Showing posts with label Kamigamo shrine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kamigamo shrine. Show all posts

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kuga Shrine, Kyoto.


Kuga Shrine lies about 2k south of Kamigamo Shrine, just off Omiya dori. Omiya means "great shrine", and the road name refers to Kuga Shrine. Kuga enshrines the ujigami of the Kamo family. Ujigami is the clan ancestral kami. The kami is Kamotaketsunumi, one of the original kami that descended from Takamagahara (the High Plain of Heaven) to Kysushu with Jimmu, the mythical first Emperor, and then guided Jimmu to Yamato.


Kuga Shrine is a subordinate shrine of Kamigamo Shrine, and Kamotaketsunumi is the grandfather of Kamigamo's main kami. Records indicate that the shrine was already in existence in 859. The current shrine buildings were built in 1628 and are in the style of the Engi era (11th Century)

All that remains of a once mighty, sacred cedar tree.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Enduring Identities. A review.

Enduring Identities: The guise of Shinto in contemporary Japan.

John K. Nelson

University of Hawaii Press

ISBN: 0-8248-2259-5

324 pp

The Japanese religion known today as Shinto remains little understood by many visitors to Japan, and even by many Japanese. The most often used description of it as "the ancient religion of Japan" is simply inaccurate and misleading.

For anyone seeking to understand Shinto, Enduring Identities is a great place to start.

John Nelson spent a year at Kyoto's Kamigamo Jinja, one of the major shrines in the Kyoto area, and the fieldwork and interviews he did there explore the forms that Shinto takes today.

Kamigamo Jinja pre-dates Kyoto, and the book contains a lot of interesting history of the area that one normally doesn't find in the standard tourist literature, and particularly interesting is the information on the area being primarily settled by immigrants from what is now the Korean peninsular.

By interviewing many of the visitors to the shrine, as well as the parishioners, and the staff and priests, Nelson builds up a description of what Shinto is and means that is far more diverse than, and sometimes contradictory to, the commonly heard cliches. He also does an excellent job of presenting the relationship between contemporary Shinto and State Shinto, the nationalistic, militaristic cult that held sway in Japan for the first half of the twentieth century. Anyone interested in the Yasukuni Shrine issue will find it informative.

There is an interesting chapter on the "sacred space" of the shrine that is useful and relevant to an understanding of how such concepts manifest themselves in many areas of Japanese life, not just shrines and temples.

The longest chapter concerns itself with the annual cycle of rituals and ceremonies that take place at the shrine. Being both very old (7th century), and important, Kamigamo is home to some major ceremonies, most notably what is commonly called the Aoi Festival, and also the lesser-known Crow Sumo, but the information is also relevant to an understanding of Shinto rituals in general.

A book that would be rewarding to anyone interested in Kyoto or contemporary Japanese cultural anthropology as well as Shinto and Japanese religion.

this review originally published on JapanVisitor

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kamigamo Shrine


Kamigamo Shrine is situated in a quiet residential area in the north of Kyoto, and is a little off the main tourist routes and therefore often less-crowded than shrines in the city centre, though no less impressive.
The shrine is a designated World Heritage site, and most of the shrine buildings are classified as Important Cultural Properties.
Established in the 7th Century, a hundred years before Kyoto (Heiankyo) was founded, it is nevertheless about one hundred years younger than its sister shrine, Shimogamo Shrine.
Both shrines were built by the powerful Kamo family who moved to this area from Yamato (Nara) probably to control this outlying area of mainly immigrants from the Korean Peninsula.
When the Imperial capital moved to Heiankyo (present day Kyoto) the Kamo shrines enjoyed imperial patronage and support that has continued to the present.
Kamo Sai, the correct name for Aoi Matsuri, one of the 3 major festivals of Kyoto, ends here after beginning in the Imperial Palace and passing through Shimogamo Shrine.
One approaches the shrine across a large open space that is lawn, rather than the more usual gravel, and this gives it the feel of a park.


The most unusual thing about the shrine is the 2 large sand cones that flank the entrance to the main shrine building. Known as Tatesuna, opinion differs as to their original meaning, but the most commonly accepted is that they represent the sacred mountain just to the north of the shrine. Small cones of salt outside restaurant entrances are said to derive from the Tatesuna. Many of the smaller, local shrines in this part of Kyoto also have the tatesuna.
The sacred mountain is Koyama, about 2K to the north, and it is believed that the shrine was originally built much closer to it. Interestingly, Koyama is a Kannabiji, a sacred mountain where the kami resides inside it, rather than the more usual situation of a mountain that the Kami sometimes descends onto. Kannabi seems to be a concept from Izumo, and the original home shrine of the Kamo clan is at the base of Mt. Katsuragi between Osaka and Nara, and it is also a kannabiji with an Izumo kami, so there might be a connection between the Kamo and ancient Izumo.

On September 9th the shrine holds the Crow Sumo ceremony, where young boys from the neighborhood compete at sumo to entertain the gods. Before the sumo, shrine priests perform rituals while emulating the call and movements of crows, hence the name.
Entrance to the shrine is free, but at 9:30 most mornings there is a short tour of the shrine including a purification ritual for which a 500yen “donation” is asked.
With advance notice, groups can book a tour of the shrine with a lecture in English, plus view some of the shrines treasures not normally open to the public.
Kamigamo Shrine can be reached by Kyoto Bus numbers 30, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39, or Kyoto City Bus numbers 4, 46, and 67.

See more photos of Kamigamo here
Review of a book on Kamigamo here