Go before development ruins it
Shimogamo Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it's not hard to see why once you visit. It's a beautiful place. Try taking a magical walk through Tadasu no Mori, which is more commonly translated The Forest Where Lies Are Revealed (best forest name ever?). Unfortunately, because governments and private corporations are evil, construction work has already begun on some apartments right in the middle of this small patch of primeval forest. Pay it a visit before it becomes utterly overtaken by commercial enterprise.
They also host the Mitarashi Festival every August, where you shell out JPY200 to wade through the icy-cold waters of the stream in the temple (along with thousands of other people) holding a candle and praying. Do this and you'll supposedly have a disease-free year - plus you'll have had a brief respite from the ferocious heat of a Kyoto summer. It is especially beautiful in the evening with hundreds of candles glowing and glimmering in the dark, although in recent years it's become too crowded for comfort.
Another plus going for it: this remains the only place in Japan (so far!) where I am convinced we managed to glimpse a tanuki, that elusive creature of Japanese folklore. It darted out from behind a bush and scurried back into the dark again, and I hope one day I'll be able to see it again. There are occasionally creepy guys in the dark - Japan has its fair share of stalkers and predators, as many girls here can testify - but go with friends and you should be fine. The shrine itself is closed at night the peaceful atmosphere is close to none.
The official name is Kamomioya-jinja. It is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, located in the northern part of Tadasu-no-mori. During Aoi Matsuri Festival, held annually on May 15, the elegant scroll painting unrolls from the Imperial Palace via the Shimogamo-jinja, and then expand to the Kamigamo-jinja. Additionally, it is said that people could prevent from summer weight loss and illness by bathing foot in the Mitarashigawa upon Mitarashi Matsuri, which is held in July.
Shimogamo-jinja 【World Heritage】
●59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu 606-0807
●Admission／Free for precincts
◆Access／12-minute walk after getting off at Keihan Demachiyanagi station. City bus from JR Kyoto Station, getting off at Shimogamo-jinja Mae bus stop (or Tadasunomori Mae)
Nearby spot information
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