Mar. 31, 2021 UPDATE
Kamigamo Shrine- 上賀茂神社 -
Ceremonies in English are offered for overseas visitors to experience traditional Shinto culture
The shrine even has English speaking priests.
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The oldest shrine in Kyoto is still very lively
The official name of this shrine is Kamo-wake-ikazuchi Shrine. It is registered by UNESCO as a world heritage site. Kamigamo Shrine is said to be the oldest one in Kyoto, though some accounts say that Shimogamo Shrine is actually older. According to some accounts Kamigamo Shrine was also the birthplace of horse riding in Japan, and even to this day there is a horse riding event every May. In this event two riders race against each other and if the rider on the left lane wins, a taiko drum is beaten, whereas if the rider on the right wins a gong is struck. Also worth a mention is Kataoka Shrine that is located on the Kamigamo Shrine premises. At this temple you can pray for good marriage luck, and it is also said Murasaki Shikibu who wrote The Tale of Genji, visited this shrine and after that got married.
You may have seen a little conical pile of salt in front of Japanese restaurants or near the entrance of houses in Japan. In Japan salt and sand are considered to purify, and these Tatesuna “mountains” are considered to be the origin of those miniature ones you see at people’s homes these days. The altar behind these two conical shapes is not the main one but pretty all the same.
So many heart-shaped ema, wooden plaques you write your wishes on, are hung near the shrine. However, you may be surprised to find out, these plaques are not actually heart-shaped, but are shaped after the shrine crest, which consists of two wild ginger leaves. It just so happens that wild ginger leaves happen to look like hearts. One ema costs 500, so buy one and write your wishes on it! If you look carefully, you can see that some of the ema by the shrine are written in English.
Fortune paper slip horses ￥500
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but do look at what these horses have in their mouths. They hold your luck, or fortune paper slips that have your fortune written on them. Pick one, and check how lucky you are. The best one is daikichi (大吉), and the worst one is (大凶). If you want to make it simpler, if you get the 吉 character you are ok, but if you get 凶 you may want to look around before you cross the road.
Purifying Sand ￥500
In Japan, according to Shinto beliefs, sand is considered to purify. For example new houses have to be purified by sand before they can be moved into, so that bad luck does not settle in. Here you can buy a bag of that purifying sand for 500, just pop a coin in the box, and of you go with a bagful of sand!
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Do not enter prohibited areas.