Shimogamo-jinja, and its nearby sister shrine, Kamigaomo-jinja, are two of the oldest and most well known shines in Kyoto. Shimogamo was built first. A shrine was erected on the site in 678, and it is believed that the first structures there may have been from the 6th century. Both shrines were completed before the capital was established in Kyoto in 794.
The shrines were favorites of the Imperial Court, which was housed in the Imperial Place a short walk to the south. It was thought that they helped protect Kyoto.
As with most buildings in Kyoto, the Shimogamo-jinja was destroyed during the Onin War from 1467-1477. The forest around Shimigamo, Tadasu-no-mori, was also destroyed. The current forest is now protected, and contains several large, beautiful, 600-year-old trees.
Shimogamo sits between the Takanogawa and Kamogawa Rivers, just before their confluence in northern Kyoto. There over 25 buildings on the site. Several of the main buildings, smaller shrines and wooden bridges are painted the characteristic brilliant orange-red of Japanese Buddhist shrines. Walking through the grounds, between the brightly colored buildings set among ancient trees, with the gentle flow of stream water heard in background, is a calming experience.
The main Shimogamo-jinja shrine is a World Cultural Heritage Site as well as a National Treasure.
One of Kyoto’s largest festivals, the Aoi Matsuri, is held on May 15th each year. A large parade begins at the Imperial Palace at 10:30 in the morning, goes through Shimogamo-jinja, and then continues on to finish at Kamigamo-jinja. The parade participants wear costumes from the Heian era and walk among ox carts adorned with hollyhock leaves (aoi). It is an impressive site.
Getting to Shimogamo-jinja Shrine
JR Kyoto Station (30 minutes)
Hankyu Kawaramachi Station
Kitaoji Subway Station
Keihan Line/Eizan Line Demachiyanagi Station (5 minutes)
Kyoto City Bus #4 to Kamigamo-jinja-mae
Shimogamo-jinja-mae bus stop
The bus stop is right next to the shrine
15-minute walk from Keihan Line/Eizan Line Demachiyanagi Station
Hours: 6:30 to 17:00 (6:00 – 17:00)
Open every day, all year
59 Izumigawa-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City 606-0807