A very underrated and uncommon Shrine: Kamigoryo Jinja

  • SPOT
  • Introduction

    The Goryo Shrine, most commonly known as the Kamigoryo shrine or kamigoryo jinja is located 5 minutes from Doshisha University and the Kyoto Imperial palace (Kyoto-gosho). It was established during the Heian Period of Japanese history on the site of a former Buddhist temple. This shrine is a little hidden making not as famous as the common ones we always hear about. Furthermore, we ask ourselves, why was this shrine built in the first place, what was its purpose and how did it develop throughout the years? What has become of it today?

    History of Shrine

    This shrine was built on the former site of Kami-Izumo temple under orders of Emperor Kammu in 794 establishing it as a family temple for people living in the neighborhood (ujiko). It used to be a normal family temple, however, once the capital moved from Nara to Kyoto, emperor Kammu transformed it into a shrine by ordering the shrine to be dedicated to the spirits of eight figures who had died in unfortunate circumstances. I therefore, served as the guardian shrine of Kyoto-Gosho. His initial motivation was his younger brother, Sawara Shinnoh who was supposed to inherit the throne, however, was then rejected and eventually accused of murder. He was then exiled hungering himself to death on his way. Moreover, Goryō-e was held since 853 to appease and drive away spirits especially the vengeful spirits that claimed to have caused plagues and natural catastrophes.
    Furthermore, the Onin war broke out in the “Forest of Goryo” inside shrine on January 18, 1467 where a fight between brothers Hatakeyama Masanaga and Hatakeyama Yoshinari occurred overtaking the position as kanrei (deputy or vice Shogun). The Onin war resulted in a decade-long battle destroying most of Kyoto. Consequently, that led to the beginning of Sengoku period, which lasted 130 years.

    With the Onin war fully destroying the Goryo Shrine, burning it into ashes, it took over a century to reconstruct it back in the same location. It was Toyotomi Hideyoshi who took the initiative. Furthermore, during the Edo period, it was renounced as the official guardian of the Imperial palace with an extra gate built on the western side. During the Meiji Period, five extra deities were added to the list of dedicated spirits.

    Role of the shrine today

    The shrine’s symbol didn’t really fade away, however, while Kyoto is no longer the capital of Japan, Kamigoryo shrine still plays an important role for the citizens of Kyoto. Citizens visit the shrine often for the following reasons:
    -Soul becalming
    -Well-being of family
    -Business prosperity
    -Safe birth
    -Achievement in academics
    -Ujigami worship
    -Seasonal admiration of nature (Sakura and the leaves of fall)

    In addition, one of the oldest festivals in Kyoto since 863 still occurs every year between the 15th and 18th of May where Carts are pulled by cows and 3 portable shrines are toured around Imperial Palace and streets of Kyoto. Goryo’s, appeasement of raged deities reflects the origins of this festival, which is one of the oldest symbols for festivals in Japan.

    3. Author’s reference : Kamigoryo Shrine Contemporarily and Historically.” Interview by Mari Toyozumi, Dany Tsuruta and a staff from the shrine (name remains anonymous). Recording. Kyoto, 4 Jan. 2015.


    Related articles
    112 Things to Do in Kyoto, a City of Culture, Tradition, and Breathtaking Beauty, in 2018
    30 Modern Hotels and Traditional Ryokans in Kyoto for a Gorgeous Stay in 2018