Thursday, January 22, 2015

Christmas Eve at the Kamo Shrines of Kamigamo and Shimogamo in Kyoto

The day before Christmas dawned bright and cold in Kyoto. We bundled ourselves up and headed off to go shrine hopping.

From Kyoto Station, we took bus number 9  and got off about 200 meters from Kamigamo-jinja.
We crossed over this narrow and rather shallow portion of the Kamogawa or the Kamo River.
Kamigamo means "upper Kamo" and thus, the shrine is located upstream.

There are literally thousands of shrines and temples in Kyoto -- it would take me years to visit them all.    But, Kamigamo-jinja is special because it is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kyoto and is even older than the city.
Along with its twin shrine, the Shimogamo-jinja, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are 17 World Heritage Sites in Kyoto -- I think visiting all 17 is a realistic goal for me to accomplish.

The pathway leading to the shrine or the sando struck me as quite unusual as it was bordered on each side by a wide expanse of lawn.  Because it was winter, the grass was brown which actually added to the  perception of vastness of space.

New Year is a time when the Japanese visit the temples and shrines.  Kamigamo-jinja was getting spruced up for this event.

The path led us this shrine building called the Hoso-dono, noted for the twin cones of perfectly raked sand.   These cones are used in purification rituals in the shrine.

At the side of the Hoso-Dono is the clear Omonoi stream -  flowing silently and serenely.
The building beside it is where other shrine rituals take place.

This tower gate or ro-mon leads to the Honden or the Main Hall of the shrine.
A small red bridge takes one across the shallow waters of the Omonoi.
The deity Kamo-Wake-Ikazuchi-no-kami or the god of Thunder is enshrined in Kamigamo-jinja.  Thankfully, it is a sunny day and he does not make his presence felt.

A wooden  horse rearing on its hind legs stands outside the Ro-mon.  It is said that the tradition of horse racing started at this shrine and thus the horse is a sort of mascot for Kamigamo-jinja.
Once or twice a month, there is even a ceremonial white horse (a real live one) that is brought to the shrine.

From Kamigamo-jinja, the logical next destination is its "partner" or other half -- Shimogamo-jinja.  The bus stop has old wooden benches to sit on while waiting for your ride.

Shimogamo-jinja or "lower Kamo" is about 3 kilometres south of Kamigamo-jinja and is older by a hundred years.   The same kami or deity is enshrined at Shimogamo-jinja.   It is located within Kyoto's oldest forest -- the Tadasu-no-mori or "forest of truth".  

A bright red torii stands guard at the entrance to one of the shrine buildings.  

There is a mossy stream that flows under the bridge -- the image of rocks, moss, still water and red bridge create another wabi sabi impression for me -- one of impermanent, imperfect beauty.

This massive tower gate leads to the shrine buildings and to the Tadasu-no-mori forest.

A temizuya is located right past the tower gate.  It is my first time to see one made of bamboo and leaves.   The water for cleansing flows out of bamboo spouts.  It's very green and natural -- perfect for the forest environment surrounding the shrine.

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