Temples & Shrines: Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社
Close to Gion, the brightly painted Yasaka-jinja Shrine is one of the city's best known and most popular landmarks, especially the two-story vermillion entrance gate at the end of Shijo dori. Inside Yasaka shrine is a pleasant garden - a popular spot for cherry-viewing parties - hanami - in the Spring along with near-by Maruyama Koen.
The center of town (Shijo-Kawaramachi) is a short walk away. Yasaka-jinja is the host shrine of Kyoto's biggest festival - Gion Matsuri in July. The annual Gion Festival procession begins from Yasaka Shrine on July 17. At New Year Yasaka Shrine attracts literally millions of worshippers for hatsu-mode - the first shrine visit of the new year - known as okera mairi at Yasaka Shrine when worshippers seek to take home a flame from the sacred fire to cook the first meal of the new year.
Other popular festivals held at Gion Shrine include setsubun in early February with an evening bonfire, the Ochatsubo Dochu (Traveling Tea Canisters) festival on May 1 and Shichi-go-san in November.
Ochatsubo Dochu harks back to the Edo Period practice of presenting the new tea harvest from Uji to the shogun. Bearers in period costume carry large ceramic containers containing tea from Kenninji Temple up Yamato-oji, along Shijo to Yasaka Shrine.
Yasaka Jinja is also reputedly popular among Geisha themselves.
The buildings at Yasaka Shrine date from 1654 and were built on the order of the shogun of the day. The entrance gate or Ro-mon stands at the top of a flight of stairs and the shrine is protected by the two guardian statutes at each side.
The stone torii gate on the south side is 9.5m in height - one of the largest in Japan and dates from 1646. Two wooden koma-inu (Lion dog guardians) in the shrine are said to have been carved by the celebrated sculptor Unkei, also responsible for many of the statues of Kannon at Sanjusangendo Temple, in the 13th century.
Yasaka Jinja is dedicated to the Shinto deities Susano-o-no-Mikoto and his consort Inadahime-no-Mikoto.
The many lanterns advertising the sponsors of Gion Matsuri attached to some of the shrine buildings are illuminated at night and make for a beautiful sight.
Some of the huge floats used during Gion Matsuri are stored at the shrine.
Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto with lanterns illuminated at night
Yasaka Jinja is a 5-10-minute walk from Shijo Keihan Station. From Kyoto Station, take the #206 or #207 bus to the Gion bus stop.
A visit to Yasaka Jinja can be combined with seeing nearby Maruyama Park, Chionin, Kodaiji Temple, Gion, and Kiyomizudera. The Okazaki museum district and Heian Shrine with its huge vermillion torii gate are to the north.
Main gate, Yasaka Shrine, Gion, Kyoto
Geisha, Yasaka Shrine, Gion, Kyoto
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