Kamigamo Jinja|上賀茂神社

Overview

Torii gate at Kamigamo Shrine.

Located in northern Kyoto is Kamigamo Jinja, one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  With a rich history as one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto, Kamigamo Shrine is traditionally linked with Shimogamo Shrine to the south, with the two referred to collectively as the Kamo Shrines.  The shrines grounds combine swathes of nature and expanses of pale gravel, with the buildings contrasting yet somehow harmonized in natural wood against the brilliant vermilion of its gates and fences.  A rather interesting sight on the grounds can be found in front of the worship hall in the form of two sand constructions called tatesuna that represent the divine mountain.  Sometimes the shrine’s sacred horse is stabled on the property, and the theme of the yatagarasu, a legendary three legged crow, can be found in such forms as the crow-shaped omikuji fortunes.  Host to festivals such as the Aoi Matsuri, one of Kyoto’s three most famous, the ancient Kamigamo Shrine is worth a visit no matter the day.

Host to festivals such as the Aoi Matsuri, one of Kyoto’s three most famous, the ancient Kamigamo Shrine is worth a visit no matter the day.

Features

Tatesuna

The tatesuna in front of the Hosodono Hall at Kamigamo Shrine.

The two carefully formed sand cones in front of the Hosodono hall, called tatesuna, are said to represent the divine mountain Kō-yama where the kami Kamo Wakeikazuchi descended from the heavens.  Look closely to find the “evergreen tree” on the top of the mountain, represented as a single pine needle stuck in the sand at the peak of each cone.

Honden Sanctuary

Priests cross the bridge at Kamigamo Shrine.

A reconstruction dated to 1863 under imperial edict, the honden sits beyond the brilliant colored two-story rōmon gate, approached via a slightly curved sacred bridge crossing over a clear stream.  In New Year’s season the main hall sports a gigantic purification arrow leaning against its façade.  Lengthy renewals have recently been completed, allowing the fresh-faced shrine to shine.

History

Considered one of the oldest Shinto shrines, with spiritual practices in the area traceable back to the 6th century, Kamigamo Shrine was first mentioned in a 678 historical text with the formal name of Kamo-Wakeikazuchi Jinja, proving that by that time the shrine and its festivals were established presences in the area. 

Kamo Wakeikazuchi no Kami, the deity enshrined, is said to have been born from the union of Tamayori-hime no Mikoto, daughter of Kamo clan founder Kamo Taketsunumi no Mikoto (both now enshrined at Shimogamo Shrine), and a deity she met while performing ablutions.  While in the river purifying herself, Tamayori-hime spotted an arrow floating downstream and plucked it from the water.  Depositing it on the bank, it transformed into its true form as a kami, whom she married and begat with him Wakeikazuchi, a deity governing natural forces. 

When Kyoto was established as the capital in 794, Kamigamo Shrine began to enjoy imperial patronage as the emperor acknowledged the importance of the Kamo Shrines in preventing malign influences from reaching the newly founded Heian-kyō.  Kamigamo Shrine flourished under this patronage, receiving imperial visits from Emperor Kanmu in 794, Emperor Suzaku in 942, and Emperor Enyū in 979.  Emperors not only visited Kamigamo Shrine, but they designated that the deities there would be notified of all imperial edicts, delegating the shrine as an ichinomiya, the rank belonging to twenty two chief Shinto shrines, and as a kanpei-taisha, a government supported shrine during the State Shinto period from 1871 to 1945.        

Kamigamo Shrine, as well as Shimogamo Shrine, carries out restorations of their facilities every twenty one years in a process called shikinen sengū.  Representing the spirit of renewal in the form of refurbishing the shrine buildings, very few shrines still keep this custom alive as it was traditionally only performed by very high-ranking shrines and involves high costs.  The last renewal cycle was completed just recently.

Events

January 5th

New Year’s Banquet (Shinnenkyōen-sai)

January 7th

Sacred Horse Inspection (Hakubasōran Jinji)

January 14th

Mitanae Shinji

January 16th

Purification Archery Ritual (Musha Jinji)

February

Setsubun

February 11th

National Foundation Day Ritual (Kigen-sai)

February 24th

Sanyare-sai

March 3rd

Peach Blossom Ritual (Tōka Jinji)

April 3rd

Toge-sai

April 10th

Ōta Jinja Spring Festival

April 2nd Sunday

Winding Stream Banquet (Kamo Kyokusui no En)

May 5th

Kamo Horserace (Kamo Kurabe-uma)

May 15th

Aoi Matsuri

May 17th

Ritual Tea Offering (Kencha-sai)

June 10th

Rice Planting Ritual (Otaue-sai)

June 30th

Summer Purification (Nagoshi no Ōharae)

July 1st

Firelight Nō Performance

September 9th

Chōyō no Sekku, Karasu Sumō

September 

Kamo Horse Festival (Kamo no Uma Matsuri)

September 

Moon Viewing (Kamo Kangetsu-sai)

October 1st

Adogawa Kenshin-sai

October, 3rd Sun.

Kasagake Shinji

November 3rd

Meiji Festival (Meiji-sai)

November 13th

Ainame-sai

November

Yoroi Kizome-shiki

December 23rd

Tenchō Era Festival (Tenchō-sai)

December 31st

End of the Year Purification (Gyokei Ōharae-shiki)

December 31st

Joya-sai

Access

Address

〒603-8047 京都府京都市北区上賀茂本山339

TEL 075-781-0011
FAX 075-702-6618
WEB http://www.kamigamojinja.jp/english/index.html

Admission

  • General Admission: Free

Hours

  • General Admission: 08:30 – 17:00
  • Closed: No closing days

Transportation