Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Kamigamo Jinja

Ever shot archery from a horse!? You can watch the great show here at this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

  • Don't miss the archery competition coming up on October 21 at 1 p.m!
Kamigamo Jinja is one of the thousands of temples and shrines in Kyoto, but it is a truly unique monument. Kamigamo is the oldest Shinto shrine of the former capital city. Its grounds have been the stage of important festivals and events for over 1000 years, and it is one of the most important religious sites in Japan.

Both the country of Japan and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have recognized Kamigamo Jinja as a Protected Historic Site and a World Cultural Heritage site.

Scenery of the Kamigamo Jinja in Kyoto.

Among the many structures in the Kamigamo Jinja complex, particularly noteworthy are the Haiden and the Gonden. Respectively, the main shrine in which the Kamigamo Jinja’s deity (Wakeikazuchi) resides, and the temporary house of the deity (used during the restructuring of the main one). The buildings of Kamigamo Jinja are architectural gems, full of rich art and cultural history. They create a beautiful painting-like landscape immersed in a natural treasure of trees and flowers.

 

Perhaps one of the most unique characteristic of the Kamigamo Shrine are the two golden sand cones built in front of the Hosodono hall which are meant to purify the site. Another unique part of the shrine is a traditional competition that involves kasagake, a form of archery where players are mounted on a horse and do not stop to shoot their target.

The art of kasagake

In 2005, thanks to the effort of many dedicated people, this great show full of entertainment and historical relevance was brought back to life. However, it was literally almost a lost art. Kamigamo Jinja used to hold these types of competitions centuries ago. In 1214, Emperor Gotoba Jyoko expressed great interest in Japanese archery and started hosting, for a few years, kasagake events in Kamigamo. After his defeat during one of the power struggle periods in Japan this event disappeared for 800 years.

Every year a Kasagake demonstration/competition takes place in October.

During the competition, athletes dress in traditional clothing and adopt the same techniques as their ancient counterparts, attempt to hit targets positioned at different angles. The archers must employ different techniques, while riding on a galloping horse in order to simulate military maneuvers. The shooting methods that must be executed during the competition make kasagake the most technically challenging form of Japanese archery.

Photo by: Lucio Maurizi The athlete sports traditional dress and bow and arrows.

The event is organized reproducing all the aspects that were present at its inception, including the offers to the god of the shrine by the athletes, plus accompanying chants and parades. The combination of the impressive organization of the event and its breathtaking setting deliver a truly thrilling experience.

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Things To Know

Fees and Hours

Kamigamo Jinja is free. The site opens everyday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Address: 339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8047

Archery Demonstration

Admission: free (Reserved seats are ¥500). The event is always in October, but the day changes (usually being between the 2nd and the 3rd week of the month). The schedule for 2018 is Oct. 21 starting at 1 p.m.

How To Get There

Address

339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8047, Japan

By train

Take the Karasuma line to Kitaoji station. Walk 2 minutes to the city bus #3. Get off at Kamigamo Misono-hashi.

By bus

Take the city bus #9 and get off at Kamigamo Misono-hashi. From there, walk 5 minutes.

From Hankyu Kawaramachi station (Hankyu Line): Take the city bus #4 from Shijo Kawaramachi to Kamigamo Jinja Mae station. Walk 4 minutes.

From Demachiyanagi station (Keihan Line): Take city bus #4, get off at Kamigamo Jinja Mae station. Walk 4 minutes.

 

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