A large red torii gate greets me on the way to Heian Shrine. Cars pass under and tourists stop to take pictures. We crane our necks and cameras upward. At almost 25 metres, the gate is impressive to say the least. Through the gate, there is a long road before coming to the entrance to Heian Shrine. The day I went, there was some sort of craft market. The sides of the gravel road were lined with tents and stalls selling pottery, jewellery, and handicrafts.
As I was slowly making my way to the shrine, I was stopped by a group of junior high school boys and their teacher. So soon? I thought. They asked me where I was from and my favourite thing in Kyoto. It’s quite common for foreign tourists to be “interviewed” by school kids in Kyoto. When I was teaching at an elementary school, I helped my students prepare and practice English questions for their trip to Nara. I wasn’t invited to come though 🙁
At the entrance to the shrine and watched people washing their hands before entering. I didn’t wash my hands, because I’m a filthy person.
The entrance to Heian Shrine is elaborate.
It painted red and white with the elaborately styled roof. If one didn’t know any better, they might think the entrance was the shrine. But as soon as you pass through the entrance you see that there is more.
Heian Shrine has a very large open space in front of the main shrine. It is covered in white gravel, sort of like the kind that is used in rock gardens. It crunches under your feet as move around the space.
I think I have been to Heian Shrine once before, but I’m not sure. If I have, it would have been 14 years ago when I was in grade 12. I came to Japan on crutches then, so I remember spending a lot of time looking at the ground in front of me, making sure not to trip on anything. Anyway, this was either my first or second time to Heian Shrine.
I must have been lucky this time, because the space in front of the main shrine was not crowded. It was easy to get a nice shot with the wide open space, free from tourists. It can get quite crowded.
Walking through shrine grounds transports you back in time. Like I’ve mentioned before, I like to image what it would have been like during the height of its time.
I went into the garden area behind Heian Shrine.
There is no cost to get into the shrine grounds, but it costs ¥600 to get into the gardens. Though it was only around 10:00 in the morning and not too hot yet, the garden was cool and peaceful. I walked around the marked path, looking at ponds and flowers and listening to frogs croaking nearby. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see any.
At one point in the garden, there is a covered bridge that crosses over a pond. When I got there, I noticed that a couple was taking wedding photos. The couple is dressed in traditional Shinto wedding clothes. The groom wearing a black hakama (like the one I wore for my graduation), and the bride wearing a white kimono. The bride also has a large white headwear. It is a tsunokakushi, which literally translates to “horn hider.” Apparently, when a woman gets angry, horns will come out of her head. The headpiece shows that she will be an obedient wife. Hmm….
I went through the rest of the garden, enjoying the tranquility.
It seems a lot of people come to Heian Shrine but don’t enter the garden because it wasn’t crowded. When I left the garden and came back into the shrine grounds, I saw another couple taking wedding photos. I don’t know who they are, but I took a quick photo. I feel a bit weird taking photos of strangers, but I can sort of get away with as a foreigner. Japanese weddings are very interesting.
When I went back through the entrance, I passed through the craft fair again. Finished looking around the area, I started the walk to my next destination: Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Access to Heian Shrine
From Kyoto station, I took the Raku Bus 100 to Okazaki Koen Bijutsukan/Heian Jingu Mae (Museum of Art/Heian-Jingu Shrine). It is a flat rate of ¥230, or you can get a a day pass for ¥500. The bus ride was about 20 minutes.
Have you ever been to Heian Shrine? What did you think of it?