F In Kyoto: The twin peaks at Kamigamo-jinja - jeepneyjinggoy

In Kyoto: The twin peaks at Kamigamo-jinja

The early bird catches more UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto, where the highest concentration of inscribed properties are.

It's Day 4 in the ancient capital and I plotted my route of temple visits from the farthest point in the north and work my way to the city center, where Gion is.

Bus ride from Kyoto Station to Kamigamo jinja Shrine

First destination for the day—the Kamigamo Shrine in the Kita Ward. It’s formally called Kamo-wake-ikazuchi-Jinja, a shrine dedicated to the veneration of Kamo Wake-ikazuchi, the kami of thunder. 

The thunderclap’s resonance must not have caught the attention of many (yet) as there is not much buzz about the shrine from the tourists, unlike the Golden Pavilion or the Fushimi Inari. 

Barrels at the entrance

Going through the list of Kyoto’s must-see sites, the photos of the twin sand cones and red Ro-mon (tower-gate) was enough to get me on the bus, but there’s more to Kamigamo-jinja than the conical-shaped mounds of sand.

The twin cones of sand, the Hosodono and Tatezuna

Let me tell you why you should put the Kamigamo Shrine on your places to visit when in Kyoto:

First, Kamigamo–jinja is a designated UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Second, most of the 690,000 square-meter shrine complex has been designated as a Preservation Area of Historic Landscape by the municipal government and as a Historic Site by the national government.

Third, Kamigamo–jinja is the oldest Shinto shrine in Kyoto and one of the oldest in Japan, which was founded in 678, more that a century before Heiankyo (the former name of Kyoto) was established as the new capital of Japan in 794.

Shouldn't those be enough reasons to visit the place? If the shrine suddenly shoots up in popularity after appearing in some pop culture movie, then you can brag about having been to the place. 

I was among the small crowd that alit at the bus stop by Kamigamo Shrine. Most of them, if not all, were Japanese.

The first torii opens up to the Sando, an approach pathway that leads to the central shrine. The walk past the green field with a flowing river on the right allows the visitors time to calm and compose the mind for worship.

The first torii gate of the Kamigamo-jinja

Path to the main temple

Cleansing ritual

A few steps from the second torii is the Hoso-dono. Fronting the building are the twin cones of sand, the Hosodono and Tatezuna, said to have powers of purification. It’s not a part of any Zen rock garden, but it certainly is an interesting feature that stood out from the complex.

The  Hoso-dono with the twin cones of sand on its foreground

To the right of the Hoso-dono is the Tsuchi-no-ya building. It serves as a purification place for people who wish to participate in rituals and ceremonies.

The Hoso-dono

The red tower gate, the Ro-mon, came into view after crossing the short spans of the Hashi-dono and the Tama bridges, behind the Hoso-dono and Tsuchi-no-ya. This gate leads to the honden, the main shrine building, which was rebuilt seven times after its restoration in 1628; and the gonden, the associate shrine building. Both buildings are National Treasures and built in the nagare or “flowing” style, with the prayer porticos (kokai) in front. 

A calming sight on the way to the Ro-mon

The Ro-mon

The Ro-mon viewed from the inside

The Chu-mon gate in the main shrine. It leads to the honden and the gonden

 Prayer porticos, the kokai, of the Chu-mon

Ema, wishing tablets

The bearer of wishes

Here’s another reason why you should visit the Kamigamo-jinja: time travel. The honden, gonden, the haiden (prayer hall) and 33 other shrine buildings present how Shinto shrines looked like in ancient times.

The Kamo River

May 15 seems to be a good date to visit when the shrine celebrates the Aio Matsuri, or the Hollyhock Festival, one of the Kyoto’s “thee Major Festivals.”

Souvenir shop

Area map of Kamigamo-jinja

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Email me at jinggoysalvador@yahoo.com

Also published at the SunStar Davao newspaper.