Sunday, April 03, 2016

Kyoto : Yasaka Jinja

One of Kyoto's most visited Shinto shrines is the Yasaka Shrine. It's strategic location at the intersection of Gion and the Higashiyama area and its bright vermilion colored buildings make it difficult to miss.

The Yasaka Shrine, earlier known as the Gion Shrine, is said to have been in existence since 656 and enjoyed Imperial patronage during the Heian period.The current shrine is a reconstruction from 1654 on the orders of the Shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna

The Shrine's vermilion colored wooden gate, 'Romon', stands at the top of a flight of stairs at the intersection of Gion district. 
The Shrine's main building houses the 'Honden', the inner sanctuary, and the 'Haiden', which is the offering hall.

Yasaka Jinja is dedicated to the Shinto deities 'Susano-o-no-Mikoto' and his consort 'Inadahime-no-Mikoto', gods of health and prosperity
A dancing stage decked with many lanterns stands right in front of the main building. The lanterns are donations made by local businesses in gratitude for their success, each evening around sunset the lanterns are lit up. 
The shrine has a long association with the Geisha community and is considered the patron shrine of Geisha. Each year on February 2nd, the eve of 'Setsubun', the Yasaka shrine is the venue of dance performances by 'Maiko', apprentice geisha's from Kyoto's 'Hanamichi', Geisha quarters. 
The shrine is also the host shrine of the well known Gion Matsuri ( Gion festival) which takes place annually on July 17th. The Gion matsuri is Japan's most famous festival and its main attraction is a procession of massive floats and hundreds of people ; the procession begins from the Yasaka shrine. The Matsuri is said to have been first held in 869 when the deities were paraded through the streets to stop an epidemic. Some of the floats used in the Gion Matsuri can be seen at the Yasaka shrine.
The shrine is also popular among locals for the Japanese New Year tradition of 'Hatsumode', the first shrine visit of the new year. An interesting tradition of 'Hatsumode' at the Yasaka shrine is the 'Okera Mairi', where worshippers carry home a flame from the sacred fire and use it to cook the first meal of the new year.

The shrine buildings are lit up around sunset every evening.

The Maruyama park, a public park close to the Yasaka shrine is a popular spot among visitors during Cherry Blossom season in spring. 

Address: Kyoto Prefecture 605-0073, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Kitagawa Gionmachi, 625

Closing Days: None

Opening Hours: Always open

Phone number : 075-561-6155 

Entrance: Free

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