Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heian Jingu... See... Size Does Matter

31st October, 2006 - After a veritable feast on castles, gardens and bovine, T-chan and I returned to Kyōto for our 10th day in Kansai. This time we were going to hit the northern half of the Higashiyama temples... with a stopover in Heian Jingu. It's not hard to know when you've reached the shrine as its...er... well signposted. The shrine is approached through the giant vermillion torii, some 80 feet tall (~24m), and with a top spar some 111 feet (~34m) wide. Discreet is not a word I would use to describe it.

The Outen-mon... the shrine's main gate

Constructed in 1892 AD to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the birth of Kyōto. The replica is dedicated to the first and last Emperor to reside in the city, Kammu and Komei (Emperor Meiji’s father) - the 50th and 121st ruler of Japan respectively. Both of their spirits are said to reside within the shrine. I'm not sure that's what you'd call a happy arrangement - but when accomodation's tight you make compromises...

Actually the original shrine was commemorated in 1895 with only Kammu enshrined - Komei had to wait until 1940 for his spirit to be enshrined - which coincided with the renovating of the shrine for the 2600th anniversary of the founding of Japan. It strikes me that this may have been a little opportunistic re-focusing of the shrine to meet more contemporaneous pressures in a highly nationalistic/militaristic Japanese state.

The Soryu-ro... or blue dragon tower
Heian Jingu is a 5/8th replica of the original Palace of the Hall of State (Daigoku-den). Why 5/8ths? Actually - depending on where you read it, it's 5/8ths, 2/3rds or 3/4ths scale.  Why - I can only think of lack of space. The shrine was originally going to sit on the original site (close to Nijo-jo), but was eventually located here. Either that - or they figured they'd shrink the shrine to make the torii look even bigger?...

One of two temizu-sho (hand washing basins)

As well as being a replica of the original Palace of State, Heian Jingu is also a working Shinto shrine. Within the Honden are enshrined the two spirits of Kammu and Komei, to which the people can pray at the Haiden building in front. The overall style of buildings is in the Chinese style, typical of the building style of that era. Attached to the shrine is a large stroll garden (designed in a similar style to that which would have been found in Heian times).
The Daigoku-den - or Hall of State
There are two trees on either side of the Daigoku-den, an orange-mandarin citrus tree (Ukon-no-Tachibana, not shown) at the west and a cherry tree (Sakon-no-Sakura, shown above) on the east. This arrangement is said to have been in the original design for the Imperial Court, and also features in the layout of the Girls or Doll Festival (hina-matsuri).

You can also find the same sorts of things as in any Shinto shrine. That includes omikuji, or fortune paper. The idea is that you buy a small token that contains a slip of paper... on which is recorded either directly or indirectly a fortune. There are about 12 basic fortunes for winning, ranging from pretty fantabulous to near-apocalyptic-tragic. The idea is if you were unlucky to draw a "bad fortune" don't sweat it... just tie the bad fortune paper to the supplied tree (or appropriate stand...) and your happy local god will sort out the whole issue for you. If you grab a "good fortune" however - take that home and keep it close to you.

Omikuji tied to trees
One theory goes that omikuji are the sources of the fortunes in fortune cookies - which are hypothesized to come from Japanese cookies sold in San Francisco. Hmmm... I'll leave that one alone.

Now we were just passing through here, on our way to the temples in the hills... so we didn't have much time to look around. Also, there's not much else to see here other than if you want to visit the gardens which (by all accounts) are very much worthwhile seeing if you've got the time. If you don't have time to stroll through the gardens you will find yourself very quickly wanting to move on to the next item on your itinerary. This is also the destination for the Festival of the Ages (Jidai Matsuri) on the 22nd of October each year. 
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