Temples Of Japan

Heian Jingu Shrine

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Heian Jingu Shrine
Heian Jingu Shrine Main Gate (O-Tenmon Gate)

Heian Jingu Shrine is located in the center (slightly to northeast) of the Kyoto city.  There are many other attractions around this shrine, such as museums and opera houses.  This shrine can be easily reached by bus from the JR Kyoto station.  Heian Jingu shrine was established in 1895 to commemorate 1100 years since Emperor Kanmu transferred the nation's capital to Kyoto.  Emperor Kanmu (50th Emperor, 737-806) and Emperor Komei (121st Emperor, 1831-66) were deified as the shrine divinity.  Today, it does not only figure as a tourist attraction of foreign visitors but also features as the spiritual center of the nation as a whole as well as of patriotic citizens of Kyoto.

Emperor Kanmu ws born in 737 as the crown prince of Emperor Konin, and ascended to the throne in 781 as the 50th Emperor of Japan.  Heian Jingu Shrine SealRealizing that the capital of Heijo was small in scale and beneath the dignity of Japan, Emperor Kanmu transferred the capital to Nagoaka in the provice of Yamashiro and further picked the adjoining counties of Kadono and Atago in 793 as the best possible site for the capital, and began to reconstructing new palace. 

Heian Jingu Shrine Seal

In the following year, the seat of the Government was moved to the new capital called the Heian Capital (present day Kyoto city).

At the turn of 796, the Emperor received in audience the dignitaries to celebrate the New Year for the first time at the Daigoku-den palace.  This marked the beginning of Kyoto city.  During the 25-year reign, Emperor Kanmu amended the laws and ordinances, gave relief to the poor, encouraged learning, innovated the domestic administration and opened the doors to the foreign trade thereby contributing to the development of Japan.  Ever since up till the Meiji Restoration, Kyoto prospered as the capital of Japan for more than thousand years.

The 50th ruler demised in 806 and was entombed at the Kashiwara Mausoleum in Momoyama, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto.

Emperor Komei was born in 1831 as the crown prince of Emperor Ninko and acceded to the throne in 1847 as the 121st ruler of Japan.  Though brief, his sovereignty lasting for 21 years spelled the quickening period of the modern Japan, an era marking the closing of the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Well cognizant of the then turbulent times in Japan the gifted ruler Emperor Komei laid the firm foundation of the Meiji Restoration.  The emperor passed away at the young age of 36, ending his life characterized by his intense patriotic concern for the welfare and destiny of the country. 

In adoration of the great character and achievements of the Emperor who laid the foundation of the modern Japan, the citizens of Kyoto organized a body to deify Emperor Komei at the Heian Shrine in 1938 which propelled the move to rebuild the shrine as a commemorative project marking the 2600th year of founding of Japan.  The dedication ceremony took place on October 19th, 1940. 

This is how the two Emperors of Japan (Emperor Kanmu and Emperor Komei), one as a founder and the other as the last ruler of the Heian Capital (Heian-kyo) have come to be deified at the Heian Shrine.

Map of Heian Jingu Shrine

Main structures include the two-storied O-Tenmon Gate and the single storied Daigoku-den, which stand behind O-Tenmon Gate.  Displaying a hipped and gabled roof Daigoku-den is a Worshiper's Hall.  Towers stand to the east and west of Daigoku-den; Soryu-ro to the east and Byakko-ro to the west.  Heian-Jingu structures are meticulously researched reproductions of Heian period architecture. 

Behind the main buildings is the Shin-en, an expanse of four gardens covering about 30,000 square meters.  Designed for walking in, the gardens express landscaping styles of the Meiji era.  Each garden is centered on a pond and depicts a different period of Kyoto history.

The annual shrine festival is held on April 15th.  Another Heian-Jingu festival (Jidai Matsuri) takes place on October 22.  Unfolding along the broad streets of Kyoto, this festival of the ages is a colorful panorama of styles and customs representing various eras of Kyoto's history.  The great Shrine Gate, standing over the street, south of the shrine, is registered as a National Tangible Cultural Asset.

Here is a video of the magnificent Heian Jingu Shrine:

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