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Kyoto Yasaka Shrine

Top Attractions in Japan 585
Kyoto Yasaka Shrine

Plan a tour to Yasaka Shrine? Located in the Higashiyama district, Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto is the headquarters of 3,000 Yasaka shrines branches in Japan. Since ancient times, the shrine has been very popular among the local, who affectionately call it the Gion Shrine. Today, it is one of the must-visit attractions in Kyoto. According to the records from the temple, the Yasaka Shrine was founded in 656 AD (the second year of the reign of Emperor Seimei), and it is the most prominent shrine in Japan.  When the country encounter catastrophic events or a disaster, it is one of the 22 special shrines the emperor would pray at. Though Yasaka Shrine is not large, there are more than a dozen small shrines belonging to it. It is worth spending some time to admire at the Yasaka Shrine.


What to See in Yasaka Shrine

Passing through from Shijo-dori to Higashi-oji dori, visitors would encounter the West Tower Gate of the Yasaka Shrine. The West Tower Gate is a two-story door in Kirizuma-zukuri style. Built in 1497 and thus has a history of about 500 years, the West Tower Gate is not only an important cultural asset, but also a spectacular spot because it is painted in a bright red. Due to the expansion of Shijo-dori in 1913, The West Tower Gate was moved inwards and two transepts have been annexed.

Entering the Yasaka Shrine from the West Tower Gate, visitors can see a small shrine Ebisusha on the right. Ebisusha was built in 1646, (which is earlier than the main shrine). It is the oldest shrine dedicated to Ebisu. Because it is said that touching the small Ebisu bronze statue by the door will bring wealth, the whole body becomes shiny.

Proceeding toward the main hall from Ebisusha, visitors can find Okuni Shrine on the left. Ōkuni Shrine is dedicating to worshipping Ōkuninushi-no-kami, the god of love. Across the Ōkuni Shrine is Shamusho, where you can buy various guards and gifts. You can also draw lots and divine here. Important to note, Shamusho is one of the few places in the shrine where photography is not permitted!

Continuing after Shamusho is the main shrine area, and the large wooden Maidono is found in front of the main hall. Festivals and wedding ceremonies will be host at the Maidono. Large lanterns, similar to those from Gion shops and restaurants, are hanging around Maidono. If you are visiting at night, you will catch an elegant view when the lanterns have been lit up.

The Main Hall, painted in red, on the rear of Maidono was built in 1654. The Main Hall and Offering hall are constructed into the same building, unusual to the common practice of separating the main hall from the offering hall. This is known as gion-zukuri, an important cultural heritage of Japan. The main gods enshrined in the main hall: Susanoo-no-mikoto is positioned in the middle, Kushiinadahime-no-mikoto (wife of Susanoo-no-mikoto) is positioned on the left, Yahashira-no-mikogami (the eight children of Susanoo-no-mikoto) are positioned on the right.

July is the most lively month in Yasaka Shrine because the Gion Matsuri will be hosted.Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, together with Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo and Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka, is one of the three greatest festivals in Japan. During the festival, various divine ceremonies are performed at the Maidono. Additionally, guests can enjoy different performance on the nearby stage.

Not far to the left of Daijingusha is Utsukushi gozensha, which is dedicated to the three daughters of Susanoo-no-mikoto and Amaterasu-okami. Since the three goddesses are all known for their beauty, many ladies pray for blessing on their beauty. Moreover, the Biyousui spring water in front of Utsukushi gozensha is believed to have rejuvenating effect on skin. Thus, many ladies would drink or apply the water to their skin.

There are another 5 or 6 small shrines, worshipping different gods, scattered around the north and west sides of the Main Shrine. With a lot of flowers surrounding and a large cherry tree garden, Yasaka Shrine is in fact a good place for cherry blossom viewing. The night is even prettier when the countless lanterns hanging on the Maidono lit up. More importantly, the shrine is especially eye-catching with festival decorations during the Gion Festival every July.

How to Get to Yasaka Shrine
Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073
Hours: 9:00~17:00, Admission: Free

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Kyoto Yasaka Shrine Tours

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Most Frequently Asked Questions

  • How far is Yasaka Shrine from Gion?
    Yasaka Shrine is very close to Gion. From the West Tower Gate, you will find the Gion area after crossing the Higashi-oji Street.
  • Is public transportation convenient to Yasaka Shrine?
    Take Bus # 100 or # 206 from Kyoto Station to Gion station, which takes about 20-25 minutes. Or take the Keihan Line to get off at Gion-Shijo Station, the destination will be in about 8 minutes walk.
  • How to get from Yasaka Shrine to Kamagova River?
    The West Tower Gate of Yasaka Shrine is just outside the T-junction where Shijo-dori and Higashi-oji Street meet. Walking toward the west along Shijo-dori for about 650 meters to Gion-Shijo Station, you will see Kamagova River.
  • Which shrine in Yasaka Shrine specializes in praying for love?
    The "ōkuni Shrine", dedicated to the god ōkuninushi-no-kami, is good for praying for love. You can buy a white rabbit figurine and write down your name. After praying in front of the shrine, leave the rabbit figurine in front of the shrine and the god will bless you love forever.
  • Can I take photos at Yasaka Shrine?
    You can take pictures in most areas, but please note that Shamusho and a few places are not allowed to take pictures. Please pay attention to the warning signs.
  • Which shrine in Yasaka Shrine is important to Geisha?
    The "Itsukushimasha", which is dedicated to "Ichikishimahime-no-Mikoto", one of the 3 daughters of Susanoo-no-mikoto and Amaterasu-okami, is the most important to Gisha because she is the god of dancing. Because of the importance to Gisha (Geiko), Yasaka shrine has a separate shrine dedicated to Ichikishimahime-no-Mikoto.
  • What other attractions near Yasaka Shrine are recommended?
    Maruyama Park, which is adjacent to the east side of the shrine, is one of the famous cherry blossom viewing places in Kyoto. On the west side is the famous Gion. In addition, there are attractions such as Chionin Temple, Shorenin Temple and Kodaiji Temple, which are all very popular.
  • Where is "Biyousui" in Yasaka Shrine?
    "Biyousui" is the spring in front of the "Utsukushi gozensha" on the west side of the Main Shrine. Drinking or applying the water to skin can make the skin more youthful and beautiful. Almost every woman who visit Yasaka Shrine will pay a visit here.
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