Shimogamo Shrine & Kitayama Dec. 11, 2015 UPDATE
Observe the ancient ball game of Kemari, in this annual festival to the gods.

Kemari Hajime

/ 蹴鞠始め
Venue: Shimogamo Shrine
January 4th, every year
Kemari Hajime (Shimogamo Shrine)
Every 4th day of January, Shimogamo Shrine practices this Shinji, also known as a festival to the gods. Kemari is recorded in old documents going back to Heian period (794 to 1185) stating that the game was brought to Japan from China and was played by Japanese nobles eventually spreading out to other classes. The game disappeared during the Meiji restoration period (1868 to 1912) until around 1903 when it was returned due to the creation of Kemari Preservation Society.
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If you are a soccer (foot ball) fan, this game may be of an interest to you! See how people hundreds of years ago played for fun. Because the New Years celebration is probably the biggest holiday of the year in Japan, going to a shrine in the beginning of the year feels so festive. Get a chance to learn about the Kemari game if you have the chance.
This game seems like soccer but from ancient times. I was astonished to see a traditional game that is so similar to modern day sports game. However, the uniforms and ball used to play the game is very Japanese-like making the game seem very special.
The Ball and Costumes of Kemari
The Ball and Costumes of Kemari
Kemari is played with “mari,” a ball made out of deer`s skin. The material is the same as one used in the original days. The ball is kicked around by the players, and it is said to weight around 150 grams. Do check out the wonderful outfits worn by the players. You can see a glimpse of history as the game is played in these colorful outfits which consists Eboshi Caps, Suikan jackets, and Hakama trousers.
Kemari Event In The Past
Kemari Event In The Past
The 2013 game was joined by a commentator of a sports channel from Brazil for a special report in relations to the World Cup held on the same year. Also a Lifting World Championship winner has joined the Kemari game as a surprise in the past. The game truly feels as a powerful momentum to a whole new year.
Let's join !
Let's Follow The Rules of The Game
What makes this game unique is that there are no winners or losers. The game depends on the yells they call out, “ari,” “ya,” and “ou.” The third yell, “ou,” is the most crucial as it is the one that determines how good the player is. Just like a modern ball game, the game is full of claps and cheers by the audiences. You can find people enjoying the game as if they are slipping in and out of the past and the present.
Manner & Tips
- Manner & Tips -
The festival is held in a limited space, and the crowds gather rather quickly. Please be cautious of the space and people around you as you may be observing in a crowded area with many people taking pictures. Do enjoy watching the game while being cautious of the safety of yourself and the others.
Shimogamo Shrine Appearance Photo
Kemari Hajime
Phone +81 75-781-0010
Address 59, Shimogamo Izumigawacho, Sakyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 606-0807
Directions 12-minute walk from Keihan Line Demachiyanaghi Stn.

【From JR Kyoto Station】
From JR Kyoto Station, take the city bus line 205 toward Shijo Kawaramachi Kitaoji Bus Terminal and get off at Shimogamo Jinja-mae. (30 min.)
Event time 1:30 start
Cancellations Event will occur inside if raining
Fee Free
Credit cards No
Friendly for Overseas Visitors
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There not many information regarding the event in English.
Information Japanese only
Languages spoken Japanese only
Kemari Hajime +81 75-781-0010 Free 2/3

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