home . blog ...

Ohatsu and Tokubei: a shrine to Japan's tragic lovers

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Black and white photo of two Japanese people sat side by side in a shrine in Japan

To some it's Japan's Romeo and Juliette. A love story that crosses classes and ends in the tragedy of a double suicide. The Love Suicides of Sonezaki first appeared in 1703, barely a month after the events that inspired it, and which cemented a new genre in Japanese theatre.

Tokubei is our hero, an orphaned Soy Sauce seller. His uncle wants him to marry his wife's niece, but Tokubei's heart belongs to another. He loves Ohastu, a courtesan who reciprocates. Only their love cannot be for the constraints of Japanese society forbid it. And so they escape to a forest where they encounter a tree where a palm and pine grow from the same trunk. This is where they choose to carry out their suicide pact.

The tale was later used as the basis for a play that it still well known throughout Japan.

Some of the story takes place around the Tsuyunoten Shrine in Osaka. A short walk from Umeda station, the shrine has a bronze statue to the fated lovers, as well as a stone monument.

Black and white photograph of a shrine in Japan, a traditional building with a massive concrete wall from a skyscraper behind it

The shrine has existing for around 1,300 years, although the surrounding city has ebbed and flowed. Today it's hidden amongst concrete towers and a shopping street.

I recommend a visit.

Black and white photograph of a cute cat character stood at the front of a shrine in Japan
Black and white photograph of a path surrounded by offerings at a shrine in Osaka, Japan

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

My socials...

click for LinkedInclick for Tumblr