Kamo Wakeikazuchi Shrine
To clear my head I packed my bag full of bottled water and cycled North from the front entrance of our temporary apartment. Twenty minutes later and the Kamo river cut across my path marking the end of Horikawa Avenue. In the shade of the Kamigamo Shrine's stables I sat and caught my breath, idling away lunchtime on one of the few grassy areas in Kyoto, set aside for the horse riding and archery competitions held on festival days.
The Kamo Shrine is older than the city itself*, well established by the Kamo family before Emperor Kanmu was lured to the plains by the financial incentives of the great silk-weaving Hata clan. From the moment construction began on the new capital, the aristocratic families gravitated to the shrine, dedicated as it was to the pacification and preservation of the nation. The buildings we see today took their original form in the 11th century, though the entire complex was reconstructed faithfully in 1628 after years of decay. The main hall (honden) has been rebuilt seven times since, the last time in 1863.
After Kyoto became the capital in 794, the shrine was headed by an imperial priestess (the Kamo Virgin) in the same manner as the Grand Shrine of Ise. The shrine is dedicated to a deity who appeared miraculously when Tama-yori-hime-no-mikoto, the daughter of Kamo-taketsu-numi-no-mikoto of the ruling clan of Kamo, went to the Kamo river to perform purification ceremonies. At first the deity was enshrined on a stone altar atop the peak of Ko-yama. The mountain was regarded as sacred, and therefore later religious rites were performed on pure grounds at the South-Eastern foot of the mountain.
The shrine is perhaps today best know for Kamo-sai on May 15th. The Kamo-sai is one of the three biggest imperial festivals in Japan and the most important festival of the shrine. Since aoi (hollyhocks) are offered at the festival, and all the shrine buildings and attendants are decorated with hollyhocks, the event is also known as the Aoi Matsuri "Hollyhock Festival". According to the chronicle Kamo Engi (History of Kamigamo-jinja), the festivals originated at the time of the Emperor Kinmei (539-571), when the country was suffering a spell of disastrous weather. Even today, the Emperor sends a messenger who worships on his behalf. The procession of this festival includes 500 people and is 800 metres long.
Kyle Samuels - 19 02 12 - 09:55