A small shrine in the Gion area most famous for its powers over the ties that bind, whether cutting them or forging new ones, Yasui Konpiragū traces its history back to the late 600s when it was established as a family shrine for the Fujiwara clan.
After changing purposes and being razed several times, the shrine in its present form was built on the site in 1695 and worships the poet warrior Minamoto no Yorimasa, the exiled Emperor Sutoku, and the serpentine water god Ōmononushi no Kami.
There is a legend that features the god Ōmononushi hiding in his snake form within a woman's comb case, and due to this association a burial mound of sorts for combs, called kushizuka, was erected on the shrine precincts in September 1961.
This was done in order to honor the combs and hair ornaments used by women in the area once they were no longer needed rather than simply discard them like trash. To express gratitude to these items, with support from Kyoto Beauty Culture Club, Yasui Konpiragū hosts its annual Kushi Matsuri, or Comb Festival, every September.
The festival begins at 1 pm in front of the comb grave, where the priest speaks about the ritual, donated combs are added to the grave, and a dance “Kurokami” (“Black Hair”) is performed by a dancer dressed as a maiko in front of the main hall. Once the initial ceremonies are completed, from 2 pm the assembled women begin the procession around the Gion area, showing off the history of Japanese hairstyles as they go. Featuring hairstyles and ornamentation from the Kofun Period all the way to the present, the parade is marked with volunteers carrying signs that indicate which era the women represent. Members of the Kyoto Beauty Culture Club toil painstakingly to recreate the hairstyles as faithfully as possible using the women’s own natural hair, which is quite a feat, considering how elaborate the styles of the past could be!
Things to See/Do
13:00 Ritual at the Shrine and the Comb Burial Mound
14:00 Procession Departs Yasui Konpiragū
Notice: In 2021, the public event was canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19.