Shrines Of Kyoto

Kyoto has hundreds of Shinto shrines located throughout the central city and in the surrounding mountains and southern districts, usually denoted by a simple but distinctive torii gate. Shinto is Japan’s native animistic religion, with an almost phobic concern for purity, divinity, and secretive ritual. Layers of gates and fences ward off the impure and protect the devout. Emphasizing harmony with nature and spiritual deities, the Shinto kami sacred spirits are traditionally enshrined in beautiful natural locations. Kyoto’s shrines have preserved green sanctuaries, from vestige to forest, amidst the city’s modern configuration.

Shrines Of Kyoto Photo Gallery



Kyoto’s shrines range from the austere, with unadorned and unpainted timbers, to striking vermilion lacquered halls with decorative fixtures. Some shrine architraves are carved with mythical creatures, and the pristine grounds enclose the remnants of the natural landscape. All elements, from architecture to garden, reflect dedicated craftsmanship. Even the metal fittings of a shrine’s roof truss are fashioned by highly skilled Kyoto craftsmen, created from a thin sheet of copper, shaped with a great variety of hammers and punches, then brushed with lacquer and covered with gold leaf, before finally rubbed to a perfect finish. Wooden lattice at some Kyoto shrines may be laboriously treated with thirty coats of lacquer. Yet the most striking feature of Kyoto shrines is their spartan emptiness, perhaps offering an inspiring acuity, a symbolic counterpoint to lives where every nook and cranny is filled with distractions.

A maiko with her attendant at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

A kannushi priest at the inner shrine of Yoshida Jinja.

The outer shrine at Shimogamo Jinja.

Shinsen offerings of fish, rice, sake, and salt.

A torii gate with shimenawa straw rope denotes the sacred entry to Ota Shrine.

Chochin paper lanterns inscribed with donors’ names at Kanja Densha Shrine.

A temizuya water font for purification at Kawai-jinja.

A torii gate and sacred waterfall at Matsuno Taisha Grand Shrine.

A kannushi priest sweeps the already spotless courtyard alcove at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

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