Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

January 8, 2009

Himukai Daijingu - Hatsumode 2009

Hatsumode, the New Year's visit to a Shinto shrine, this year took us to the Himukai Daijingu shrine in Kyoto. It was my first visit to this shrine. I had seen pointers to it during visits to the nearby Incline near Nanzenji, but actually never followed the path into the hills above Keage.

Visiting on the fourth of January, Himukai was a great surprise - even after so many years, Kyoto still has a lot of discoveries to offer! It is a beautiful and pure spot in the hills, seemingly far-away from the dusty world of haste. Hiking paths start here to Daimonji in the one direction, and to Bishamondo in Yamashina in the other.

The shrines are simplicity itself, in the Shinmei style of Ise, and likewise dedicated to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.

The shrine legend which claims a founding of about 1,500 years ago, when a sacred stone was brought from Mt Takachiho in Kyushu, is unreliable. The first documented existence of the shrine is actually only in the middle of the 15th century. In the ensuing Edo-period the relatively new shrine grew in importance as it stood at the place where the Tokaido Highway enters Kyoto. The Edo-period was also the time that Ise itself developed into a shrine of the people instead only of the imperial clan.

In the grounds is a grotto called Ama no Iwado, recalling the legend of the hiding in the cave of the Sun Goddess.

But the shrine is beautiful as it is, a place of natural purity, and we do not need any false histories to forcibly hook it up into the network of Japan's mythology.

[The way to the Himukai Shrine passes the Lake Biwa Canal]

10 min walk from Keage Station on the Tozai subway line in Kyoto. Take the exit for Nanzenji, turn left into the street and left again into the hills when you see a large torii-gate. Grounds free.