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賀茂御祖神社 Kamo-mioya Shrine

  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
  • Other Central Kyoto Area
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Maps are rarely carried out with accessing from mainland China.

Other Central Kyoto Area
59 Shimogamo Izumigawacho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 606-0807, Japan
  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
Opening Hours
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 Kyoto, a forest called “Tadasu-no-mori” has been here for over 2,000 years. In the center of the forest is the UNESCO World Heritage site Shimogamo shrine. Since the age of myth the forest has been regarded as a sacred divine place. Emperor Kanmu(50th emperor of Japan/ 737-806), who moved the capital from Nara in 794, prayed at this shrine for peace and ordered for the new capital, the chronicle of the shrine tells.

According to a ritual called "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 and are designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. It celebrated its 34th "Shikinen Sengu" in April 2015.

I like the contrast of this shrine. The contrast between the orange of the surrounding gates and constructions, green of the trees, white sand and brown main buildings produces an indescribable solemn atmosphere. Walking through the orange (vermilion) gate, the natural wooden shrines stand as if they were protected by these gates. Actually the color orange (vermilion) is said to keep evil spirits away. And on the north eastern direction which is regarded as and sometimes called the "demons gate", there stand a couple of orange (vermilion) shrines and an arched bridge of the same color which spans into a small stream as if they were 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 came up with a feeling of awe and discipline. However, I liked walking around the forest. It is a small nature in an urban area. In the shrine, there is a famous plum tree which was favored by the great master of Japanese art, Korin OGATA 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 festival is held in this shrine along with its sister shrine Kamigamo 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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