goal after nine years by isolating himself in a cave to find peace. During that time, the legend tells that he even cut his own eyelids to prevent himself from sleeping and his arms and legs eventually atrophied…
But fear not, even if this story might sound morbid, the prevalence and accomplishments of this monk are represented by the Daruma doll, whose most famous color is the lucky red, although other colors exist in representation of wishes of health, wealth, love, or protection. The owner of a Daruma doll should write a wish on the back of the doll and color only one eye. After the wish comes true, the other eye should be filled in and, if one wishes so, the doll can be burnt at the beginning of the new calendar year as a way to thank the divinities.
Katsuō-ji Temple revolves around Daruma. Beautifully set in a hill, the main gate opens up to a breath-taking landscape, a small waterfall, curious koi (鯉) carps and the thousands and thousands of Daruma dolls of every size spread randomly across the temple.
Climb up the stairs to see the view and find the small shrines where more Daruma dolls lie. They are pretty much everywhere you look!
If you have the chance to visit this place on a Sunday, you will have a chance to witness celebrations at the most central temple and explore the place to the sound of the monks’ singing. Definitely an experience to remember!
Katsuō-ji Temple Information
From Osaka Metro’s Namba Station, take the red Midosuji Line to the very last stop which is Senri-chuo (beware that, even if the metro goes straight from Namba to Senri-chuo without changing trains, Senri-chuo and the previous two stations, Momoyamadai and Ryokuchikoen, belong to another line, the Kita-Osaka Kyuko Line, which is not covered by, for example, the one-day Osaka metro pass).
Once in Senri-chuo, look for the bus stops on the ground floor. You can easily ask for help from the responsible person who is always close to the bus stops for this purpose.
Don’t forget to check the return bus schedules beforehand. Since Katsuō-ji Temple is the very last stop of the bus, there are not many return buses from it.
Take some time of your trip to visit this peculiar temple and take home another story to tell!