Yasaka Shrine is centrally located in Gion, the “geisha district” of Kyoto. It is easy to spot with its imposing vermilion west gate, the Nishi-Romon. The west gate faces Shijo-dori Street and is a popular landmark and photo spot. The stairs leading up to the gate is flanked by two lion-dogs, komainu, that were placed there to protect the gate and shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Susanoo-no-mikoto, his consort Kushinadahime-no-mikoto, and their eight children Yahashira-no-mikogami. You will also come across many sub-shrines such as the Beauty Shrine, Utsukushi-gozen.
Many visitors visit the Honden (main sanctuary) to pray. They bow, toss a coin into the offertory box, ring one of the three large bells to notify the gods of their presence, bow twice, clap twice, and then pray. Take a moment to observe if you get a chance to witness it. It’s an experience in itself.
Located in the center is the maidono (dance stage). It is decorated with lanterns. Each lantern bears the name of its sponsor. The lanterns illuminate in the evening and create a different atmosphere in the shrine.
The shrine awakes with more magic in the evening than it does in daylight (highly recommend to visit the shrine in the evening). The best part about visiting Yasaka Shrine in the evening is being able to look at a glowing Shijo-dori street through the illuminated gate. I felt hypnotized by thoughts of looking at the modern world from a spiritual place, as if I’ve transcended time and space. Everything just became “zen.”
Looking back at this moment, it must have been the trigger to a “spiritual awakening” or “enlightenment”. It’s hard to describe in words but at that moment, everything just “clicked” and a new journey began. This brief experience made Yasaka Shrine a place I can never forget.