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上賀茂神社 Kamigamo Shrine

  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
  • Arashiyama / Kinkaku-ji Temple Area
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Arashiyama / Kinkaku-ji Temple Area
339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 603-8047, Japan
  • Temples / Shrines / Cathedrals
Opening Hours
Open Every Day
Date of post:2015/11/06

One of the most traditional shrines in Kyoto

  • Temple / Shrine

Kamigamo Shrine enshrines the god (“kami” in Japanese which is the spirits or phenomena that are worshiped in Shinto) of thunder. The god descended to the mountain called Kamiyama, the mountain of god, in the north of the shrine. The shrine is dedicated and adored by KAMO family and other people who lived in this area. The story of the beginning of this shrine is a typical one in Japan. People in a certain area began to worship a certain god and placed a shrine in the area. But Kamigamo Shrine has a more important role in the history of Japan. The shrine was also adored by Emperors and became the guardian of the new capital Heian, which was constructed in 794.

From the first traditional Japanese shrine gate, “ichino torii”, you will walk through a wide area to get to the buildings of the shrine. There are several cherry trees in this area and they bloom beautifully in spring.

Entering the second gate, “nino torii”, you will find many buildings there. In front of the first building you see, you will find two cone-shaped heaps of sand. These two heaps are thought to be the places the god comes and rests from Kamiyama.

Small streams run between the buildings and there are several bridges across them. After visiting the main shrine, you can appreciate the beauty of the bridge with a roof in front of the main shrine. It is rare to see a bridge with a roof in Japan. Then by looking around other buildings, you can enjoy the calm atmosphere of the place.

When you come back to “ichino tori”, don’t forget to buy a piece of grilled rice cake stuffed with sweet red bean paste, “yakimochi”. The famous shop of this yakimochi named Jimbado stands at the west side of the street that runs on the west side of ichino torii. But if you visit there too late in the afternoon, you may miss to buy one. Yakimochi at the shop is often sold out.

Date of post:2015/10/21

UNESCO World Heritage Site where nature and cultural properties coexist in harmony

  • Temple / Shrine

Kamigamo shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto.

Since the prehistoric times this shrine has preserved and transmitted the legends relating to the birth of the shrine deity, Wakeikazuchi. The name “Wakeikazuchi (thunder and lightning)” reminds us how people in ancient times were awed by thunder and lightning.

Since the virtue of the deity was powerful especially in protecting agriculture, from the founding of this shrine farmers of the entire country have introduced the deity into their villages.

Having a look into the compound of the shrine, a small stream called “Nara no Ogawa” is meandering through old shrine buildings. Walking through this shrine ground makes us feel refreshed and peaceful.

This shrine was originally founded as the Kamo family’s guardian deity together with Shimogamo shrine. Kamo family was one of the most powerful families in ancient Kyoto and served the emperors. Since then, many rituals and festivals have been handed down to today. The most famous and spectacular one is Kamo festival which is popularly called “Aoi matsuri” held on May 15th. This is one of the three biggest imperial festivals in Japan and the most important one in this shrine. Since aoi (hollyhocks) are offered during the festival, and all the shrine buildings and attendants are decorated with hollyhocks, the festival is known as "Aoi matsuri". According to the chronicle of the shrine, the festival originated in the middle 6th century, when the country was suffering a spell of disastrous weather. People regarded this bad weather as the will of God. To show respect to God in the hope of having good luck they must have enshrined the God of thunder here. Even today, the emperor sends a messenger who worships on his behalf. The festival’s main feature is an 800-meter-long procession with 500 participants clad in ancient costumes which starts at Kyoto Imperial Palace, having a ritual at Shimogamo shrine and ends here. The procession is like an elegant scroll painting. There are other interesting festivals like Karasu-zumo (Crow Sumo wrestling) or Kurabe-Uma-e-Jinji (the Ritual of the Racehorses).

Last May, I had an opportunity to go and see the Aoi matsuri for the first time in my life. The procession was carried out with great solemnity. I was very impressed because I felt like straying off into ancient Kyoto. This is the place where we are able to experience the ancient atmosphere.

  • * 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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