Located in the famous bamboo forest of Arashiyama, Nonomiya Shrine was once a small shrine used for purification rituals undergone by women known as saigū, women from the imperial family who were appointed as emissary priestesses to the grand shrine at Ise where the sun goddess Amaterasu, said to be the progenitor of the imperial line, is worshipped.
In honor of this ancient tradition, Nonomiya Shrine holds a reenactment of the priestess' departure for Ise called the Saigū Gyōretsu each year in October, where visitors to the Arashiyama area can watch a procession of people in court regalia make their way from the shrine down to the river where purification rituals take place.
Though the "star" of the procession is naturally the woman representing the Saigū, riding alternatively in an ox cart or carried in a palanquin, many other women wear the Heian period clothing of noble attendants and handmaidens, accompanied by priests, men dressed as soldiers and servants, as well as performers.
At the purification site priestesses of the shrine perform a dance before a priest reads aloud prayers and the Saigū makes her way to the water's edge to release a paper doll in an Omisogi no Gi ceremony. Those observing are invited to participate in prayers made towards Ise Shrine, and traditional court music (gagaku) and dance (bugaku) are performed as an offering.
If you're looking to make your trip to the Arashiyama area even more memorable, time your visit to coincide with a procession that seems to have stepped straight out of the Heian Period, the Saigū Gyōretsu!
Things to See/Do
October 20th: Departure from Nonomiya Shrine, 12:00
Arrival at Northern Arashiyama Pier, 13:30
Omisogi no Gi, 14:00
- General Admission: Free
- General Admission: 09:00 – 17:00
- Closed: No closing days
- From Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line ⇒ Arashiyama Station ⇒ Walk 5 minutes to Tenryū-ji
- From JR Sagano Line ⇒ Saga Arashiyama Station ⇒ Walk 13 minutes to Tenryū-ji
- From Hankyū Line ⇒ Arashiyama Station ⇒ Walk 15 minutes to Tenryū-ji
- By City Bus Route 11, 28, or 93 ⇒ Arashiyama Tenryū-ji-mae Bus Stop
- By Kyoto Bus Route 61, 72, or 83 ⇒ Arashiyama Tenryū-ji-mae Bus Stop