Yasaka shrine



Yasaka is an ancient Shinto shrine which was built in 656 and took the Imperial patronage during the Heian period. Located in Gion street, the shrine was called Gion-sha for a long time. In the period of Meji Restoration, shrines and Buddhist temples were separated and the name was changed to Yasaka. From 1871 to 1946, Yasaka shrine was officially recognized as a Kanpei-Taisha, one of the priority shrines supported by the government. Gion is a busy trading street therefore Kyoto’s people often take advantage of the shopping time to visit Yasaka shrine to worship. Yasaka also attracts millions tourists by the over 1000-year-old festival Gion Matsuri. Yasaka shrine worships Susanoo-no-mikoto, Kushiinadahime-no-mikoto, and Yahashira-no-mikogami. In Japanese mythology, Susanoo-no-mikoto is the greatest god that defeated a large serpent of disasters then became the god of Heath and Prosperity.


Yasaka shrine by night

Source: Japan Visitor



Staind outside on the busy crossroad, you can see clearly the gate of Yasaka shrine called Romon with two stratums. It is a high gate with vermilion wooden pillars and green tiling roof over the white wall. There are two gods of Good and Evil in two sides of the gate and a Korean lion-dog guarding a stair leading to the shrine.

Haiden lying in the left hand is the place for worship. Water from the well next to Haiden is used for wiping out all dirty from your hands and feet before praying. There is an outdoor stage for religious ceremonies with lanterns hanging one after another under the roof. Those lanterns are presents from patrons around Kyoto. Every night when the Shrine falls in quiescent, all of them flares up brightly and the shrine becomes sparkling and visionary in the dark. In the right, Honden houses a bell to awake deities and pray. From the shrine, there is a gate leading to Highashiyama region by a historical road.



Preparation for Gion Festival


Yasaka shrine is famous for Gion Matsuri, one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. In 869, many people in Kyoto died due to diseases. The current priest in Yasaka shrine decided to hold a parade with portable shrine around Gion street to drive diseases away. Amazingly, diseases disappeared. People in Kyoto then in every July of a year take to the streets to celebrate this event. This festival has come over wars and historical upheavals and survived for over 1000 years. Nowadays, Gion festival lasts a month, beginning at Kippu-iri on July 1st and ending at Eki-jinja-nagoshi-sai by the end of the month with many religious services and events.


Gion Festival


Joya-sai is another famous festival at Yasaka shrine held from the New year’s eve to the following day. In this festival, they will burn roots of Okera which is believed to be able to drive devils away and making Okera Fire. After the festival, the Okera fire is moved to the two Okera Tourou. People often bring some fire home and use it to cook zouni- a kind of soup with rice and vegetables, and light candles in home alters and pray for happiness and health for New year. Okera Fire at Yasaka has become a traditional symbol for New year’s eve and New year in Kyoto. In addition, there are about 30 other events and rituals held all year at Yasaka shrine.

Open time: 

Always open



How to access: 
From Kyoto Station:  Take number 100 or 206 bus and get off at Gion bus stop
Take a 5-minute walk from Keihan Gion Shijo Station.
Take an 8-minute walk from Hankyu Kawaramachi Station.
Take a 15-minute drive from JR Kyoto Station.