Located in the museum-heavy Okazaki area and built for the city’s 1,100th anniversary, Heian Jingū is a new shrine as far as Kyoto goes. A replica of a famous Heian Period structure, its architecture has a distinctive Chinese influence noticeable throughout. Visitors enter through the grand Ōtenmon Gate into the outer sanctuary, a sprawling open space surrounded by look-out towers with a large ritual hall directly ahead. Heian Shrine’s Shin'en Garden, which consists of four distinct sections, is particularly beautiful and famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and irises in summer. The torii gate leading up to the Heian Shrine is actually one of the largest in the country, towering overhead at a height of about 24 meters. Heian Shrine is host to the grand Festival of Ages in October as well as many others throughout the year.
A replica of a famous Heian Period structure, the Heian Shrine's architecture has a distinctive Chinese influence noticeable throughout.
Gigantic Torii Gate
Measuring 24.4 meters (~80 feet) high, the large torii gate straddling the Heian Shrine’s sandō street dominates the nearby skyline. Drawing visitors in through Okazaki Park to the shrine’s impressively vermilion Ōtenmon Gate, this torii was the largest in the country when it was built, and remains the tallest in Kyoto. Completed with special construction techniques to secure it against earthquakes, the stout legs of the gate are 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) in diameter. It is a popular photo spot, and anyone is bound to look small next to this famous structure!
Owing in part to its Chinese style, the influence of the god-beasts of the four cardinal directions, Suzaku the red phoenix (South), Byakko the white tiger (West), Seiryū the blue dragon (East), and Genbu the black snake-turtle (North), abound throughout the grounds of the shrine. Once you enter the Ōtenmon Gate you will note stone fountains depicting a tiger and a dragon to your left and right, and the “towers” on the ends of the main hall are named Sōryūrō and Byakkorō, the “Blue Dragon Tower” and “White Tiger Tower”. If you take a closer look at the lanterns hung in the eaves and walkways you’ll note the four gods make an appearance there as well, their silhouettes carved in the bronze lanterns’ sides.
The Shin’en Garden at Heian Jingū took two decades to create and was designed by Ogawa Jihei (1860–1933), the seventh generation head of the Ogawa gardening tradition, who was also known by the professional name of Ueji. Hailed as the forerunner of the modern Japanese garden, he incorporated occidental style into the more traditional Japanese gardening world and created gardens that skillfully blended water and stone with the use of wide space. Finished in the early 1900s, this strolling-style garden can be considered as four separate sections and is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring, irises in summer, and gorgeous pond views from the roofed Taihei-kaku (Bridge of Peace).
A relatively new shrine, Heian Shrine came to be as a partial reconstruction of the original Heian capital’s palace done at a 5/8 scale for the 1895 Industrial Exhibition Fair that happened to also be the 1,100th anniversary of Kyoto’s founding as the capital. Though the idea was to build the shrine on the site of the original palace, not enough land could be procured for the project, and the location was changed to the Okazaki area. The shrine was constructed based on designs by the famous architectural historian Itō Chūta (1867–1954).
Though the exhibition complex was removed after the end of the fair, the shrine was still maintained and is dedicated to Emperor Kanmu, the 50th Emperor of Japan who oversaw the establishment of Kyoto in 794. Later Emperor Komei, the last Emperor to rule from Kyoto before the capital was moved to Tokyo, was also enshrined in Heian Shrine in 1940. Despite the main sanctuary burning down in a fire set in 1976, the shrine was rebuilt three years later and appears rather pristine to this day. Because the shrine is a replica of the Chōdō-in (Great Hall of State), the main administrative building of the Heian capital, its architecture sets it apart from shrines built in or modeled on later styles of construction, and has a distinctive Chinese influence noticeable throughout.
|Foundation Day Festival (Kigen-sai)|
|Heian Jingu Festival (Reisai)|
June 1st, 2nd
|Firelight Nō Theater (Takigi Nō)|
|Summer Purification (Nagoshi no Harae)|
September, last Sunday
|Ritual Tea Offering (Sencha Kencha-sai)|
|Festival of the Ages (Jidai Matsuri)|
|7-5-3 Festival (Shichi-go-san)|
|Ritual Tea Offering (Kencha-sai)|
|Winter Purification (Ōmisoka Ōharai-shiki)|
- General Admission: ¥600 for Shin’en Garden
- Junior High School, High School: ¥300 for Shin’en Garden
- Primary School: ¥300 for Shin’en Garden
- General Admission: 6:00 – 17:30 (Shin’en Garden: 8:30 – 17:00)
- Closed: No closing days