|To Maiko or not to make...er...oh?|
It's about 1.8 km, an easy stroll, from Kiyomizu Dera (A) all the way to Yasaka Jinja (C). We continue on from Kōdai-ji (B) a short distance later we arrive at Yasaka Jinja, or is more commonly known, Gion Shrine.
View Larger Map
Yasaka Jinja is one of the most important and beloved of all the Kyōto shrines. It was supposedly first established in 656 AD, and is dedicated to the Shinto gods, Susa-no-o (brother to Amateratsu Omikami) and his spouse Indahime-no-Mikoto, and five sons and three daughters.
The shrine can be entered from the south through this giant stone torii... one of the largest such stone gateways in japan. Though the main entrance is to the west (see further below)
|Torii entrance to Yasaka Jinja|
|Now that's what you call drums...|
One of the most striking features within the shrine is the roofed stage area where religious ceremonies and dances are often performed. It makes for a dramatic sight at night (but alas... we had other plans for the evening).
The shrine itself owes a lot of it’s architectural design to Buddhism, as at this time there was a gradual melding of the two religions, to such a point that the shrine itself was administered by Buddhist monks. Most of the buildings now date from 1654 reconstructions. The most important building is the honden or spirit hall where the resident gods reside. The bells that hang from the front are for ringing... like a door-bell... to let the god know that someone's about to send a prayer their way.
|Yasaka Jinja Honden|
The main entrance to the shrine actually sits on Shijo-dori (facing the Gion district) and is entered via the Ro-mon gates, complete with it's Korean Lion-Dogs (koma-inu... or shishi in chinese) that are traditional guardians to many shrines. These fierce mythical animals are definitely the sort of sentries you'd like to see... but they can be a bit too ... er... direct... (legend goes, they throw their young off a cliff to toughen em up). Now there's some good parenting advice. Though it's impossible to tell from this figure, like the Nio guardians themselves, one dog has it's mouth open pronouncing "a", then other has it's mouth closed pronouncing "un"... the sanskrit form of the alpha and the omega.... the start and end of all things.
|Yasaka Jinja's Ro-mon gate.|
Just down the road from Yasaka Jinja is Mauyama Kōen. As one of the larger parks in Kyōto, this park is famous for it’s cherry blossoms, and the weeping cherry tree (below) illuminated at night.... when by all accounts it really is worth seeing. During the day... well... it's not the most attractive of trees. I'll take their word for it... and unfortunately we couldn't wait around to see. The park was the home of the 12th century poet Saigyo. It was a turned into a public park in 1871.
|Weeping cherry tree|
Whilst Maruyama isn't the best of gardens in my opinion, it's a favourite meeting place and a good location to catch your breath after a long day. Unfortunately for us - and more importantly for T-chan who was starting to get tired - we had a couple more things to do before we could call it quits.