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 vermilion entrance gate at the end of Shijo-dori Avenue.
Inside Yasaka Shrine is a pleasant garden - a popular spot for hanami cherry-viewing parties in spring, along with nearby Maruyama Koen park. Shijo-Kawaramachi station, at the center of Kyoto, is also a short walk away.
Yasaka-jinja is the host shrine of Kyoto's biggest festival, the Gion Matsuri in July. The annual Gion Matsuri procession begins from Yasaka Shrine on July 17. Also, at New Year, Yasaka Shrine attracts literally millions of worshipers for hatsu-mode - the first shrine visit of the new year - known as okera mairi at Yasaka Shrine, when worshipers seek to take home a flame from the sacred fire to cook the first meal of the new year.
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 and a number of the shrine's many annual festivals are attended by them.
Yasaka Shrine History
The buildings at Yasaka Shrine date from 1654 and were built on the order of the shogun of the day, Tokugawa Ietsuna. The entrance gate, or Ro-mon, stands at the top of a flight of stairs and the shrine is protected by two guardian statues at each side.
The stone torii gate on the south side is 9.5 m (31 feet) 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, who also created many of the statues of the Kannon Buddha 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 the Gion Matsuri hang from shrine buildings and make for a beautiful sight, especially at night.
Some of the huge floats used during the Gion Matsuri are stored on the shrine grounds.
Yasaka Jinja Access - Getting To Yasaka Shrine
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.
625 Kitagawa, Gionmachi, Higashiyama, Kyoto.
Tel: 075 561 6155
A visit to Yasaka Jinja can be combined with seeing nearby Maruyama Park, Chionin Temple, Kodaiji Temple, the Gion district, and Kiyomizudera Temple. The Okazaki museum district and Heian Shrine with its huge vermilion torii gate are to the north.
Accommodation in Gion
Gion is one of the most popular places in Kyoto to stay on any vacation to the ancient capital of Japan. Some of the accommodation options on offer in Gion are traditional Japanese guest houses, ryokan or minshuku, a few of them converted machiya (Edo Period wooden merchant houses). They offer a traditional Japanese stay, that is sleeping in futon mattresses on tatami (woven straw) floors and sharing a hot tub. (Note: Guests remove their shoes before entering).
Recently to cater to modern, Western tastes many of the guest houses have become holiday homes or apartments: Japanese in spirit, decor and interior furnishings but Western in usage with beds, Wifi and attached showers.
Some recommended places to stay in Gion include Hana-Touro Hotel Gion, with Japanese-style restaurant, concierge desk, plus kimono and bicycle hire, Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion, which features an on-site restaurant, Tempura Endo Yasaka, serving Japanese cuisine including tempura and sushi, Iori Machiya Stay, offering machiya accommodation in various locations in Kyoto and Yuzuya Ryokan, a luxurious 5-star traditional inn with antique furnishings and seasonal ikebana arrangements. All rooms include tatami floors and traditional futon bedding.
See a full listing of accommodation in Kyoto's Gion district.