Shimogamo-jinja Shrine

(下鴨神社)
#shimogamojinjya #kamogawa #demachi
V-shaped island called "Delta"

From the bridge on Imadegawa-dori St., you can see Kamo river (West side) and Takano river (East side) joining at this point and giving birth to the main river of Kyoto, called Kamo-gawa, Kamo river. From here you can see a V-shaped island, where Shimogamo shrine is located. The bridge, “Kamo Ohashi”, is a nice place to spot Kitayama mountains in North, and Mount Hiei in North-East. Demachi-Yanagi station is just nearby (trains bound for Kurama-Kibune by Eiden Line and Yodobayashi, Osaka, by Keihan Line).
Shimogamo Shrine is embraced by two rivers, and it lies within “Tadasu-no-mori”, Forest of Correction, making the shrine a spiritual world apart. In ancient time Tadasu-no-mori was a huge virgin forest. Its size was reduced dramatically over the centuries, and today remains a little part of it. Even so the forest keeps a primeval aspect and it is left to grow naturally.
From the first step into Shimogamo Shrine’ s precincts you can feel that you enter a sacred forest. Tadasu-no-mori is a “green shower”, a kind of aura cleaning.


Tadasu-no-mori. A Shimenawa, sacred rope, marks a holy tree

Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, as it dates before Kyoto‘s foundation as a capital in 794, probably during the 6th century. It is deeply connected with Kamigamo Shrine, about 100 years younger, situated more in North side of the triangle made between the two rivers. The two shrines belongs to early Shinto mythology, both are dedicated to Raijin, the god of thunder, and to the gods of mountains and rivers. They have been designed World Heritage Sites by Unesco.
Before the main gate, on the left side, there is a small shrine. It is “En musubi Shrine”, knotting relationship shrine. This shrine is for “eternal love” because two trees have grown becoming one tree. Especially young girls come here to pray to find a good match and never ending love.

“En musubi “ Shrine and the sacred trees of love


Main Gate

Main Gate

The main gate has two levels and it stands majestically between its two lateral walls. It introduces a square where there are the buildings of Shimogamo Shrine. In the middle there is a stage-like building, Heiden, Offertory. It is used during ceremonies to make offers to the gods or to perform arts. There is also a roofed platform, Hosodono, used by musicians during traditional performances, often in Heian style costumes.


Heiden is in the main square

On the left side of Hosodono, you can see a pretty curved vermillion bridge and a small shrine, from there Mitarashi-gawa, river of Lustration, enters the holy precincts of Shimogamo.
Here ceremonies are held to worship the pure water bringing life. It is believed to cure illness, if you walk inside the walled cool stream when a summer festival is held for this purpose.

Behind Heiden, there is another gate leading to Honden, Main Shrine or Spirit Shrine, the most sacred place. People pray at Honden or in front of one of the small shrines dedicated to “Eto”. According to the Chinese tradition each year is under protection of one animal. Devotees look for own birth year ‘s shrine to pray.


Plum blossom and an arched bridge used only for special ceremonies

I like to visit Shimogamo Shrine for its trees and streams.
In autumn the foliage changes in many tones of red and yellow, and many people come here to enjoy it.
During the early summer, Shimogamo is one of my “secret” places for fireflies watching. The pure water of its streams makes the fireflies surviving in the city.
Shimogamo Shrine has very important festivals throughout the year.
“Aoi Matsuri”, Hollyhock festival is one of them. It dates back 1400 years (May 15th). It is one of the three most important festivals in Kyoto. The other two are Gion Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri Festivals.
Personally I prefer “Tsuki-mi”, autumn harvest full moon viewing festival. I like the idea of people gathering together to watch the most beautiful full moon of the year. After a hot and humid Kyoto’s summer, it is pleasant to go out in a cool evening. At Shimogamo Shrines there are special offerings and rituals to the autumn full moon. Traditional music also is performed.

Small shrine reflected into pure water


One of the sub-shrines in Shimogamo

Due to its location and Tadasu-no-mori forest, Shimogamo Shrine is very venerated by Kyoto people. In the morning or the evening you can see people come here to stroll. It is a part of everyday routine. The well kept nature and the beauty of the shrine have a strong appeal that has not changed over the centuries.

A stream whispering through the beautiful Tadasu-no-mori