Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社
The brightly painted Yasaka-jinja Shrine is one of the city's best known and most popular landmarks, especially the two-story vermilion entrance gate at the end of Shijo-dori Avenue.
Inside Yasaka Shrine is a pleasant garden - a popular spot for hanami cherry-viewing parties in spring, along with nearby Maruyama Koen park. Shijo-Kawaramachi station, at the center of Kyoto, is also a short walk away.
Yasaka-jinja is the host shrine of Kyoto's biggest festival, the Gion Matsuri in July. The annual Gion Matsuri procession begins from Yasaka Shrine on July 17. Also, at New Year, Yasaka Shrine attracts literally millions of worshipers for hatsu-mode - the first shrine visit of the new year - known as okera mairi at Yasaka Shrine, when worshipers seek to take home a flame from the sacred fire to cook the first meal of the new year.
Other popular festivals held at Gion Shrine include Setsubun in early February with an evening bonfire, the Ochatsubo Dochu (Traveling Tea Canisters) festival on May 1, and Shichi-go-san in November.
Ochatsubo Dochu harks back to the Edo period practice of presenting the new tea harvest from Uji to the shogun. Bearers in period costume carry large ceramic containers containing tea from Kenninji Temple up Yamato-oji, along Shijo to Yasaka Shrine.
Yasaka Jinja is also reputedly popular among geisha and a number of the shrine's many annual festivals are attended by them.
Yasaka Shrine History
The buildings at Yasaka Shrine date from 1654 and were built on the order of the shogun of the day, Tokugawa Ietsuna. The entrance gate, or Ro-mon, stands at the top of a flight of stairs and the shrine is protected by two guardian statues at each side.
The stone torii gate on the south side is 9.5 m (31 feet) in height - one of the largest in Japan, and dates from 1646. Two wooden koma-inu (lion dog guardians) in the shrine are said to have been carved by the celebrated sculptor Unkei, who also created many of the statues of the Kannon Buddha at Sanjusangendo Temple, in the 13th century.
Yasaka Jinja is dedicated to the Shinto deities Susano-o-no-Mikoto and his consort Inadahime-no-Mikoto.
The many lanterns advertising the sponsors of the Gion Matsuri hang from shrine buildings and make for a beautiful sight, especially at night.
Some of the huge floats used during the Gion Matsuri are stored on the shrine grounds.
Address, timetable & access
625 Kitagawa, Gionmachi, Higashiyama
Phone075 561 6155
TimetableOpen 24 hours, 7 days a week.
AccessYasaka Jinja is a 5-10-minute walk from Shijo Keihan Station. From Kyoto Station, take the #206 or #207 bus to the Gion bus stop.