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賀茂御祖神社 Kamo-mioya Shrine

  • World Heritages Buildings (Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals)
  • Other Central Kyoto Area
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Other Central Kyoto Area
59 Shimogamo Izumigawacho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 606-0807, Japan
  • World Heritages
  • Buildings (Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals)
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Open Every Day
Date of post:2015/04/23

A Shinto Shrine which has more than 2,000 years of history

  • Temple / Shrine

In the heart of the Kyoto, a forest called “Tadasu-no-mori” lies for over 2,000 years. At the center of the forest is the World Heritage Shimogamo Jinjya Shrine. Since the age of myth the forest has been regarded as sacred divine place. Emperor Kanmu himself, who moved the capital from Nara in 794, prayed at this Shrine for peace and order for the new capital, the chronicle of the shrine tells.

According to the system of Shikinen Sengu, all shrines in the complex should be rebuilt every 21 years for spiritual renewal. However, because of the shortage of materials and fund it ended up to major repair. About half of the remaining structures were rebuilt in 1628, all of which are designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. It celebrates its 34th Shikinen Sengu in April 2015.

I like the contrast of this shrine. The contrast between the orange color of surrounding gates and constructions, green of trees, white sand and brown main buildings produces indescribable solemn atmosphere. Walking through the orange (vermilion) gate, natural wooden shrines stand as if they are protected by these orange structures. Actually the color orange (vermilion) is said to keep evil spirits away. And on the north eastern direction which is regarded as an unlucky quarter or “demon’s gate”, there stand a couple of orange (vermilion) shrines and an arched bridge in the same color which spans a small stream as if they are protecting the main shrine.

This shrine is famous for its forest and traditional festivals. Although the size has been reduced to 120,000㎡, walking into the forest makes us feel solemn and awe-inspiring. It has been called “Tadasu-no-mori” since the ancient times. The origin of its name is not clear but from the word “Tadasu” I come up with a feeling of awe and discipline. However, I like walking around the forest. It is a small nature in urban area. In the shrine, there is a famous plum tree which was favored by the great master of Japanese art, Ogata Korin who drew this in famous folding screen. It blooms in February beside the arched bridge.

This shrine has many festivals and events that have been practiced from its beginning. Among them the most famous one is Aoi Matsuri which is one of the 3 largest festivals in Kyoto. Aoi Matsuri is held in this shrine along with its sister shrine Kamigamo Jinjya Shrine through May. Its highlight falls on 15th. Costumed people parade from the Imperial Palace in Kyoto to the Shimogamo Shrine. The courtiers holding flowered umbrellas, ox-drawn carriages and elegantly robed noblemen are all decorated with the namesake plant of this festival, the Aoi. Every year the scene is on aired by TV. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to see this festival, but I will make it this year!

*Reference: Shimogamo shrine home page
Japanese Identities by Yuichiro Edagawa

  • * The information above is from the date of the review. Please be aware that some of the content may vary from the most recent information.
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