We visited Shimogamo Shrine on the same day as we did Kamigamo, since they both had festivals and are twin temples. The shrine is situated slightly more down towards the city in a beautiful forest with majestic trees that would make you think it would be an enjoyable place to visit in the summer.
There is a torii leading to the temple, flanked by the usual lion statues, and as you enter the sandoo there is the Kawai-Shrine Mai-dono (河合神社舞殿) about 100meters down to your left which is dedicated to the god Tamayorihime-no-mikoto, distinct from the main Shimogamo god of the same name . This god serves as the guardian for women, and her shrine has long been considered one of the most important.
However, one of its most famous residents was male. A baby boy born to the priest of this shrine in the 12th century was prevented from assuming his father’s position. Perhaps because of this ill-fortune, this boy grew up to be one of the most well-known pessimists of Japan, Chomei Kawai. His book, Hoojooki, is a comprehensive review of the earthquakes, famines, and other disasters that befall the people of Kyoto.. This smaller temple has its own torii and a massive wooden gate leading to the inner temple area.
Continuing down the path to the main temple, you will see another torii, then yet another one beyond which is the gate to
the outer courtyards of the Honden. Directly in front of the torii is the Maidono. On your right is the temizuya where you purify your hands and mouth (No drinking!), and on you left is the small Aioi-sha shrine and Sasaki tree. This shrine is dedicated to the god of good marriage and the guardian of engagement, Kamumusubi no Kami; a perfectly romantic spot! Further on and left is the sonaemono – a display of gifts of rice and sake to the temple. Going further in to the right you will see a peaceful river with a typical, tradition Japanese bridge spanning its width, decorated on either side by sakura trees. This is undoubtedly an ideal spot to take pictures of in the spring.
On the actual main grounds – which you can get to by just going straight from the Maidono – there are many shrines – Shinbukuden, Ooidono Hall, Kawai Shrine, Mikage Shrine, Mitsui Shrine, Izumo Ioheno Shrine, Koto Shrine, Mitarashi Shrine, Hosodono, Reiji-sha Shrine, Aka-no-Miya, and the Adzukariya Shrine. There is also a wedding ground where Shinto weddings can be held – applications for weddings are held outside the temple. If you’re lucky, you just might be able to see a real wedding take place!
This whole structure is surrounded by beautiful, tranquil forests where you can just feel yourself soaking in the calm
atmosphere. It is definitely worth your visit. There are also many festivals held here in Shimogamo Shrine, and among the most famous is Aoi Matsuri. The Aoi Matsuri, or “Hollyhock Festival,” is one of the three main annual festivals held in Kyoto, Japan. It is a festival of the two Kamo shrines in the north of the city, Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. The festival may also be referred to as the Kamo Festival.
According to the ancient historical record known as the Nihon Shoki, the festival originated during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (r. A.D. 539, 12th month, 5th day – 571, 4th month, 15th day). The ancient records known as the Honchō getsurei and Nenchūgyōji hissho reveal that a succession of disastrous rain and wind had ruined the grain crops, and epidemics
had spread through the country. Because diviners placed the cause as owing to the divine punishment of the Kamo deities, the emperor sent his messenger with a retinue to the shrine to conduct various acts to appease the deities, in prayer for a bountiful harvest. These included riding a galloping horse.
This became an annual ritual, and the galloping horse performance developed into an equestrian archery performance. According to the historical record known as the Zoku Nihongi, so many people had come to view this equestrian performance on the festival day in the 2nd year of the reign of Emperor Mommu (r. 697-707) that the event was banned.
In the ninth century, Emperor Kanmu established the seat of the imperial throne in Kyoto. This represented the beginning of the Heian Period in Japanese history. Emperor Kanmu recognized the deities of the Kamo shrines as protectors of the Heian capital, and established the Aoi Matsuri as an annual imperial event.
The festival saw its peak of grandeur in the middle of the Heian Period, but this waned in the Kamakura Period and the following Muromachi Period, and as the nation entered the Sengoku Period, the festival procession was discontinued. In the Genroku era (1688–1704) of the Edo Period, it was revived, but in the 2nd year of the Meiji Period (1869), when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, observance of the festival procession stopped. In Meiji 17 (1885), it was again revived as part of a government plan to enliven Kyoto. All but the rituals at the shrine fronts were discontinued from 1944, due to World War II. At last, the festival procession started to be held again from 1953. The Saiō-Dai festival princess tradition was initiated in 1956.
The festival has been called Aoi festival for the hollyhock leaves used as decoration throughout the celebration. These leaves were once believed to protect against natural disasters.
Shimogamo Shrine is located in the Shimogamo district of Kyoto city’s Sako ward. Its formal name is Kamo-mioya-jinja. It is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan and is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The term Kamo-jinja in Japanese is a general reference to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, the traditionally linked Kamo shrines of Kyoto. The Kamo-jinja serve the function of protecting Kyoto from malign influences.
The jinja name identifies the Kamo family of kami or deities who are venerated. The name also refers to the ambit of shrine’s nearby woods, which are vestiges of the primeval forest of Tadasu no Mori. In addition, the shrine name references the area’s early inhabitants, the Kamo clan, many of whom continue to live near the shrine their ancestors traditionally served.
Shimogamo Shrine is dedicated to the veneration of Tamayori-hime (lit., the spirit-inviting maiden) and her father, Kamo Taketsunomi. Tamayori-hime is the mother of Kamo Wakeikazuchi (the thunder-divider of Kamo), who was sired by Honoikazuchi-no-mikoto ( the God of Fire and Thunder). Kamigamo Shrine, the other of the two Kamo shrines of Kyoto, is dedicated to Kamo Wakeikazuchi. These kami are variously associated with thunder.
The shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period.
In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers were sent to report important events to Japan’s guardian kami, including Kamo-Tamayori-hime and Kamo-Taketsune.
From 1871 through 1946, the Shimogamo Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社), meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.
* 794 (Enryaku 13): Emperor Kammu came as part of a grand progress.
* 942 (Tengyō 5, 29th day of the 4th month): Emperor Suzaku visited to offer thanks for restoration of peace.
* 979 (Tengen 2, 10th day of the 10th month): Emperor En’yū decided that an Imperial visit Hachiman at Iwashimizu Shrine should be paired with a visit to Kamo.
* 1088 (Kanji 27th day of the 4th month): Emperor Horikawa visited Kamo.
* 1156 (Hōgen 1, 23rd day of the 4th month): Emperor Go-Shirakawa traveled to Kamo.
For Shimogamo’s official website: click here!
For Wikipedia link: click here!
For photo’s of Kyoto’s World Heritage: click here!