We paid two visits to Yasaka-Jinja, one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto, Japan. Conveniently located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Yasaka shrine is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri which started in 869 A.D. when the mikoshi or the divine palanquin of Gion Shrine were paraded through the streets of Kyoto to ward off an epidemic and the same practice has lived on until today. It is also a popular pilgrimage for Hatsumōde in the first week of January.
Yasaka-Jinja is believed to be built in the mid 9th century and has long been called “Gion-sha” or “Kansin-in“ until it was changed to its present name. According to Japan National Tourism Organization, the Main Hall of the shrine called yasaka-jinjan honden is designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. It is said to be a rare building in the shinden-zukuri Yoshiki or the Gion-zukuri style which is only used for aristocrats.
But probably the most interesting feature of Yasaka Shrine is its subshrine called Utsukushi-gozensha. Utsukushi which means “beautiful”, gozen means “women” and sha means “shrine”. And in case you did not get the memo, this is the shrine for beautiful women. It is very popular with the apprentice geisha (maiko) and is most visited by people working in the beauty and cosmetics industry or simply those who are praying for, oh well, beauty. Catch a few drops of water from the fountain and pat them on your face, pray at the shrine and write your wish for beauty on the small wooden ‘ema’ plaque.
For a simple treat, below is a virtual tour of Yasaka Shrine so please enjoy: