Dec. 14, 2017 UPDATE
Time to change to a kimono and go for a walk in Gion!
The traditional shrines and temples of Gion
When you get to Gion, you have to go to the temples and shrines, just as you have to have a matcha sundae and see a maiko. Clasping your hands together, throwing a 5-yen coin into the box and ringing the bell is something everyone probably wants to try if they’re wearing a kimono. Walking in a shrine while wearing a kimono makes you almost feel like you were a character in a Japanese movie.
While the World Heritage Site Kiyomizu Temple is maybe the most popular destination in Kyoto, there are also other nice ones in Kyoto, and Yasaka Shrine is definitely one of them. Also known as Gion Shrine, Yasaka Shrine is the main shrine of the Yasaka shrines, of which there are around 3,000 in Japan. At Yasaka Shrine you can pray for prosperity and that no calamities hit you.
There are many big and small shrines inside Yasaka Shrine for you to visit. Because this is a popular sightseeing spot, there are also food stalls selling some yummy snacks.
And especially on the New Year’s Day and during Gion Festival this shrine is so full of people that you can hardly move!
One of the most popular spots at the shrine is Okuninushisha, where you can pray for good marriage-luck. You can always see many young women lining up in front of it. No matter whether you’re looking for a boyfriend or already have one, it’s still a good idea to pray at this shrine! And after praying, you can try their fortune-telling paper slips.
Yasaka Shrine is open 24 hours a day, so you can go to the temple any time you want. And there’s no entrance fee either! At shrine the night is quiet, and very nice for a walk, if you’re not afraid of the dark.
Kennin-ji Temple is located on Hanamikoji Street, and it’s the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. The monk Eisai founded the temple when he brought back the Zen teachings from China to Japan. The temple also houses many culturally important works such as the Fujin and Raijin folding screen painting and the dual-dragon painting on the ceiling of the temple.
The painting of Raijin and Fujin was made by the Rinpa school painter Tawaraya Sotatsu 400 years ago. The painting uses copious amounts of gold leaf, and looks awe-dropping. It’s easy to see how meticulously this painting was made.
The rock garden of the temple has a few round rock “islands,” and triangle rocks, and a few big rocks that are square. Coming together, these are said to represent the beginning of the universe. Deep, eh? The simplicity of it makes it easy to recognize it as a true Zen garden.
The dual-dragon painting of Kennin-ji was made to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the temple founding, and it took the artist Koizumi Junsaku two years to paint. The painting is so big that when you first look at it, I’m sure it’s going to make your jaw drop! The dragons look so much alive that I wouldn’t be surprised if they someday flew out from the ceiling.
The area of the temple is pretty vast so you won’t feel cramped, and there is a lot of green at the temple which should make you feel relaxed. So enjoy the Zen experience here, and forget all about your earthly desires.
Yasui Konpiragu Shrine
Many of the shrines and temples in Kyoto are places where you can pray for prosperity, the well-being of your family, but Yasui Konpiragu is a place where you can pray to stop bad relations, and make good ones.
You write your wish on a piece of paper, and after going through the hole in the rock, you can glue the paper anywhere you like.
When you look at all the notes that are glued on the rock, you see someone writing they want to break up with their boyfriend, some saying they want their husband to stop seeing other women, and some that just say they want to find Mr. Right.
Seeing all these paper slips, it seems like many people want to stop their bad relations! This place is sure to be a place where you can feel something extraordinary, maybe even supernatural.
Yasaka Koshin-do Shrine
You can find Yasaka Koshin-do Shrine, also known as the Monkey Shrine, close to Yasaka Pagoda. The shrine worships a demon known as Shomen-Kongo, a blue-faced god who is said to eat bad people but leaves good people alone and even protect them. They also have a small statue of the three wise monkeys, of which the left one can’t hear, the right one can’t speak, the rightmost one can’t see.
The way you pray at this shrine is quite special; you write your message on a bean bag which looks like a monkey. Write the message on the monkey, and then tie its legs and arms together, and leave it at the shrine. The way the legs and arms are tied together means concentration on the thing you’re wishing for, so hopefully, it should come true!
Many young women come here to have their pictures taken when they wear a kimono. This is one of the most picturesque places in Kyoto for kimono photo-ops!
When in Kyoto, wear a kimono for a day, and become a Japanese person for the day! This is so much fun you’re going to love Kyoto even more after it!