Ujigami Shrine

Ujigami Shrine 宇治上神社

Ujigami Shrine, in the city of Uji south west of Kyoto, is believed to have the oldest shrine building in Japan.

History of Ujigami Shrine

Specialists have dated the wood of the main shrine building to 1060 during the Heian Period of Japanese history, which correlates with the surviving written records of the shrine's construction. Some legends have the shrine going back to the 4th century though that can probably be discounted.

Ujigami Shrine was built as the guardian shrine of nearby Byodoin Temple and is a World Heritage Site, part of the the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture.
Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture

Ujigami Shrine is dedicated to the mythical Emperor Ojin and his sons, Uji no Wakiiratsuko and the Emperor Nintoku. The trio are classed as legendary, mentioned in the Kojiki (Japan's oldest book), but there is no concrete historical evidence of their existence. Emperor Ojin's status as a legendary figure could be compared to that of King Arthur in Britain.

The Heian Period Main Hall (honden) is the first example of nagare-zukuri shrine architecture in Japan, where the three main shrine buildings are placed in a row. The curved roof is designed to offer shelter to approaching worshippers.

The Oratory or Worship Hall (haiden) is located in front of the honden and dates from the later Kamakura Period. It is constructed in the shinden-zukuri style of architecture found in aristocratic residences of the Heian Period with a sugaruhafu (extended) style roof.

Ujigami Shrine's also precincts contain one of the seven famous wells of Uji.

Uji Shrine 宇治神社

The lower part of the shrine, known as Uji Shrine, about 100 meters south of Ujigami Shrine, has buildings from the Kamakura Period (1192-1333) and is designated as an "Important Cultural Property."

The shrine is entered through a bright orange torii gate and is surrounded by trees which can be spectacular in the fall. The rabbit is a popular symbol associated with the shrine and can be found on its omikuji or lucky charms.

Ujigami and Uji shrines were the upper and lower parts of one shrine known as "Rikyukamisha" until they were separated in the religious reforms of the Meiji Period.

Nearby is Hojoin Temple (aka Hashidera or Bridge Temple) which has the oldest stone monument in Japan, a tablet describing the construction of the first Uji Bridge over the Uji River in 646. Also close to Ujigami Shrine is the Genji Monogatari Museum.

Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Japan.
Ujigami Shrine in Uji

Ujigami Shrine Access - Getting to Uji

Ujigami Shrine is a 15 walk from JR Uji Station or 10 minutes from Keihan Uji Station. Take a JR train from Kyoto Station or a Keihan Line train from Sanjo or Shijo Keihan stations.

Journey time is about 30 minutes. By car Uji is a slow, congested drive south on National Highway 24 through Fushimi and Momoyama.

The shrine is on the east side of the Uji River across the Asagiri Bridge.

Uji Shrine
1 Ujiyamada, Uji City
Kyoto 611-0021
Tel: 0774 21 3041
Hours: 9am-4.30pm
Admission: Free to the grounds of the shrine.

Ujigami Shrine is a short walk across the Uji River and at the bottom of Daikichiyamafuchi Park. Visitors looking for a short hike can continue up the mountain to the park's summit for a view over Uji.

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