Most shrines hold a taisai, or "grand/main festival", each year, usually centered around a parade through the area where community members shoulder a giant portable shrine. However, not all grand festivals are cut from the same cloth! Awata Shrine, a small shrine located in northern Higashiyama near famous temples Shōren-in and Chion-in, boasts a colorful and exciting series of annual rituals and parades in early to mid-October.
Awata Shrine's daitōrō, large lanterns made up of traditional Japanese paper painted and shaped to look like mythological creatures and deities, are assembled for a parade through the Higashiyama area. While the lanterns look interesting enough in the daytime, they really come to life when night falls and they're lit up from the inside! Deities such as the Immovable Wisdom King Fudō Myō'ō and Lucky God Ebisu make appearances alongside the fearsome Ox-Headed Heavenly King and serpentine Onamuchi, as well as zodiac animals.
These lanterns are part of a procession containing shrine treasures and torches that heads down to the Chion-in where a rare ritual occurs! Priests from the Shinto shrine and monks from the Buddhist temple join together for the Reiken ceremony in which they pay their respects to the Uryūseki, a sacred stone.
The Shinkō-sai procession is held to celebrate taking the shrine's god out in a portable shrine (omikoshi) to survey the neighborhood. However, Awata Shrine doesn't only have an omikoshi, but also features some of the community's eighteen kenboko, sacred polearms said to ward off evil spirits, each featuring a distinct design. Watching the tall weapons skillfully carried through the streets by talented bearers who can make the poles shake and ring bells at their tops is definitely one of the original points of Awata Shrine's Taisai! Even just walking around the area can be an adventure, as some kenboko are housed on display around the neighborhood along with relics and altars. If you're in town in October, don't miss it!
Things to See/Do
October 12th: Oide Matsuri, 10:00
October 13th: Reiken Ceremony, 18:00
October 14th: Shinkō-sai, 12:00
October 15th: Reitai-sai Festival, 11:00
〒605-0051 京都府京都市 東山区粟田口鍛冶町1