The Yasaka Shrine (Yasakajinja), also known as the Gion Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto. The popular city shrine is famous for its Gion Matsuri, one of Japan's largest festivals.
History of Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine was first built in 656 AD. It was dedicated to Susa-no-o, the god of prosperity and good health, and his wife and 8 children. Most of the buildings that remain today are from a reconstruction in 1654.
In 869, the omikoshi (portable shrines) of Gion Shrine were paraded through the streets of Kyoto to ward off an epidemic that had hit the city. This was the beginning of the Gion Matsuri, an annual festival that has become world famous.
Today, Yasaka Shrine is an important shrine for Kyoto's inhabitants. Because it's close to the shopping districts, worshippers drop by frequently for a quick prayer to the god of prosperity and health.
Throughout the year, newborn infants are brought to the shrine for registration, usually by doting grandmothers wearing formal kimono.
What to See at Yasaka Shrine
Visitors to the shrine enter through the Ro-mon, a two-story gate with bright red posts and white walls at the top of the steps from Shijo-dori (Fourth Avenue). The entrance is protected from evil spirits by flanking Shinto guardians. Just past the gate are stone Korean lion-dogs (koma-inu), who protect the stairs that lead to the main part of the shrine.
On the left of the central area is the Haiden (offertory building), and opposite it is a roofed ceremonial stage for religious ceremonies. The many lanterns that decorate the shrine's stage are lit after dark and bear the names of their sponsors, mostly Kyoto businesses. Also in this area is a roofed water basin for purification and storage sheds for the Mikoshi.
The most important building at Yasaka is the Honden (spirit hall), a single-story building with a wooden shingle roof. Here worshippers wake up the god with a rattle of the pan shaped bells at the front of the building, then pray before the altar.
Located just next to shrine grounds is Maruyama Park, Kyoto's most popular spot for viewing cherry blossoms (hanami) in spring.
Festivals and Events
At New Year's, Kyoto residents flock here to ask for good fortune in the coming year. Children are brought to the Shrine in November for the Shichi-go-san Festival (for seven-, five- and three-year-old children). And of course, Yasaka is the main focus of the famous Gion Festival.
Quick Facts on Yasaka Shrine
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||34.998661° N, 135.779250° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Yasaka Shrine|
Map of Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
Below is a location map and aerial view of Yasaka Shrine. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.