One of the newest Shrines located outside the ancient capital, is Heian Jinja. It was built in 1895 to commemorate 1,100 years of the city. The word heian which means peaceful and tranquil, was used as official name of Kyoto (Heian-Kyo) for about 4 centuries. This Shrine is in the top list among 80,000 Shrines according to the Association of Shinto Shrines of Japan. Not surprisingly, it is very beautiful and impressive. The combination of the Great gate (Torii) and structures compose magnificent scenery and anything else that happens (cherry blossoms, autumn leaves or snow) are just a nice addition. Independent of the season, visitors can take awesome pictures there.
In addition, Heian Shrine got more famous after its appearances in Hollywood movie “Lost in translation”. Out of curiosity I did a brief search and found a lot of pictures similar as those in the movie. Tourists from different places tried to imitate Scarlett Johansson on the stone path at Heian Garden. I think I will try it next time.
The great Gate is facing the main entrance at the south and marks the sacred ground. It reaches a height of 24.5 meters and length of 33.9 meters, painted in vivid orange, standing in the middle of modern constructions and museums in Okazaki Park.
There are three entrances, left, right and central. At the left, you will notice a large fountain where visitors are supposed to purify themselves before entering the shrine. This purification ritual is very common in shrines and temples and consists of washing hands and sometimes forehead.
As soon as you enter, you will walk into a spacious courtyard. It is 344m² and from there, you will have an ample view. There are three main buildings which are dignified East Hon-den and West Hon-den (Halls) and Daigoku-en (Great hall). Their designs were based on the Emperor Palace to honor the first and last emperors, Kammu (737-806) and Komei (1831 -1867), who lived in Kyoto during the Heian Period.
The path from the main entrance to the Daigoku-en isn`t long, but the small stones covering the ground make the walking quite challenging, especially if you are with children (it’s funny how they can be so attracted to the little stones). Right near the left and right entrances there are small beautiful fountains. At the left there is a tiger and at the right a dragon, these are nice spots for taking a picture, as well.
Many people go to the Daigoku-en to pray. Before lining up, they throw a coin, clap hands once, bow, pray and finish by clapping hands twice. It is also very common to see people shaking a metal box to check out their luck, the predictions are called omikuji and cost 200yen. If the luck wasn’t on your side, the message should be folded and tied to a tree`s branch, followed by praying to avert the bad fortune. If the message was lucky, people normally keep the paper in the wallet and buy omamori lucky charm to reinforce it. Aside from all symbolisms and superstitions, Heian Shrine can also be a nice place to take a break, get some fresh air and rest under the pine trees.
- Heian Shrine
Open every day from 6:00 to 17:30 (closing time varies seasonally by half an hour, normally during winter closes early). The entrance is free.
- Heian Shrine Garden
Open every day from 8:30 to 17:00 (closing time varies seasonally by half an hour). The entrance fee is 600 yen.