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Heian-jingū Shrine

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

97 Okazaki Nishitennōchō, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8341, Japan

Opening Hours

6:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps

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expert
Putu
Local tour guide
"Visit Heian Shrine in the late afternoon when the crowds have dwindled, and you'll find a more serene atmosphere to appreciate the shrine's architecture and gardens. Also, check out the smaller, out-of-the-way tea house within the gardens, where you can enjoy a quiet moment and sometimes even partake in an impromptu tea ceremony."

What is Heian Shrine?

The Heian Shrine, or Heian Jingu, stands as a celebrated landmark in Kyoto, embodying both historical significance and captivating beauty. This Shinto shrine, characterized by its striking vermilion and green architecture, is a scaled-down replica of the original Imperial Palace of Kyoto, making it a site that captures the nostalgia and elegance of the Heian Period. With a vast torii gate that is one of the largest in Japan, entering the shrine grounds feels like stepping into another era, a haven of tranquility amid the city's modern bustle.

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As someone who's marveled at its seasonal transformations year after year, I can attest to the shrine's perennial allure. The shrine's expansive gardens are a mosaic of colors changing with each season, from cherry blossoms in spring to fiery maple leaves in autumn. It's an essential piece of Kyoto, not only for its celebratory or ceremonial functions but also as a retreat for those seeking a moment of peace and a brush with the city's storied past.

History of Heian Shrine

Heian Shrine's inception is relatively modern when placed alongside Kyoto's ancient temples and shrines, as it was established in 1895. The purpose was to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the capital's foundation in Kyoto. Interestingly, it was built on the occasion of the transfer of the capital from Nagaoka to Kyoto. Its design mirrors the Chōdō-in, the former Imperial Palace of the Heian Period, but it's sized down to two-thirds of the original construction, which impeccably preserves the architectural grandeur of the bygone era.

Although the shrine itself is a product of the late 19th century, it is deeply rooted in Kyoto's history and identity. The deities enshrined here—Emperor Kammu and Emperor Kōmei—are significant historical figures responsible for Kyoto's prominence. Emperor Kammu is recognized for establishing Heian-kyō, the initial name for Kyoto, while Emperor Kōmei was the last monarch residing in the city before the capital moved to Tokyo. Their spirits are honored here, symbolizing Kyoto's ongoing connection with its imperial history.

In 1940, unfortunately, the original structure succumbed to a fire, but the shrine was faithfully rebuilt, embodying the resilience and perseverance intrinsic to Kyoto's character. Since then, Heian Shrine has withstood the test of time, acting as a custodian of the city's profound legacy, and it continues to be an integral part of cultural celebrations and daily spiritual life for locals and visitors alike.

Why is Heian Shrine Important?

Heian Shrine is not merely a place of worship; it represents a chapter of Kyoto's illustrious history. Its importance stems from its dedication to the two emperors who have had a profound influence on Kyoto's development as the cultural heart of Japan. It thus serves as a tangible reminder of the city's imperial past and a symbol of its founding.

Furthermore, the shrine plays a crucial role in Kyoto's cultural calendar, hosting festivals and events that keep traditional Japanese customs alive. The Jidai Matsuri, one of Kyoto's three great festivals, begins at Heian Shrine, showcasing a parade that spans a thousand years of Japanese history through meticulously recreated costumes and artifacts — a living museum if you will.

For those interested in Shinto practices, Heian Shrine offers a unique insight into Japan's indigenous religion. Its deities, rituals, and the very design of the complex convey a deep understanding of Shinto's aesthetics and philosophical tenets, making it an invaluable site for both cultural enrichment and spiritual contemplation.

Things to Do & See at Heian Shrine

Upon crossing the grand torii gate, visitors can explore the vast shrine grounds, which feature a picturesque stepping stone path leading to the main hall and an array of auxiliary shrines that contribute to the peaceful atmosphere. The star attractions are the gardens, collectively known as Shin-en, which span about 30,000 square meters. Designed in the Meiji Period, these distinctive gardens are divided into four parts, each reflecting a different season and exuding its own personality.

I always recommend taking the time to stroll through these gardens, as they boast a variety of plants, traditional tea houses, and charming ponds filled with koi fish. It's particularly breathtaking during cherry blossom season, when the weeping cherry trees are in full bloom, engulfing the space in a cascade of petals. Photographic opportunities also abound here, with the reflections of the shrine's buildings on the garden's ponds creating postcard-worthy scenes.

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Beyond the natural beauty, the shrine's architecture itself is a marvel. The Ōtenmon Gate, the Daigoku-den Hall, and the Soryu-ro Tower are all exemplary of Heian Period architecture, known for its elegant simplicity and bright colors. Participate in traditional Shinto rituals, such as washing your hands at the temizuya, or make a wish by tying an ema, a small wooden plaque, within the shrine precincts.

Lastly, visiting during one of the many cultural events hosted at Heian Shrine will deepen your appreciation for Kyoto's traditions. The shrine becomes a focal point for locals and tourists alike during these events, facilitating a shared experience that resonates with the ethos of Kyoto. Whether it's watching a Shinto wedding procession, witnessing the turning of the leaves in autumn, or absorbing the ambiance of a festival, Heian Shrine offers a slice of Kyoto's soul throughout the year.

Frequently asked questions

What is Heian Shrine and what is its significance in Kyoto?

Heian Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Kyoto, Japan, that is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city. It is significant for its historical and cultural importance and is famous for its large torii gate and beautiful gardens.

When was Heian Shrine built and why?

Heian Shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto as Japan's imperial capital. It was constructed to honor Emperor Kanmu, who founded Kyoto, and Emperor Komei, the last emperor to reside there before the capital moved to Tokyo.

Can you describe the architecture and design of Heian Shrine?

Heian Shrine features a classic Shinto shrine architecture with a large vermilion torii gate at its entrance, which is one of the largest in Japan. The shrine's buildings have been built in the style of the ancient Imperial Palace, characterized by bright red and green colors, with spacious courtyards and elegant structures.

What are some of the must-see parts of Heian Shrine?

Visitors should not miss the beautifully landscaped gardens, which are divided into four parts each with a different seasonal theme, the Shin-en Garden being particularly famous. The massive torii gate and the main hall, or Daigoku-den, are also highlights.

Are there any special events or festivals held at Heian Shrine throughout the year?

Yes, Heian Shrine hosts several festivals and events, including the Jidai Matsuri, one of Kyoto's three great festivals, which occurs in October. The shrine also celebrates the annual cherry blossom season with special viewings when the gardens are in full bloom.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

97 Okazaki Nishitennōchō, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8341, Japan

Opening Hours

6:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps