Yasaka Shrine is located between two popular areas in Kyoto; the Gion District and the Higashiyama District. It was founded over 1,350 years ago, so it is one of the shrines that has a long long history. Yasaka Shrine is also know as “Gion Shrine” named after the geographical name. The name “Gion Shrine” was used as the main name until 1868 when the name was renewed. It is the Grand Head Shrine of the approximately 3,000 Yasaka Shrines all over Japan. The deity of the Yasaka Shrine are Susanoo no Mikoto or the god appearing in Japanese mythology, Kushinada Himeno Mikoto or the goddess appearing in Japanese mythology, Yahashira no Mikogami.
Photo Credit: Kentaro Ohno@flickr
Yasaka Shrine is mainly considered to have benefits to protect against bad luck and the plague. However, there are also some smaller shrines managed under the Yasaka Shrine in the precinct, so you can worship at a lot of unique shrines to receive several benefits.
#1. The Honden: The Main Hall of the Shrine
Photo Credit: VARDIGA＠flickr
The present honden was reconstructed in 1654 and built in a distinctive style called “Gion zukuri”. Gion zukuri can be seen only at Yasaka Shrine. It is designated as an Important Cultural Property in Japan. The honden is used for traditional Japanese wedding receptions. If you are lucky, you may able to see a beautiful bride wearing a traditional Japanese kimono.
#2. Nishi-Romon: The West Gate of the Shrine
The Nishi-Romon at Yasaka Shrine is designated as an Important Cultural Property in Japan. The original gate was burned during the Onin War that occurred in 1467, and was rebuilt in 1497. A lot of tourist take photos in front of the gate. It faces Shijodori Street, one of the major east-western streets in Kyoto city, so it has attracted a lot of people. In front of the Nishi-Romon, azaleas are planted along the street. They are in full bloom from early May to late June.
#3. Okuninushi-sha: The God of Matchmaking
One of auxiliary and subsidiary shrines in the precinct is “Okuninushi-sha”. It is located near the honden of Yasaka Shrine. Okuninushi-sha is dedicated to Okuninushi no Mikoto, commonly known as the god of happiness. The shrine is considered to have benefits in matchmaking, so a lot of people who want to success in love visit there. The heart-shaped Ema or votive horse tablets are sold near the shrine. Why don’t you write your wish on an Ema and get some success in love?
#4. Utsukushigozen-sha: The Goddess of Beauty
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Another popular and smaller shrine in the precinct is “Utsukushigozen-sha”. It is also located near the honden of the Yasaka Shrine. The shrine enshrined the three female gods called “Munakata Sanjojin”. One of the goddess was considered to be extremely beautiful, so the shrine is said to make people more beautiful. There is a spring near the shrine, and the water is called the “water of beauty”. It is said that you can be more beautiful when you wash your hands or face with the sacred water. If you visit Utsukushigozen-sha, look for the water of beauty to become more beautiful.
#5. Gion Festival
The Gion Festival in Kyoto is one of Japan’s three greatest festival. It is held by Yasaka Shrine and Ayatokuninaka Shrine from 1st of July to the end of July. The festival has been held yearly since 970, so it has a long history. During the festival, there are small and big events are held almost everyday at the Yasaka Shrine and at other shrines.
Yamahoko Junko is held on the 17th of July and is the highlight of the Gion Festival. Yamahoko Junko is a parade with 33 floats going towards and through the main streets of Kyoto. They are even described as “moving museums” because of its beauty.
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Address: 625 Gion-cho Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto
5 minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station
8 minute walk from Kawaramachi Station
Website: Yasaka Shrine