Heian Jingu Shrine 平安神宮
History of Heian Shrine
Heian Shrine is a scaled-down reproduction of the original Imperial Palace (Daigoku-den) first constructed in 794. Heian Shrine was first built in the late nineteenth century and the present wooden structure dates from 1979 after a fire in 1976 destroyed the original.
Heian Shrine was built in 1895, which was the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). To mark this event, a shrine deifying the Emperor Kammu was constructed. In 1940 at the height of wartime nationalism, the Emperor Komei, the father of Emperor Meiji and the last emperor to permanently reside in Kyoto was also enshrined. Heian Shrine was built in the style of Chodo-in, which was the main edifice of the Heian Capital.
Visitors enter the main shrine area through Ote-mon, a twin level gate constructed as a replica of the original entrance gate of the palace. The floor area here is covered with white sand.
Two Chinese-style towers stand at the end of north-south running buildings beyond the Ote-mon: they are Soryu-ro and Byakko-ro, Blue Dragon and White Tiger tower respectively.
The Daigoku-den is a scaled down version of the original, which was destroyed by fire in 1177 and never replaced. The Daigoku-den is vermillion with blue roof tiles and similar in style to the Ote-mon. The Honden is behind the Daigoku-den and houses the spirits of the two emperors: Kammu and Komei. The interior is unpainted cypress wood (hinoki).
The lovely Chinese-style garden behind the main shrine buildings to the left as you enter has a pond and covered wooden bridge and is meant to represent the kind of garden design that was popular in the Heian Period of Japanese history. The garden is divided in four sections: north, south, east and west and contains plum, cherry, iris, azalea, and lilies.
The Heian Jingu garden was designed by Ogawa Jihei (1860-1933) and is most popular in spring when its many cherry trees are in full bloom. The central pond (seiho-ike) is the main feature of this delightful, strolling garden. The so-called "Dragon Stepping Stones" or garyu-kyo connect the path from Seiho Pond to the smaller soryu-ike (Green Dragon Pond). The stones are actually from the old Sanjo Bridge, which was redeveloped at the end of the 19th century. The covered, wooden bridge known as the Bridge of Peace (taihei-kaku) is topped with a phoenix and leads the visitor out of the garden.
Heian Shrine is a popular place for Shichi-Go-San festivities and is the starting place for the important Kyoto festival, Jidai Matsuri which takes place annually on October 22.
The colorful Takigi No performances take place on June 1-2 and feature blazing fires. A setsubun festival involving geisha also takes place at Heian Shrine in early February.
Free Admission to the shrine precincts, charge for the gardens at the rear.
Tel: 075 561 6155
The Heian Shrine torii is one of the largest and tallest gates in Japan. The torii is 24.2 meters tall, and the massive supporting beams are 3.63 meters in diameter.
Heian Shrine Access
Heian Shrine is on Jingu michi a short walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line. A 15-minute walk from the Sanjo Station on the Keihan Line. Bus #5 to Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsu-mae stop or take the Raku Bus #100 also from Kyoto Station.
Riding by bicycle around the shrines and museums of Okazaki is a cheap and healthy option.
Heian Jingu is near the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the Hosomi Museum, the Kampo Museum, the Kanze Kaikan Noh Theater, the Namikawa Cloisonné Museum of Kyoto, Kyoto Zoo and the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. The Kyoto Handicraft Center is north across Marutamachi with Kumano Shrine to the west across Higashioji. Shogo-in Temple is north again of Kyoto Handicraft Center. East along Marutamachi is Okazaki Jinja and the entrance to Kurodani Temple. Just beyond the junction of Marutamachi (east-west) and Shirakawa (north-south) is the Philosopher's Walk.