Kamigamo-Jinja Shrine is the oldest Shinto shrine in Kyoto. It was built in the 7th century, during the Heian period. The shrine, along with nearby Shimogamo Jinja, were favorites of the Imperial Court and remain two of the most famous shrines in Kyoto.
The formal name for Kamigamo Shrine is Kamo-Wake-Ikazuchi-no-kami. The name comes from the deity, Wake-ikazuchi, enshrined in the main sanctuary, or Hon-den. Next to Hon-den is Gon-den, an exact replica of the main sanctuary, that serves as a backup shelter for the deity in case the Hon-den is severely damaged. Both buildings are listed as a National Treasures.
Now a World Cultural Heritage Site, the 36 buildings on the grounds are spread throughout a forest grove of ancient trees, along two streams. Three brilliant orange torii gates mark the entrance path, and a thatched roofed covered bridge takes visitors across one of the streams on the way to the main sanctuary. Walking around the park-like grounds is a peaceful experience.
Kyoto’s Oldest Festival
The shrine is home to one of Kyoto’s three main festivals. The Aoi Festival, which originated in the year 544, is named for the hollyhock leaves that decorate the processions. Participants in the festival wear costumes from the Heian period. The festival is held on May 15th each year. In the morning, an 800 meter parade travels from the Imperial Palace through Shimogamo Shrine, and ends at Kamigamo Shrine. The colorful costumes and oxcarts in the parade make this one of the most popular festivals in Japan.
The main building will be covered with scaffolding for maintenance until 2015.
Getting to Kamigamo-Jinja Shrine
From JR Kyoto Station (60 minutes), Hankyu Railway Kawaramachi Station, Keihan Railway Demachiyanagi Station and Sanjo Stations, and Subway Karasuma Line Kitaoji Station (20 minutes)
Kyoto City Bus
#9 or #37 to Nishigamo Shako
Kamigamo-misonobashi bus stop
Five-minute walk from the bus stop
From Keihan Railway Demachiyanagi Station (30 minutes), Shimogamo Shrine, and Subway Kitayama Station
Kyoto City Bus
#4 to Kamigamo Jinja
Kamigamojinja-mae bus stop
Two-minute walk from the bus stop
8:00 – 17:00
8:30 – 17:00 November – March
Roumon Gate 8:30 – 16:00 (to 16:30 on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays)
Open all year
Admission to Shrine grounds: Free
National Treasure Special Tour for Worship and Exhibition
Available all year, except: May 5, 9 – 17 and Dec. 21 – Jan. 16.
Starting Location: Inside of Ro-mon gate, at Kamigamo-junja Naorai-den
Starting time: 9:30 a.m.
Duration: 20 – 30 minutes
Fee: 500 yen
Groups of 20 or more (with advanced notice): 450 yen
339 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8047
There is a craft and food market on the shrine grounds on the fourth Sunday of each month.