Photo By: Patrick Vierthaler
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine

Take a cable car to see where God of War meets Thomas Edison.

You’ve just stumbled upon a shrine known for everything that makes Kyoto a must-see — and you won’t have to battle hordes of people to see it. At Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine, located in Yawata just outside Kyoto city, you’ll also discover it has a surprising connection to the invention of the light bulb. A literal house of God, this picturesque shrine overlooks Kyoto as it rests atop Mount Otokoyama and has been deemed a “national treasure.”

Photo by: Lucio Maurizi Visit in the spring for cherry blossoms!

A brief history

Until 1868, Iwashimizu Hachimangu was a shrine-temple complex dedicated to both Buddhist and Shinto practices. This is also represented through its architecture with Iwashimizu Hachimangu being one of the only four remaining examples of Hachiman Zukuri. This architectural style uses space, structures and roofs to create buildings that appear to be separated at first glance, but which actually share a single interior.

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Iwashimizu Hachimangu was built in honor of Hachiman, the God of War. According to the legend, an Oracle informed the priests that the god would go to the top of Mount Otokoyama to protect the capital and the country. To please Hachiman, Seiwa Tenno ordered the construction of Iwashimizu Hachimangu, to give the god a place from which to protect the country.

The scenery

In order to reach the summit to get to the shrine, you can either hike or ride the Otokoyama Cable Car. During the short cable car ride, you’ll glide above beautiful cherry blossom trees blooming in spring, as well as momiji (Japanese maple trees). In fact, one of the best times to visit is when the area is cloaked in fall colors in mid-November and early December.

Photo by: Lucio Maurizi The cable car runs to and from the shrine.

Once you arrive, take in the awesome panoramic views of Kyoto and then walk a few minutes to the actual peak of the mountain where the shrine complex stands, passing smaller shrines along the way.

At the end of the beautiful Lantern Path, you will find the main shrine of the complex, where the tour starts.

Entering through the South Gate, you’ll come to the Main Sanctuary, a giant hall with detailed carvings on the wooden beams decorating the structures. Near the East Gate, there’s Ise Youhaisyo, a place to worship the sacred Ise Jingu from afar. Take a short pathway from there to the Iwashimizui, which is a sacred well. Suffice to say, the shrine complex is full of nooks and crannies to explore, making it an adventurous experience.

Thomas Edison Monument

Photo by: Lucio Maurizi The Lantern Path.

What many don’t know about Iwashimizu Hachimangu, is it has also brought a significant contribution to the world of science. That’s why — surprisingly — you can find a Thomas Alva Edison Monument here. The American inventor used bamboo from the shrine area to create filaments for his first light bulb. To this day the shrine holds two festivals in Edison’s honor. He is celebrated every year on the date of his birth and of his death. You can join the festival of lights on May 4 to admire thousands of bamboo lanterns.

The shrine’s biggest festival, the Iwashimizu Festival, is held by imperial ordinance and is meant to ward off evil. Between rituals and dances starting in the afternoon of Sept. 15, monks release fish into the shrine’s pond and into the nearby Hojo river.

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Things To Know

On-site tours

It is rare to have the opportunity to enter the inner sanctum of a shrine, but at Iwashimizu Hachimangu, you are able to join a tour, where you can find out more about the temple’s history.

In the area

Should you have the time, it is worth exploring Yawata a little more. The Yodo Riverside Park is spectacular in spring with its many beautiful cherry trees. The Nagarebashi Bridge is a perfect location for a walk and some memorable pictures.

Hours and fees

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No need to pay an entrance fee, but you will need to pay a fee of ¥ 1,000 for the guided tour. The tour may be available only in Japanese. If you need a tour in English, you will need to ask specifically for it. You can download a map of the shrine here: http://www.iwashimizu.or.jp/other/image/english/map_english_20161020.pdf

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒614-8005 Kyōto-fu, Yawata-shi, Yawatatakabō, 30 石清水八幡宮

By train

Take the Keihan main line to Yawatashi station. From there, take the Otokoyama Cable car to Otokoyama-Sanjo station, where you’ll find the shrine.

By foot

About a 15-minute walk uphill from Otokoyama-Sanjo station.

Where To Stay

Hotel Sweets (Adult Only)
  • Shimonaranakanotsubo 1 Yawata-Shi, Kyoto 614-8134
  • 6.8/10
  • 2.8 km
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Kyoto Guest Inn Nagaokakyo
  • Choshi 1-23-2 Nagaokakyo-Shi, Kyoto 617-0844
  • 9.6/10
  • 3.6 km
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Yanchana Koneko (Adult Only)
  • Shodaiotani 2-1-10 Hirakata-Shi, Osaka 573-1153
  • 7.8/10
  • 5.1 km
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Hotel Alfa Kyoto (Adult Only)
  • Hazukashihishikawacho Fushimi-ku 147 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 612-8487
  • 7.9/10
  • 6.0 km
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